In the Kid Zone

Rooms and spaces that cater to children can help properties attract families and build a true sense of community.

In today’s club business, a property that lacks amenities with ample appeal to the entire family will also come up short when in comes to retaining existing members and appealing to new ones.

“No matter what the demographics of your club are, family is important—whether it is children, grandchildren, or family visiting from out of town,” says JJ Karcz, Youth Director at Marin Country Club in Novato, Calif. “For adults to enjoy the amenities of the club, they need their kids to be safe, comfortable and having a good time.”


  • Incorporate kids’ areas into the clubhouse that kids and their parents will see— and use—for activities they can’t enjoy at home or elsewhere.
  • Designing a kids’ space is all about creativity and comfort.

Designing kid-friendly spaces requires thoughtful design and plenty of creativity. When successfully implemented into existing clubhouses, kid zones can help transform them into well-rounded family destinations—and increase member usage and overall satisfaction.

A Space of Their Own

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One of the goals behind the Kid’s Stop at the Detroit (Mich. ) Golf Club was to offer kids a space to call their own. “Our golf pro, swim coach and tennis pro have built great programs, with 150 kids each—but there was nowhere for kids to hang out, between using the amenities, at our clubhouse,” says Todd Beals, CCM, Chief Operating Officer. “We wanted a place where kids could feel they were members of the club as well.”

To achieve this, the club renovated its former accounting offices into the Kid’s Stop two years ago. An oversized tan sectional couch divides the room into two sections. Half of the room is set up for older kids with the couch, a flat-screen television, and a video library. On the opposite side of the couch is a play space for younger kids that boasts a dollhouse, foosball and air hockey tables, toys, another flat-screen TV and a book and video library.

The room is decorated in neutral tones with blue carpeting, the tan and white sectional sofa, and cream-colored walls. The florescent lighting has a playful touch, with cloud designs etched onto the light covers. Pictures of the kids who frequent the Kid’s Stop line the walls and personalize the room.

Detroit (Mich.) Golf Club

“This has become the first choice for where kids want to come,” says Beals. “The Kid’s Stop is their club within the club. It is for them, and it is all about them.”

The $60,000 renovation was self-funded through the membership, and many of the furnishings and toys were donated by members. Since its opening in 2009, the Kid’s Stop has helped boost member satisfaction, club usage and revenue over the past two years. Specifically, the club has seen a 15% increase in women’s beginner golf and couples golf, and a 10% increase in a la carte dining in the past two years.

“At first I thought it would be challenging, because we’re such a golf-centric club,” says Beals. “But we have a very progressive Board, and we took the leap of faith. Now that we have the Kid’s Stop, we don’t know how we did without it.”

Creative and Comfortable

Designing family- and kid-friendly areas revolves around comfort. And it doesn’t require a huge investment. “Build slowly and work with what you have,” suggests Marin CC’s Karcz. “You don’t have to spend a lot of money. It just takes some creativity and energy. If your staff has good energy, the kids feed off of that.”

Marin Country Club, Novato, Calif.

When Marin CC redesigned a former multi-purpose room into its Kids Korner, the theme was simplicity, and the goal was to make the space comfortable and inviting. The neutral-toned room has brown carpeting, peach walls and a wall of mirrors. Splashes of color give the room the vibrancy you would expect in a play zone. The words “Kids Korner” stretch along one wall, and each letter is painted a different color. Built-in cubby stations display pictures of the kids, much like at Detroit GC. “The pictures help the kids feel like they have their own space at the club,” says Karcz.

The room is also equipped with two computers; a diaper-changing station; an arts-and-crafts table; and a television. The remainder of the room is wide open,  with a plethora of toys that appeal to all ages, including a five-foot-high teddy bear; a zebra rocking horse; large balls; a pop-up tent; an easel; a chalkboard; and much more.

“All of the toys are out, so as soon as they walk into the Kids Korner they see them and it all immediately gets their attention,” says Karcz.

Since the Kids Korner opened a year-and-a-half-ago, Karcz notes, there’s been a significant increase in club usage. In fact, the space recently added weekend hours, to meet high member demand.

Complementary Space

When NCR Country Club in Kettering, Ohio, launched its junior activities program two years ago, the club wanted a home base for the program and a kids’ presence within the clubhouse. Thus was born the Kids Klubhouse, a 1,500-sq.-ft. space that centers around all things kid. “We wanted a special place for the kids to hang out,” says Steven R. Bolerjack, CCM, General Manager/Chief Operating Officer.

NCR Country Club, Kettering, Ohio

With a large membership that includes 740 family memberships with approximately 600 children, the club has had a high demand for more youth activities. The junior activities program hosts a number of camps, theme parties, movie nights, holiday events, kids’ nights out, and so on.

Junior Activities Director Tara McGinniss created a vibrant and inviting space by painting each wall a different shade of orange, green, yellow and blue. On the walls hang framed cartoon posters and the kids’ own artwork.

The furniture is simple and durable, but still attractive and appealing. Shelving and storage bins hold board games, electronic games, arts-and-crafts supplies, and toys. An arts-and-crafts table is set up for creative projects. The room has a large flat-screen and a Wii system. During movie nights, the children lounge on bean-bag chairs and oversized stuffed animals.

NCR’s Kids Klubhouse has unquestionably attracted new family memberships, according to Ryan Roos, Membership & Sales Director. Since opening the space last winter, the club has added over 20 families, he reports. “When I tour prospective members through the clubhouse, the Kids Klubhouse is an eye-opening experience,” says Roos. “It is a warm and friendly way to introduce parents to what kind of club we are.”

The Kids Klubhouse is equally important in keeping existing members happy. “Retention is such a huge thing for us, so it is great giving members something to go along with the championship golf course,” says Roos. “The Kids Klubhouse and junior activities program keeps the members involved as a whole family unit. The children become attached to what we have available, as well.”

Something for Everyone

When Ballantyne Country Club in Charlotte, N.C., opened a new amenity-rich clubhouse, it converted its original clubhouse into a Family Activities Center. Along with the swimming pool and tennis courts, the Family Activities Center houses a multipurpose room for kids’ and family activities and the Kids Korner, a play space and childcare center for younger children.

Ballantyne Country Club, Charlotte, N.C.

The perimeter of the multipurpose room is lined with video arcade games—a popular draw for all ages. The room is set up with tables and chairs used for arts and crafts and other planned activities. With thick, cushioned blue carpet and orange, yellow and green walls, it is a dynamic and lively place for kids to hang out and play.

With minimal furniture, the multipurpose room is a relatively simple space that can be rearranged and decorated for whatever family event the club is hosting. It is heavily used for summer camps and special events such as theme parties and family fun nights.

“The setup in the room depends on whether we are watching a movie, just playing or having a planned activity,” says Jill Philmon, Ballantyne’s General Manager/COO. “But it is truly a space all about the kids. We allow them to do whatever they want in that area, as long as they’re safe.”

Ballantyne’s Kids Korner often doubles as a childcare center on Friday and Saturday nights. The cushioned, multi-colored carpeting with a cityscape design sets a playful and upbeat tone for the room, the rest which is decorated in complementary primary colors. The room is lined with cubby bins chock-full of toys. Brightly-colored murals of suns and clouds decorate the walls, while yellow stars and moons dot the ceiling.

With 70% of Ballantyne CC’s members between the ages of 35 and 45—and the majority of that group with children living at home—family events are critical to member satisfaction. At the same time, Philmon notes that she still needs to keep older members, and members without, children happy.

“We are still very much of a generational club,” she notes. “I have a lot of empty-nesters, and a lot of couples who do not have children. When you are a generational club, you have to make sure you can touch a little bit of everything for everyone.”

Having the Family Activities Center housed in a separate part of the property is a win-win for the club’s mixed membership. “If you are an empty nester, as much as you love your grandchildren, you don’t want kids underfoot,” says Philmon. “It is the best scenario to have a place that is designated for the kids because it allows kids their space—but it still gives us the ability to do events for adults as well.”

Family Fun Time

Along with having part of the clubhouse dedicated to children’s activities, many clubs are finding that the most well-attended club events are the kids’ events.

Detroit Golf Club’s Kids Extravaganza: The club’s Kids Extravaganza is an annual carnival that takes over the entire property (see photo, pg. 22). With inflatables, games and activities, the clubhouse is transformed into a kid’s play haven.

Ballantyne Country Club’s Oktoberfest: Last year, the club held its first Oktoberfest, thinking it would be a fun adult event. However, after an overwhelming number of members came with their kids, the club has decided to tweak the event this year by incorporating a petting zoo and a build-a-bear workshop into the festivities.