The award-winning design of the pro shop at Conway Farms GC supports the property’s golf pedigree and showcases its clean, modern style.
After Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest, Ill., hosted the BMW Championship in 2013 (which it hosted again in 2015), it kicked off a capital-improvement project that would maintain Conway Farms’ culture and history, including its campus feel, while bringing it into the modern era.
Much of the $4.5-million project focused on enhancing the club’s bread and butter—its links-style golf course—by regrassing all greens, doubling the size of the east tee, and adding two short-game complexes, a 10,000-sq. ft. putting complex and a practice range. The renovation also addressed the property’s infrastructure and facilities, which were all updated over the course of eight to nine months.
Conway Farms Golf Club, Lake Forest, Ill.
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Designer: Frank Ponterio Interior Design
“Members are playing golf less, from the standpoint of time, so offering a practice facility is extremely important,” says COO Todd Marsh, CCM, CCE.
The club’s golf shop was given special attention. Located across the parking lot from the clubhouse, the building had been a ranch-style farmhouse built in 1943 with an attic and basement that received a few additions and makeovers over the years. “It still looks similar from the outside,” says Director of Golf Jeff Mory. “People are surprised when they walk in and it’s a brand-new building.”
Mory describes the town of Lake Forest as “more New England than Midwest,” a look that is echoed throughout the Conway Farms property. “We wanted the golf shop, inside and out, to reflect the club,” he adds.
The main room of the golf shop is an open atrium, with white walls and a ceiling that are contrasted by red oak floors with a dark, rich stain. Two large TVs act as monitors, displaying information about products, while backlit displays showcase the merchandise. A ceiling fan and ring chandelier maintain the airy feel. “It looks almost like a polo shop, similar to other facilities on the property,” Mory says.
“It’s different from most golf shops,” adds Marsh. “Most are carpeted and have the same merchandise with a generic display, and just aren’t the focus of a property. But here, most people will start and end their day walking through and buying what they need.”
Beyond the main room is the alder room, lined with alder wood from floor to ceiling, with a tweed rug, two wide lounge chairs, an ottoman and a large-screen TV. “It feels like you’re on a boat with a lake close by,” Mory says. “It’s a warm, cozy room to display shoes. It’s set up for retail, but with a different look, and it adds to the campus feel.”
Further, Mory adds, it’s not uncommon to find members relaxing in the alder room, reading magazines. Some events invite members to enter through the golf shop, Marsh adds. The club has even put a bar in the space “because it’s such an inviting area,” which also helps sales, Marsh notes.
In the same building, the club opted to create a lounge space where caddies could relax between rounds and have lunch. Equipped with tables and soft seating, this extra space seats 50 to 75.
“We’re a walking golf course, so it was important to have a great facility where caddies could be comfortable,” Marsh says. “Caddies are super-important to our operation, and many are long-time employees, so we wanted to create a good working environment.”
Before the renovation, Conway Farms’ golf shop received merchandise through the front door. Now, a receiving room in the back allows inventory to enter out of the sight of members, and gives staff a space to fold before displaying it. This change also allowed the golf staff to move its office for more professional and efficient use.
The overall design, which Marsh says is reflective of “where golf is going, from a lifestyle standpoint,” caught the attention of the American Society of Interior Designers’ Illinois Chapter. The space won the chapter’s Design Excellence Award in Retail, and now members aren’t shy about showing off the space that earned those laurels.
“Member response has been fantastic,” Mory says. “The best reflection of that is how prideful a member is—a member won’t let a guest come to the club and not go through that area.”