Buoyed by a 70 percent growth in membership over the past 18 months, 96 percent of voting members approved the plan for work on the main clubhouse, golf course, tennis courts and pool complex. The pool renovations are designed to create a “resort feel,” according to General Manager Justin Awtrey. The club is also rolling out a variety of new programming for all member segments, including an “It’s OK” golf league built around women’s empowerment.
The El Dorado (Ark.) Golf and Country Club has unveiled an approximately $2.5 million renovation plan that club officials say will bring them into the 21st century, the El Dorado News-Times reported.
Earlier in June, the club held a vote of its members on a proposed renovation plan, with 96 percent of voting members agreeing with the proposal, Board President Toddy Pitard told the News-Times.
The club’s renovations will kick off this fall with work beginning on the main clubhouse, golf course, tennis courts and pool complex, General Manager Justin Awtrey told the News-Times. The physical renovations will happen over the course of about a year, Awtrey said.
“Obviously, we could do it quicker if we just shut the club down and did it all. We’re actually going to move in phases around the clubhouse, so that our members can always dine and utilize the club,” Awtrey said.
The initial construction also will include work on a new roof on the clubhouse and a bar and lounge adjacent to a renovated main dining room, the News-Times reported, and a ballroom will be eliminated to facilitate expansion of the dining room and kitchen.
The pool-complex renovations, with the pool resurfaced and an adjoining sundeck added, will give members the feeling of being at a world-class resort, Awtrey told the News-Times.
“We’re going to create very much that resort feel that you would get going to [an Orlando, Fla.] -based resort,” Awtrey said.
The club also plans to add a playground for children that will be connected to the pool, with a separating the two so the children can still use the playground when it’s too cold to swim, the News-Times reported. Eventually, in phase two of the renovations, what’s now known as “the Cove” will be bulldozed and a pub that connects to the pool and clubhouse will be added, with grilling options available on the sundeck.
El Dorado G&CC is also planning to introduce several new athletic programs and family-oriented activities this summer, the News-Times reported. Once the tennis court has been resurfaced, members will be able to try out pickleball, which Awtrey and Pitard say is one of the fastest- growing sports in the country, drawing both elderly and families.
“You’re hitting the wiffle ball with a wooden paddle, it’s about the size of a racquetball racket, and it’s shorter courts, so you don’t move around as much,” Awtrey said. “It’s not as strenuous or challenging on the muscles as tennis.”
The club is also introducing weekly Dive-In Movie Nights this month, for which a 15-foot inflatable screen will be positioned by the pool to screen children’s movies, the News-Times reported. Parents will be able to have dinner poolside while their children play in the water and watch the movie of the week with lifeguard supervision.
Some new activities will be geared specifically to adult club members, the News-Times reported. During those activities, parents will be able to drop their children off at Kid’s Care, where they will be provided with dinner and dessert and participate in games and craft projects with the club’s staff.
El Dorado G&CC is also planning to offer glow-ball night golfing and themed-dinner nights as some of the new activities for adult members, the News-Times reported. So far, the themed dinners have been a success; Pitard said the club had a packed house for its first sushi night.
“With the talent that our chefs have, we’re really creating different experiences with different cultures,” Awtrey said. The club recently hired Lance Greer and Jerry Nixon, five-star chefs who are both originally from El Dorado.
This year will feature a re-launching of the club’s Kid’s Camp, a service that has not been available in recent years due to declining membership, the News-Times reported. With over 70 percent growth in the last 18 months, which Pitard said puts El Dorado in the top 1 percent of country club growth nationally, the club was able to reinstitute the popular program.
“Last year, we didn’t do a Kid’s Camp, so to have 28 children, and everyday these kids are just saying ‘I want summer camp every day, I want Kid’s Care every day,’ it speaks to what we’re trying to do, and that’s getting the children to want to come to the club,” Awtrey said. “And the parents are enjoying the club more. It really speaks to the lifestyle club we’re creating.”
One of the programs that club officials are most excited about, the News-Times reported, is the new “It’s OK” golf league, which Awtrey described as a women’s empowerment group that allows women to learn the game of golf without pressure or expectations.
Designed by the club’s head golf pro, Garrett Kent, the program is the first of its kind, the News-Times reported. Kent said that 45 percent of major corporations’ business deals take place on the golf course or through connections made on the course, and that fewer than two percent of those deals involve women.
At this year’s inaugural meeting, the News-Times reported, women in pumps and suits socialized over wine and crackers as Kent explained some of the “rules” of the league, which included things like: it’s OK to not keep score; it’s OK to only count shots that actually make contact with the ball; and it’s OK to forget about a ball that is hit out of bounds. By the end of the list, there was a chorus of women saying “it’s OK” along with Kent.
Women in the program get a weekly lesson from Kent, the News-Times reported. After that, they can choose to either stay at the pro shop for additional individual instruction, or go play a few holes with some of the other ladies in the group.
“This is bringing so many women in, and businesswomen, to be able to try golf and get that empowerment of going out and having meetings on the golf course,” Awtrey said.
Renovations for the golf course are still being discussed internally, the News-Times reported. Awtrey said that a task force made up of club members and community leaders would be making recommendations about the course as well as the overall campus. Pitard said the plans could include a new practice facility in front of the pro shop, so that members could hit balls without having to travel to the back of the course.
As its membership continues to grow, El Dorado G&CC will become more exclusive, the News-Times reported. Awtrey said the club currently has over 420 members.
Once 500 members have joined, a waiting list will begin; to become a member at that point, one will have to pay an initiation fee that could reach up to $1,500, the News-Times reported.
The club is the only place in El Dorado to offer a Fourth of July fireworks show, the News-Times reported. This year, the club plans to make an all-day party out of the celebrations on June 30, the Saturday before the holiday. The event is for members and their families only.
“[It will be] 30 to 40 minutes that will rival anything at Disney,” Awtrey said. “Our focus [is] creating that experience and lifestyle club our members want.”
For the El Dorado News-Times’ full story, go to http://www.eldoradonews.com/news/2018/jun/24/el-dorado-golf-and-country-club-looks-move-21st-ce/
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