Refreshed halfway houses and comfort stations are more than just a pitstop for golfers and their guests.
Back in the day, golfers could grab a cold beverage out of a cooler before heading over to the back nine. Today, their options have broadened tremendously, with spaces that offer full-service meals, comfortable seating and additional amenities. No longer plopped down in the middle of the course, halfway houses are being seamlessly integrated into landscape designs to add more value to existing properties. Here’s how some clubs have transformed outdated snack shacks into thriving venues.
When Hinsdale Golf Club experienced a noticeable uptick in golf, a need for more convenient, on-site food-and-beverage service became apparent. The Clarendon Hills, Ill.-based facility was averaging 20,000 rounds annually, compared to the previous year’s 12,000, and its older halfway house had outlived its usefulness.
“Prior to building the new halfway house, we had a simple, walk-in shack with two reach-in refrigerators that contained some beers and non-alcoholic beverage options,” explains General Manager Mark G. Jablonski, CCM, ECM, CFBE, CSW. “This did not offer the type of F&B experience that appealed to our members or their guests.” The original space was also lacking restroom facilities.
This past May, the club reopened its 500-sq.-ft. halfway house, nestled between holes seven, 12 and 13, in a style that mimics the clubhouse exterior, which had been renovated in 2020. A covered walk-up window designated for members and a separate window for caddies are easily accessible from the course. Inside, a kitchen features full-bar service, sandwich and salad prep stations and equipment for hot dog and bratwurst cooking and holding. Beverages are available via a two-tap keg cooler, along with a double-door, reach-in cooler for bottles and cans. In the back of the structure is a service room outfitted with a three-compartment sink, additional coolers and dry storage. Energy-efficient LED lighting is in the kitchen area, while two restrooms contain soft LED lighting.
Although the halfway house was purposefully not designed with seating (in order to keep golf games moving), the layout facilitates efficient operations. According to Jablonski, the new structure “offers members and guests the ability to grab F&B on both the front and back nines, instead of just a traditionally located halfway house,” he says. From May through October, the building is assigned one front-of-house and one back-of-house member, while in the off season, members are granted access via a key code.
A thoughtfully laid out design enables the halfway house to accommodate a continuously updated menu, complete with sandwiches, salads, wraps and other lighter fare. “To make sure the food options can be customized, we did not pre-package any menu items while we were staffed in the summer,” notes Jablonski. Member feedback and sales-mix reports enabled the club to adjust food options accordingly.
Even with a carefully orchestrated plan, this project was met with some obstacles. The halfway house’s location was not equipped with the proper utility connections for the necessary amenities, which assumed significant costs. “Utilities had to be fed or run to either the clubhouse or our golf course maintenance building, both of which are hundreds of yards away from the new halfway house,” says Jablonski. Changes also had to be made to the original design because of supply delays and availability.
Nevertheless, since the construction was completed, the end results have been immeasurable. Food and beverage revenues are up and members are proud to share this amenity with their guests. “It gave our golfing members and caddies a much greater speed of service, as they did not have to wait in line along with the pool users at the snack shop,” notes Jablonski.
Paying tribute to its natural surroundings, The Golf Club at Fossil Creek’s halfway house was recently updated and rebranded as The Boat House. The Fort Worth, Texas club’s new moniker is a nod to an adjacent pond that will host model boat races for members, who can now partake of a comfortable setting for socializing and casual dining.
The Boat House’s update is part of a larger renovation that included an upgraded course and clubhouse. “When we renovated the clubhouse, we also wanted to update the halfway house, so it was attractive to both golfers and our community, to provide another great option where they can enjoy food and beverage, as well as to connect the surrounding community with our club,” explains General Manager Sean Swanberg.
Positioned between the sixth and 15th holes—and along Fossil Creek’s homeowner’s association’s Blue Line walking trail—the 250-sq.-ft. structure houses a kitchen, bathrooms and a covered patio with an outdoor bar. Members have access to a rotating menu of smoked BBQ, hot dogs, sausages and crush burgers, and service is managed by a cook and bartender. Meals can be brought over to a cozy seating area, complete with Adirondack-style chairs, tables and rockers. While this space is not climate-controlled, a cloud-based security system monitors the HVAC in the kitchen and bathrooms.
Even with a thoughtfully planned design, the Boat House is not immune to the Fort Worth heat. “Our biggest challenge has been keeping the kitchen and open bar at a reasonable temperature during the hot summer season,” notes Swanberg. Regardless, the Boat House has already made a strong impression on membership. Last year, a la carte sales saw a 15-percent increase, and 2023 is currently trending at 30 percent over 2022.
“With extended reach in the community, including hosted events such as remote control boat races, Yappy Hours for dogs and their humans, Fall Festival, Summer Block Party and an ongoing live music series, guests from the course and surrounding areas have embraced the Fossil Creek experience,” says Swanberg.
When a modest structure had outgrown its usefulness at Stone Harbor Golf Club in Cape May Court House, N.J., the club decided to bolster this space with a double entrée: a halfway house and south patio that share the same footprint. The updated building, which had been on the grounds since the club’s opening in 1988, was reopened to members in June 2022.
Located on the clubhouse’s south side, the halfway house is easily accessible for those on the green. “This beautiful new addition to the clubhouse grounds has added an excellent space for golfers stopping by between holes nine and 10 and for casual al fresco dining before and after golf,” explains Director of Marketing and Membership Sales Allison Stanford. The south patio contains a full kitchen and outside bar, while the halfway house—situated on the other side of the building and facing the cart path—serves golfers at the turn.
While part of the same structure, each entity has its own distinct food and beverage options. The halfway house, which is fully staffed in season, serves casual fare such as sandwiches, hot dogs, soda and alcoholic drinks, while the south patio is open during summer afternoons and evenings and has a more upscale menu that complements the club’s upstairs dining room. “We often have an acoustic musician playing on weekend evenings—a great vibe with al fresco dining,” notes Stanford.
Becoming a Destination
At Red Run Golf Club in Royal Oak, Mich., a newly renovated halfway house is making quite an impression on the golfing community. The club unveiled its reconstructed facility in July 2022, and members have since been partaking of more convenient F&B service during their golf games.
The 1,398-sq.-ft. structure, encircled by holes two, 10 and 17, contains a 324-sq.-ft. back-of-house area, with a chef-staffed kitchen, a 799-sq.-ft. wrap-around bar and sitting area and 275-sq.-ft. restrooms. The space can hold between 2-4 employees and has a maximum occupancy of up to 85 guests in accordance with local building codes. Gas-fired mechanical units for heating and cooling provide sufficient air flow, and the kitchen is enhanced with an exhaust hood and a make-up air system for increased ventilation.
Within this set-up, golfers can indulge in an expansive menu, including burgers, burritos and sandwiches, along with healthier, grab-and-go options. Weekly lunch and dinner specials are also appealing to member families. “It has evolved into a sought-after destination dining area for our members,” says General Manager/COO Joseph Marini of the halfway house.
As Red Run’s new space continues to thrive, the club remains focused on keeping pace with the increased business. “Meeting the demands of the increased number of golfers has been a bit of a challenge due to the popularity of the new structure,” adds Marini. Had designers done things differently, they might have considered enlarging the kitchen slightly.
Despite these concerns, the halfway house continues to benefit both members and staff who are better able to tend to golfers’ needs. According to Marini, guests can enjoy a meal or a beverage effortlessly and are even thinking beyond a quick bite. “Members are starting to inquire and host parties out there in the evening,” he adds.
Summing It Up
> Halfway house renovations are addressing the need for expanded F&B services while on the green.
> Expansive designs enable clubs to update their menus and provide accommodations for casual dining.
> Some comfort stations are being utilized not only for golf breaks, but for evening recreation and special events.