by Diana Mirel (email@example.com)
Golf will always be a driving force in the club and resort industry. But a distinct shift in the way that more members and guests now want to spend their time and discretionary income has prompted the industry to reevaluate—and redesign—its amenity mix. That in turn has given many properties a new goal: to create a place that is more than just a golf course, and can also serve as an extension of living rooms and backyards, with lots of things to do for each member of the family.
“There was a time when if you had a golf course and a swimming pool, that was pretty much all you needed,” says Jeff Schaffer, Membership Director at Avalon Golf and Country Club in Warren, Ohio. “But it is so different today. Members want their club to be like their very own private vacation resort. We have people who come to the club in the morning, and between the spa, the salon, the golf course, the fitness room and the swimming pool, they don’t leave until they are finished with dinner.”
||Avalon Golf & Country Club
(Warren, Ohio)“Members want their club to be like their very own private vacation resort.”—Jeff Schaffer, Membership Director
Establishing this kind of one-stop social and recreation shop begins by integrating diverse recreational amenities with more traditional space. Today, card rooms are evolving into multipurpose event and recreation spaces; aquatics facilities are expanding into outdoor entertainment venues; game rooms designed for families are increasingly popular; and comprehensive tennis and fitness facilities are on par with private fitness clubs. When designed and operated properly, recreational facilities can help to boost club usage and ensure that your property is everyone’s favorite go-to spot.
||Illahe Hills Country Club
(Salem, Ore.)“We have a dedicated
group of families who
come out every Friday for
Wii Game nights [left].”—Tom Coburn, General Manager
As club memberships get younger, catering to families is critical to staying competitive. To appeal to this new generation, family rooms are an increasingly popular trend in clubhouse design. These rooms are typically decked out with comfortable furnishings, televisions and DVD players, and loads of games, both video and board. Incorporating dining tables into the mix also allows members to enjoy dinner at the club while spending quality time with their kids (or, provide a place where kids can be served separately, to allow adults to have a quieter dinner elsewhere on the property).
But adding a family room does not necessarily mean building an addition to the clubhouse. In fact, simply tweaking existing card rooms can do the trick.
For example, when Town & Country Club in Saint Paul, Minn., created a social membership option, its average age went from 65 to 48. As the demographic shifted, so did some clubhouse traditions, including the men’s-only card room. Five years ago, the room became a co-ed family room during the offseason.
Now, the room has been redesigned into an inviting living-room setup, appealing to families, card players and golfers alike (see photo, pg. 26). A wall of windows floods the room with natural light, while a new cathedral ceiling, plush rugs and cherry wood fixtures add warmth. Soft couches, flat-screen televisions and a popcorn machine create a homey vibe. And round wooden card tables with leather chairs are still set up for card playing in the back of the room.
||Meadowbrook Country Club
(Ballwin, Mo.)“The Club Room [right]
gets booked a lot because it holds up to 40 comfortably.”—Elana Hertel, Events Coordinator
In addition to the Town & Country members who play bridge in the room regularly, the room is now utilized by other segments of the membership, depending on the time of year. Golfers unwind and socialize here during golf season, while families enjoy games, movies and casual dining in the offseason. Finding the right balance among these groups has been a bit of the challenge, reports General Manager Vincent Tracy.
Several years ago, members looking for a more casual dining experience headed to the card room. During golf season, however, this created a sort of first-come, first-serve competition between the families and golfers. “We had problems because the golfers, who can act like sailors with their stories, jokes and sometimes off-color language, would just walk in and plop down,” says Tracy.
The problem eventually solved itself with the club’s $3.7 million pool and tennis facility expansion (C&RB, August 2006), which increased casual dining options and led families to opt for the new outdoor grill in the warmer months, freeing the card room up to be a place where the boys could be boys.
When the weather gets cooler, though, everyone heads back into the card room. “This works out perfectly, because golfers don’t show up there during the winter,” says Tracy. “When the course closes, even the golfers now spend time in the card room with their families instead.”
||Town & Country Club
(St. Paul, Minn.)“When the golf course
closes, the golfers who had been in the card room now have a place to spend time with their families.”—Vincent Tracy, General Manager
Game rooms are another hot design trend that appeal to both adults and children alike. Avalon G&CC offers its members a wide range of recreation amenities at its three separate facilities. The Avalon Lakes location houses a popular adult game room, complete with billiards and a pinball machine (see photo, pg. 23). With walnut pillars and a walnut ceiling over the billiards table, the room exudes a traditional, upscale charm. Plush, oversized chairs are set up in conversation areas around a marble coffee table and a flat-screen television, and a bar and rich wood cabinetry add to a sumptuous den environment.
Even without a distinct game room, clubs can benefit from setting up makeshift space for that purpose. To attract more families in the evenings, Illahe Hills Country Club, in Salem, Ore., purchased a Wii system for family game night. Every Friday, the club sets up a smaller banquet room with the Wii, a video projector, a big screen and several dining tables (see photo, opposite).
“This has been a real benefit to the club,” says Tom Coburn, General Manager. “We have dedicated group of families who come out every Friday. They end up ordering dinner and snacks throughout the evening, and the kids get to hang out together and play Wii. As a result of this design change, we now have more people utilizing the club in the evenings, and it has increased our dinner activity.”
When Meadowbrook Country Club in Ballwin, Mo. was renovated several years ago, the club redid—and renamed—its men’s and ladies’ card rooms to incorporate a wider variety of event spaces.
As men’s use of the card room declined over the years, the decision to transform it into an event area was an easy one. However, the ladies card room, renamed the Club Room, proved to have a different story.
The room was still heavily utilized by members and was set up for ladies’ card play five days a week. So, instead of repurposing it all together, Meadowbrook CC subtly transformed it to be both an event space and a card room, depending on the time of day.
The goal was to give the space more of a living-room feel (see photo, opposite). Large abstract artwork, ironwork chandeliers and wall sconces modernized the space, while a fireplace warmed up the room. A new seating area that included a velour couch, a large coffee table and four chairs rounded out the space. “People love the seating area in the Club Room when they have parties in there, and the ladies love sitting there and having their coffee,” says Elana Hertel, the club’s Events Coordinator.
Now, the room is typically booked for events on the weekends and for dinners on some weeknights after card playing. And management tries to find the right balance between everyone’s needs. “The Club Room gets booked a lot because it holds up to 40 comfortably,” says Hertel. “But if an event will be inconvenienced by the ladies’ card play, I try to steer the host toward other areas of the club.”
Outdoor venues are equally important pieces of the recreation puzzle, if not more so. At many properties, in fact, the pool is the most important recreational space of all. One of the top trends in aquatics facilities today at golf and country clubs is to embrace more of a resort-style look for pools, with upscale features and expanded play and dining options.
As Illahe CC gears up for a club-wide renovation this summer, the pool has become one of the top priorities. “As far as member retention and attracting new members, the pool is absolutely a key component,” says Coburn.
Illahe Hills’ master plan includes a complete overhaul for an Olympic-sized pool, combined with a zero-entry area with interactive water features for the kids. The pool deck will have significantly more seating and feature resort-style cabanas (see rendering).
The new aquatics facility will also house a playground that will be accessible from the pool with an additional entrance from the parking lot, to allow members to utilize the playground year-round, and not just in season.
Expanded aquatics facilities also open up more options for outdoor recreation and entertainment. The pool renovation at Town & Country Club four years ago not only doubled the size of the pool, it also boosted overall club activity and usage. The club was able to add more interactive pool games and races, while growing its swim team and swim lessons. Further, the club now also hosts an outdoor movie night on the first Friday of the month, as well as outdoor summer and fall dances.
“I can truly say that if we hadn’t done the pool expansion, we wouldn’t have the social members we have today,” says Tracy. “And in this economy, the club would have been in peril.”
(For more on how pool renovation, expansion and design trends are changing to fit today’s needs and programs at clubs and resorts, see “Pooling Resources” in this issue, pg. 38).
Working on Your Fitness
Tennis also remains an important part of club life. But since it is usually limited to outdoor facilities, tennis, like golf and swimming, often falls victim to the whims of Mother Nature.
Looking to turn tennis into a year-round sport, last year Avalon Lakes G&CC began offering indoor tennis to its members free of charge (see photo of indoor tennis dome, pg. 23). “It’s been wildly popular,” says Avalon’s Schaffer. “Of course, this has brought us a lot of members, and then these members spend money in other areas of the club.”
The club didn’t skimp when it came to designing the tennis facility, either. The indoor courts are made of the same surface used for the U.S. Open courts, and the courts were even painted in the same blue-and-green style of that event.
In addition to tennis, fully loaded fitness centers are becoming a must at many clubs. “As you add amenities, you increase the value of a membership,” says the president of an architectural and design firm specializing in club industry projects. “If you can add a fitness component, members won’t have to spend $60-$70 a month to go down the street to a fitness club. ”
With so many recreational options to choose from, clubs are focusing on how to appeal to a broad spectrum of people with diverse areas of interest.“Make it fun, and people will come,” is how Schaffer sums it
|Perfect Place for Practice
Sometimes, finding the right space to introduce a unique new recreational amenity is just a matter of taking another look at a part of a property that’s always been seen as unusable. That was the case at Addison Reserve CC in Delray Beach, Fla., where one end of its tennis court complex was thought to be too close to the club’s driving range for another regular court. But Director of Tennis Jeff Bingo had always been looking for a place for a graded practice court, where he could install a ball machine and have balls roll back to collect in a trough under the machine as they were returned. Since it was built two years ago, Addison Reserve’s practice court (pictured, above right) has proved to be quite popular. When not used for instruction, it can be reserved by players 14 and older to use for 30-minute sessions on a “self-serve” basis, with tokens and a remote control for the machine available in the club’s pro shop. The machine includes a control box that allows settings to be adjusted, and players must comply with posted rules to feed balls back into the machine after hitting.
Despite today’s more modern game rooms, many clubs still place a high priority on traditional card rooms. At Twin Orchard Country Club in Long Grove, Ill., for example, card rooms remain integral to club life. “It wouldn’t be feasible for us to satisfy the senior membership without having two card rooms like we do,” says Gavin Speirs, General Manager/COO. “The card rooms are heavily utilized and much appreciated.”
When the club renovated its card rooms two years ago, it went all-out. The men’s card room, typically set up for gin rummy, was redesigned with deep wood fixtures, heavy designer tables and chairs, and flat-screen televisions. The room is decorated in rich earth tones and complemented with natural light.
The ladies’ card room, located off the ladies’ locker room, is equally upscale. Here, the décor has more of a feminine flair, with plush pillows, floral fabrics and a pastel color palate.
“We have a 92-year-old member who has been a member here for 50 years,” says Speirs. “He loves bringing his guests to the card room. This is his home; this is where he is entirely comfortable.”