Publication Date


Executive Summary


Club members are the lifeblood of the private country club business. However, country club research is understudied because of the private nature of the business and lack of recognition of studying members’ behaviors in the club. The research investigated the relationship between motivation of joining factors of members in a private country club, place attachment of members to the club, and membership loyalty to the country club. The study also examined the effects of demographic factors in motivation, forming place attachment, and loyalty to the club.

Relevance and Significance of the topic

Private country clubs, an important part of the hospitality business, have over 1.8 million members in the United States and employ 300,000 people. By identifying the relationships among member’s motivation of joining factors, place attachment to the club, and loyalty to the club, the study will help the club business to be sustainable by better recruiting and retaining loyal members through strong attachment to the club.

Background: Motivation of joining factors for membership has been described with the concept of Push and Pull theory. Push factors are internal motivations and pull factors are external motivations. Place attachment is originally an environmental psychological concept that attempts to describe the emotional relationship between people and place. The concept will be applied to describe the emotional relationship between the club and its members. Loyalty will be viewed as both attitudinal and behavioral loyalty in the club.

Methodological Approach

This study used a quantitative approach that utilized a survey. The survey included three constructs of motivation of joining factors with 32 items, place attachment with 12 items, and loyalty with 7 items. The study chose a country club in the southern part of the United States. A web-based survey was created and delivered via Qualtrics. The survey was sent to 490 members and 221 responded. Simple regression analysis, independent sample T-test, and analysis of variance were conducted to examine the hypothesized relationships and demographic effects on the relationship.

Key Findings

The regression analysis indicated motivation of joining factors had a significant direct effect on place attachment. In addition, place attachment was found to have a significant direct effect on loyalty. Furthermore, the study revealed significant effects of demographic factors (gender, age, and membership length) in the relationships among motivation, place attachment, and loyalty.

Implications for practice

The study identifies statistically significant relationships between motivation and attachment and between attachment and loyalty, and demonstrates the effects of gender, age, and membership length on the relationships. The research suggests that a club focus on increasing place attachment for member motivation to be related to building loyalty. Moreover, the club should recognize this information not only for recruiting new members, but also building attachment to increase loyalty to increase revenues in the club. The research indicates it is not enough to satisfy the motivation of joining factors for club members, but clubs must build attachment to increase loyalty resulting in positive loyalty. Clubs may use the study to formulate marketing plans to retain and recruit new members, identify action plans to increase members' attachment to the club, and devise tactics to increase loyalty. Additionally, the membership director should follow up with the new members (e.g., word of mouth) and to identify potential new members, which will help developing an effective referral program, thus increasing the sustainability of the club. Further, clubs should recognize the importance of female members to the club business as opposed to only focusing on the male members. The study identifies a demographic shift in the country club business to include a diverse membership composed of multi-generations of members, gender diversity, and views based upon length of membership. Clubs must recognize and respond to the demographic shift in membership to be successful in the future.