Carolina Country Club
A Southern Legacy
Business View Magazine interviews representatives of Carolina Country Club for our focus on Top Health & Wellness Facilities in the U.S.
Established in Raleigh in 1910, the historic Carolina Country Club has stood on the same grounds for the last 112 years, despite having lived through two fires (1919; 1948) requiring two subsequent rebuilding efforts to bring its clubhouse back to glory.
Formerly known as the Raleigh Country Club, the large modern-day columned building now sits atop a parcel of land considered to be a centerpiece among some of Raleigh’s most affluent homes. The Club offers both the luxury and convenience of full-service amenities, including world-class tennis facilities and some of the country’s most challenging fairways. It also lends itself as an ideal backdrop for business entertaining and wedding receptions, all within that noted tradition of Southern hospitality.
“We’re still at our original location, in what used to be the outskirts of Raleigh, but now is downtown Raleigh,” says General Manager Jack Slaughter. “The Club has always been the high spot for the town’s business leaders and real estate developers who established Raleigh, grew Raleigh, and have basically been in Raleigh forever. Over its lifetime, the Club has been extremely successful and kept the good fortune of its geographical site. It’s an outstanding location in just the right kind of housing market and neighborhood, in one of the faster growing areas in the country.”
The Club currently has five-star Platinum status with the Platinum Clubs of America. It’s also been named an Emerald Club of the World by BoardRoom Magazine, one of the most respected trade publications servicing private clubs today.
With a membership of 1,280 and a waitlist 10-years long, the Carolina Country Club is undeniably a privileged social space, but it holds a certain cachet that many private clubs – given the current zeitgeist of social- and sex-based equality – have a hard time negotiating for themselves. “What’s unique about us is that, unlike most member-owned clubs, we really try to appeal to the whole family, where both adults and their children get value out of the club and can access it in lots of different ways,” Slaughter shares. “Married couples are both equal members; there’s not a primary member and a spouse, for example. And that just reinforces our kind of service and our focus on giving the family unit full-service access to the club.”
The Carolina Country Club doesn’t curtail membership “rights” to use any of the facilities, either. “We don’t have different segments of membership,” Slaughter says. “Everyone has full privileges, which means they can use every part of the club. We don’t have ‘wellness only’, or ‘tennis only’, or ‘social only’ – everyone is a member in the true sense of the word.” Full access at the Carolina Country Club means the provision of an 18-hole championship golf course with a practice facility, 12 tennis courts (including both hard-surface and clay courts), a Wellness Center, a diving board pool with swim lanes and a diving well, and a splash zone with a slide for the “next-gen” members.
“Where we’re not golf-centric, we really do tend to identify more as a country club,” Slaughter remarks. “Golf is important, but not more important than all the other aspects of what we do here, from tennis to wellness, youth activities and aquatics – even our food and beverage dining and club events. Our goal long-term is to stay relevant to current members and attractive to future members. Our lifeblood is having a full membership that’s engaged and using the club, so we’re always looking to make sure that our facilities are modern and well equipped.”
From a wellness perspective, the Club is already leading the way in terms of protecting the health and wellbeing of its members. They seized the opportunity mid-pandemic to replace some of their equipment and shuffle how their facility works, developing safer amenities and more outdoor spaces that are designed with everyone in mind.
“There are members, particularly our older segment, that still don’t feel comfortable coming into the gym,” says Director of Wellness, Aquatics, and Youth Paul Baron. “And post-lockdown, a lot of the boutique studios that surrounded us succumbed to financial instability. And so we’ve been forced to change what and how we offer wellness services over the past 18 to 24 months. We’re still evolving that. But it started with trainers doing FaceTime and Zoom calls, and now our website’s technology provider is being brought on to create a more private and secure online club community.”
The Club’s Wellness Center comprises over 14,000 square feet of indoor space, which includes traditional “fitness center” accoutrements, including weights, cardiovascular machines, and designated group exercise rooms, as well a “wellness” side that hosts a massage therapy space, wellness and nutrition-themed talks, and self-defense-type workshops that appeal greatly to the Club’s younger generation.
“We don’t use independent contractors,” Slaughter comments. “Everyone who works in our wellness facility is an employee, from the massage therapists to the group fitness instructors. We offer personal training one-on-one and we run small group personal training sessions as well, for people that have a common interest or fitness goal. And we also do larger group fitness classes, whether they’re dedicated to spin, Pilates, or circuit training.”
Since the health outbreak, they’ve also leveraged outdoor training opportunities to allow more members at once to participate in the Club’s social and fitness activities. “Country clubs are already pretty popular because of the outdoor lifestyle they provide – the tennis and the golf,” Slaughter affirms. “And in North Carolina, we’re able to do fitness outdoors probably three-fourths of the year, maybe even a little bit more. From the spring all the way through the fall here, we set everything up from boot camp to Peloton bikes to weightlifting in a covered outdoor gym area. We do a ton of programming outside. It expands our footprint and, with COVID, that airier space has come to feel maybe a bit more comfortable for some people than our indoor fitness amenities.”
On the books for future plans would be a separate spa facility for members to complement the existing wellness offerings at the Club. “We’d love to add spa services to our wellness program here,” indicates Slaughter. “We always try to look at all the different facets of our operation to come up with unique programming that stretches the edges of what’s available.”
To that end, the Club partners with Northstar, a purpose-built platform of technology solutions that empowers the club’s staff to provide unparalleled service and enhance member experiences. “We have an integrated suite of their products, which are leading the pack as far as data-driven tools for optimizing our operations,” Slaughter says. “They do food and beverage and point of sale, membership data, accounting. They’ve also built over this pandemic time a stronger, social kind of media platform for class and appointment scheduling. The software also lets us set limits on the number of people who can reserve a spot at the pool, that type of thing. All of that technology is really just allowing us to manage access to the club better.”
As the Club, along with the rest of the world, emerges from the pandemic, Baron says he’d like to see their wellness ideology expand to include more fitness research and exercise science, to usher the Club into a new era while preserving the spirit of its founding members. “We’re a three-generation club,” he notes. “We’ve got grandparents exercising with their grandkids. So expanding our mindset to consider what the future health and wellness trends might be – from the school-age years to the golden years – is a significant goal for us. We want to trend in the right direction, the one that keeps our membership healthier. It’s all going to be about health.”
For Slaughter, the Club’s main objective has not changed and remains very simple: to stay pertinent in an arena that, historically speaking, has had a hard time transcending tradition, to be able to offer that timeless country club experience that can survive in the decades to come. He acknowledges, “The members we’re trying to attract now are in the 35 to 40 age range. Family, wellness, and kids’ activities. Recreation that has some purpose built into it. Those are all really important in the eyes of those potential members and their children. So that’s the type of programming we’re focusing on developing, and wellness is absolutely going to play a key part in attracting membership families moving forward.”
That’s really the component that sets the Carolina Country Club apart from other private clubs in other states. “We’ve worked hard to be that multi-use facility with broad appeal to a wide range of members and the full family unit,” Slaughter emphasizes. “People don’t just come in for golf or tennis anymore – they need it all.”
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AT A GLANCE
Carolina Country Club
What: One of the nation’s best premier private clubs
Where: Raleigh, North Carolina
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