The Carmel, Ind. property used a clubhouse renovation to align more with the “fun and approachable” atmosphere and culture of its members and amenities.
What began as a “refresh” of The Bridgewater Club evolved into a major enhancement of the (then) 15-year-old Carmel, Ind. club. General Manager Mike Gardner, CCM, PGA says the overall philosophy of the club is continual reinvestment in its facilities, team and membership.
Although the club is relatively new, the needs of the membership have continued to evolve over the past 15+ years,” Gardner says. “At minimum it was a refresh or restyling of the interior of the clubhouse. As we went through the strategic planning process the refresh evolved into something more and we found that we could not only update the design but move the club forward and ensure that it caters to the current and future members of the club.”
Management also wanted the clubhouse to align more with the “fun and approachable” atmosphere and culture of the club.
“We aren’t a traditional, starchy club but instead a progressive, fun and inviting club,” Gardner says. “We also learned how much the focal point of the clubhouse, the bar, could truly become the melting pot and hub of socialization. Moving away from the traditional 10-seat bar and creating an oval, 36-seat bar that could enjoy amazing views outside, really tied everything together and ensured all members using the club in different ways could enjoy the clubhouse.”
From 2020 into 2021, the clubhouse underwent a high-style and dramatic transformation that encompassed nearly every aspect of the club including the Zinc bar, boardroom, ballroom, golf shop, fitness center, newly painted exterior, locker rooms, outdoor gathering spaces, re-shingled rooftops and beyond.
Not surprisingly, an overhaul of this magnitude wasn’t embraced by all, but has certainly received critical praise.
“With it being such a paradigm shift in the overall look and feel, for some it took a little time to understand,” Gardner says. “Once members were reintroduced into the spaces, after the pandemic, you could really see how the renovation lent itself to more socialization.
“To say that everybody loves it is a lie, but overall the mass majority of the membership loves the updates, new bar, enhanced outdoor spaces and increased socialization,” he adds. “In addition, the club has a waiting list for Platinum members and has never seen participation as great as we have in the past year. It has also been very rewarding to see so many younger members enjoying the club.”
Golf course architect Pete Dye’s fingerprints can be found across his home state and certainly at The Bridgewater Club—with an 18-Hole championship course and a 9-hole executive course. Director of Golf Rick Witt, PGA describes the latter as “very member friendly off the tee but creates a fair challenge around the greens. It is beautifully manicured and offers a nice variety of holes.”
Rounds played on both courses saw a dramatic uptick in 2020 due to the pandemic, but Witt says the club has started to see rounds normalize as restrictions relaxed throughout the country.
“Members are using the club more by playing more golf,” he says of the boost in activity. “Our tournaments are full for couples, ladies, and men’s events. It reminded both new and existing golfers how amazing golf is and how enjoyable it can be to be outside and spend time with your family and friends.”
To keep the golfing pipeline full, Witt says Director of Instruction Mike Abbott, PGA conducts myriad clinics to help with the growth of the game.
In addition to 27 holes of golf, The Bridgewater Club offers an extensive practice facility, which includes a 23-acre practice range with nine target greenside bunkers, 6-acre short-game area with a variety of short-game specialty areas, covered and heated stalls for winter and inclement weather, and an indoor hitting and putting room. The centerpiece is a 5,000-sq.-ft. golf shop, Witt says.
Maintaining the property falls under the hands of Jim Loupee, Director of Grounds, who has spent the last decade of a 42-year career at The Bridgewater Club. Although rewarding work, the challenges are present.
“It’s a big piece of property to get your hands around,” Loupee says. “A lot of moving parts due to the size, amount of acreage and size of membership being the largest private club in the state of Indiana.”
Like any other club, staffing issues persist, but Loupee gets creative in recruitment.
“Word of mouth is our biggest advertisement,” he says. “We’ve had luck with the existing staff members bringing in someone they know. Having a referral [bonus] helps this also … and creating a positive working environment.”
Focus on Fitness
Keeping members active and healthy is the responsibility of Fitness and Wellness Director Todd Landwehr and his staff. They enjoy approximately 7,000 sq. ft. of space, that includes a 1,300 sq. ft. group ex studio, Pilates studio with two reformers, fitness center with 37 pieces of cardio equipment, 15 linear strength machines, free weights area, multiple cable cross machines, TRX setup, 15 bikes for cycle classes, and a massage room.
Additionally, The Bridgewater Club boasts an indoor four-lane lap pool for aquatics classes, swim lessons and lap swimming. There are also six outdoor tennis courts, three of which are lined to create six pickleball courts.
With nearly 1,300 members, the four full-time employees who manage the fitness department are kept busy, with the help of 48 year-round, part-time staff and 70 seasonal part-time staff in the summer months.
The Bridgewater Club utilizes weekly e-mails to keep members informed, as well as a dedicated fitness e-mail once per week.
“Programs are also listed through our membership app via phones, fliers within the facility and staff promoting directly to members,” Landwehr says. “Word of mouth is still very strong, as members are quick to recommend programs to other members.”
The Bridgewater Club offers casual dining spaces as well as outdoor seating. The Zinc Bar is a vibrant space that features a 36-seat bar-top seating as well as two banquets, and 2- and 4-top tables. The Legacy dining room is a bright and inviting space that welcomes members to enjoy it leisurely, whether it is for simple conversation, a game of cards or dining.
Menu selections range from casual items to steak and seafood and the club changes the menu seasonally—four times per year.
Executive Chef Chris Nealy says continuing diversification of the menu ensures all needs are met.
“Whether it is fresh seafood or a casual burnt-end sandwich, the menu offers a wide variety to satisfy any pallet,” Nealy says.
Setting the Standard
With a plethora of entertainment options in the area, The Bridgewater Club has set itself apart from the competition through a progressive approach.
“The club is the new model of country clubs, which is more like a private resort in your backyard,” Gardner says. “Not only is the private resort feel defined by its facilities, but also the culture. What makes this approachable, family-friendly environment possible is this is how the club was established from the beginning. A lot of other clubs are working through this change, which can be difficult and hard to manage.”
What also makes the club different is the private ownership structure, Gardner says. This allows The Bridgewater Club to be more agile and adaptive at a much faster pace. C+RB