When hunger pangs strike during a round of golf, members and guests want something quick, neat to eat and delicious. Chefs around the country are upgrading their on-course foodservice with new items and high-level ordering and delivery services.
On the golf course at Watchung Valley Golf Club in Watchung, N.J., members can grab a regular hot dog if that’s what they crave. But an increasing number are opting to order from Executive Chef Bill Crouse’s grilled-to-order “street foods from around the world” menu, which includes Indian tandoori chicken thigh or beef, Vietnamese hoisin sauce-glazed roasted mushroom lettuce wrap, or lamb kefta, a Mediterranean-spiced ground lamb kabob with a cucumber riata sauce served as is or in a pita wrap.
“I like to serve things on sticks, because they’re easier and neater for the golfers to carry and eat, and for us they cook up quickly—many in about three minutes,” Crouse explains. “They also work well for easy prep and portion control.”
For members who are watching their carbs or are gluten-intolerant, Crouse offers bread-free bowls of chicken and tuna salad. Health-conscious golfers can also pick up grain bowls.
Serving up this varied fare became a little more of a challenge for Crouse and company this year during the construction of Watchung Valley’s new patio bar outside of the main clubhouse, which will also serve as a halfway house. Until its completion (scheduled for next spring), Crouse is cooking for the golfers on a satellite grill under a tent on a hillside turn on the course. And he continues to offer a full menu of between nine and eleven made-to-order items, which he switches out every couple of weeks.
“Once we have a brick-and-mortar halfway house on the patio bar, our number of menu items will increase,” he notes. “For now, the tent, linens and skirting in the grill area makes it look like we’re having a special event every day.”
To encourage members to try unfamiliar spices and flavor combinations, Crouse will often give them samples of new items—and they usually come back to purchase another, he says, once they’ve had a taste.
Prior to the launch of a new menu, Crouse also hosts an event, “A Taste of Watchung,” during which members try bite-size samples of new and seasonal items. People remember the items they liked and order them from the grill, he notes.
Watchung Valley’s satellite grill will shut down after Labor Day. After that, golfers will be able to order off the club’s app, and the food will be delivered to them wherever they are on the course.
“Pig Outs” and Fun on Wheels
Crouse also likes to do outdoor “cowboy open-fire cooking” on the Watchung Valley course. “We can fit a fire pit into any nook and cranny of the course,” he says.
The club does three pig roasts per year on the course, as well as a prime rib feast. “The members love it,” he says. “They view what we’re trying to do with our golf course food as cutting-edge and different from other courses.”
To service his club’s Golf Learning Center and paddle tennis facility, as well as special events on the golf course at Medinah (Ill.) Country Club, Executive Chef Michael Ponzio has a full-size food truck at his disposal. The truck, which is 26 feet long, nine-and-a-half feet tall and eight feet wide, contains a fully equipped mobile kitchen with a flattop, deep fryer, grill, freezer, sandwich prep table, three-compartment sink and two reach-in coolers. First introduced in 2016, it is staffed with two to three people to do the cooking and provide window service.
Ponzio offers a wide variety of “fun foods” from the truck, including the club’s signature Nashville Hot Chicken sandwich, freshly fried doughnuts and churros, barbacoa tacos, burgers, deep-fried gelato, lobster corn dogs and deep-fried Oreos. A favorite offering is the crispy pork or lamb ribs that are smoked, coated with an egg-and-breadcrumb mixture, deep-fried and tossed in a house-made barbecue sauce.
A roving beverage cart also brings at least three different sandwiches and wraps to players on Medinah’s three golf courses, along with prepackaged salad (a popular choice being the chicken salad with walnuts and grapes), house-made hummus with pita chips and vegetables, and freshly baked cookies. Among the favorite choices is the slow-cooked, house-smoked pastrami sandwich.
Medinah also has three turn houses on its three courses. One is equipped with a Merry Chef oven, to prepare cheesesteaks and meatball subs (“We’re known for our meatballs,” Ponzio points out). Another facility prepares “healthy bowls” based on ancient grains or brown rice and topped with a protein. One of the most popular is the Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Bowl, made with rotisserie chicken, carrots, celery, blue cheese and house-made buffalo sauce.
An unusual yet very well-received item is the beet poke, made with brown rice, roasted beets, sesame seeds, avocado, vegetable slaw and poke sauce. And golfers who want a liquid boost can order a smoothie-like blended drink, such as the popular “Avonana,” made with avocado, banana, fresh-squeezed orange juice and local honey. The third turn shack stocks beverages and quick-snack items, such as cheese and crackers.
Every day, the Medinah turn houses are opened at 8 a.m. with enough food to last through the morning rush. Storage and temperature logs assure that all of the products remain fresh. At 11 a.m., after the rush is over, the facilities are replenished.
Golfers can also fuel up before they tee off with a breakfast buffet at the 19th hole, called the Oasis, which is located a couple of steps from the locker room. For cooking, the Oasis has induction burners that can be hidden when not in use. Ponzio also stocks the men’s locker room with freshly baked pastries and fruit in season.
Beyond the Basics
Over the past six months, Coyote Ridge Golf Club in Carrollton, Texas, has been upgrading its on-course offerings. For example, reports Michael Owens, the club’s Food and Beverage Director, the club’s turkey and cheese sandwich was recently elevated to a smoked turkey with cranberry chutney and Havarti cheese. Owens is now also featuring different kinds of bread, such as challah, for his sandwiches.
After a total menu revamp six months ago that introduced made-from-scratch, brew pub-style food, Coyote Ridge’s members have really taken to the burgers, Owens reports. Made from ground chuck and brisket, they are available in four varieties, including a blue cheese stuffed burger.
Owens is also upgrading the selection of liquid refreshments for golfers, with the addition of canned wines, cocktails, hard seltzers and hard ciders.
“We’re trying to stay proactive and anticipate what our membership will want before they ask us for it,” he says. “Because the Dallas area is super-saturated with golf courses, some of our members also belong to other clubs and they dine out a lot, so it is important for us to stay on top of the trends.”
Recently, Coyote Ridge added a grab-and-go gourmet breakfast sandwich and burritos that golfers can take out on their golf carts, and the new additions have already become very popular, Owens reports.
Coyote Ridge also lets golfers order food through their golf carts’ GPS system, which sends them a message on the seventh hole so food and beverages will be ready when they hit the turn. “About 70% of our golfers take advantage of this ordering system,” Owens notes.
Sandwiches, hot dogs and other items are also available for walk-ups at the turn house, which is currently located as an annex to the main clubhouse, allowing members to order whatever they want from the menu.
In the next year, Coyote Ridge plans to build two new separate new turn houses, Owens reports—one for the front nine, and one for the back.
An Eye on Eco
Clubs across the country are looking for more eco-conscious ways to package to-go food and recycle food waste. At Watchung Valley Golf Club in Watchung, N.J., Executive Chef Bill Crouse has made the switch to recycled boxes for takeout items. Crouse is also currently in the market for environmentally friendly straws that will not break or get mushy when used. Any food waste goes in the compost instead of in the garbage.
Medinah (Ill.) Country Club is one year into its two-year plan to switch to compostable packaging. Sixty-five percent of the packaging has been swapped so far, reports Executive Chef Michael Ponzio. Like Crouse, Ponzio is looking for eco-conscious straws, and has so far gone through at least 40 kinds without much luck.
For serving spirits on the golf course, Michael Owens, Food and Beverage Director of Coyote Ridge Golf Club in Carrollton, Texas, has switched from pouring from full-sized bottles to individual-portion, airline-size bottles made of plastic. “We wanted to eliminate glass on the course and the airline bottles are made of recyclable plastic, so they’re better for the environment,” Owens says. “The bottles also make it easier and neater to provide a standardized pour, and are more convenient to inventory.”
Owens is also working with purveyors to reduce packaging and non-recyclable plastic consumption.
Summing It Up
> Meat on skewers can be popular on-course fare.
> Elevate sandwiches served for on-course consumption with upscale and unexpected ingredients.
> Offer health-conscious items that can also be portable and consumed on the go, including bread-free bowls and grain bowls, as well as smoothies.