Finding innovative ways to make the most of out-of-the-way, inconvenient and run-of-the-mill space can help keep members and guests engaged and entertained.
Known for sprawling facilities and immaculate grounds, club and resort properties are also home to a number of limited-purpose areas—card rooms, prefunction space, bridal suites, etc.—that are often significantly underutilized on a season-to-season, day-to-day or hour-to-hour basis.
Smart club and resort managers now realize, though, that having some areas of their properties stay dark or empty for long stretches is an inefficient use of valuable space that’s hard to justify in today’s operating environment. At the same time, the drive to provide more family-oriented appeal and activities for a broader range of age groups and member types has spurred a need for new purposes within a property’s existing footprint. In response to all of these trends, properties are redesigning and reinvigorating single-function rooms and turning them into multipurpose, value-added spaces that can help to attract more usage, from both existing and prospective members and guests.
SUMMING IT UP
• Finding creative ways to transform underused areas of a property can help to increase appeal and maximize operating efficiencies.• Making small design changes with artwork, table linens and small pieces of furniture can transform a room into a new and exciting function space.
• Approach the clubhouse as a blank canvas on which anything is possible.
Ballrooms are becoming dining rooms; bridal suites are being transformed into day spas; and decorative patios are reemerging as revenue-producing food and beverage operations. The secret stems from simple, flexible room designs that seamlessly blend with the rest of the clubhouse’s décor.
Livening Up Living Rooms
When Alan Jacobs took the General Manager position in 2006 at the newly renovated Fairmount Country Club in Chatham, N.J., one of his main goals was to maximize utilization of the entire clubhouse. He began by focusing on enhancing the physical facility.
First stop: the club’s living room.
While the space was certainly comfortable, with a cozy fireplace, built-in bookshelves and plush chairs and sofas set up around coffee tables, the room lacked a certain familiarity.
To make the space more appealing and inviting, Jacobs focused on personalizing the design, so the décor would pay homage to the club’s rich history and traditions. To do this, he integrated historic and current club memorabilia. At the same time, the club began awarding trophies for its big tournaments that were then displayed in the built-in bookcases and china cabinets. Historical artwork and maps of the town were added to further enhance the design.
“This room is now a part of the clubhouse that members truly take pride in,” says Jacobs. “Guests can also visually experience our rich tradition and history when they visit this room.”
| Lomas Santa Fe Country Club
Solana Beach, Calif.
“The ballroom can be transformed into anything.”
—Megan Bachman, Event Sales Director.
That pride has translated into greater member usage of the living room, with friends and families gathering there to relax, socialize and share a drink before and after dining.
In addition to daily use, the living room is now widely used for member events, too.
For example, once a month, it is set up for complimentary wine tastings. Winemakers and distributors bring in eight to 10 varietals for members to sample. The club then offers those wines for purchase by the case at wholesale prices. “This is a value-added benefit that showcases the room at the same time,” says Jacobs.
The living room has also become a popular venue for private member dining. The French doors leading to the room can be closed for privacy, and dining tables and chairs are moved in to create the perfect setting for an intimate gathering.
“It has a unique atmosphere to it, and people feel special when they are dining in here,” says Jacobs.
“The junior clubhouse has been a great thing, especially when it comes to selling
Having a Ball
While most clubs have seen a shift to more casual dining, many are finding there is still some demand for occasional formal dining options. To address this need in a flexible fashion, the Lomas Santa Fe Country Club in Solana Beach, Calif., now converts its elegant ballroom into a formal dining room on Wednesday and Friday nights.
The room itself features a spacious veranda, partly enclosed by windows, so the captivating scenery can be enjoyed throughout the evening and in all seasons. The room’s décor and architectural details also help to provide plenty of visual satisfaction.
The space can be broken into three different sections, allowing the club to host a wide range of events from 25 to 220 people. “The ballroom can be transformed into anything,” says Megan Bachman, Event Sales Director.
And, to ensure that the ballroom does not sit dark throughout the week when events are few and far between, the largest section of the room is turned into a formal member dining room, featuring four-, six- and eight-top tables with fine linens, black spandex chair covers, and elegant flower arrangements. With the formal tablescapes and the room’s ornate candelabra chandelier overhead, the space successfully serves multiple functions.
Beauty and the Brides
Lakewood Country Club, in Rockville, Md., has plenty of dining, event and meeting space to meet members’ needs. Still, the club has started finding multiple uses for different areas to further encourage member usage (see “Coming Back to Life,” C&RB, December 2009).
“As the club business dynamic is changing, it is important that we provide more ways and opportunities for our members to enjoy their clubs.”
For its thriving wedding business, the club has a dedicated bridal suite. While this is an attractive amenity for brides as they shop for wedding venues, it’s an area of the club that goes unseen and unused for the rest of the week.
Rather than allowing the space to sit idly, Lakewood is currently working with a national spa company to create a small day spa within the bridal suite for members to enjoy on non-wedding days. “This will provide our members an additional opportunity to come to the club,” says Eric Dietz, PGA, General Manager and CEO. “It’s a great way to get cars into the parking lot, and to generate revenue.”
The design of the bridal area makes for an easy transformation into a cozy day spa. The suite is equipped with four individual vanity areas and a large beauty station, which includes a shower facility. In a spa setup, the space will lend itself to areas for manicures, pedicures and hairstyling. “It is a very bright room, with chic and comfortable decor,” says Dietz. The spa will also help to further enhance the club’s wedding packages, he notes, by providing treatments to the bride and her bridal party.
Going one step further, Dietz also envisions the spa as a way to draw families to the club. “I could see a mother and daughter doing some kind of spa day together here at the club,” he says.
Making the Patio Rock
In addition to maximizing the space inside Fairmount CC, Jacobs has also found ways to make better use of an empty and unused extended patio that overlooks the 18th hole in front of the terrace bar. Noting the growing value of good outdoor space, Jacobs gave the patio a mini-makeover by simply lining up 12 rocking chairs and some side tables.
Almost immediately, the space was transformed into a bustling hotspot filled with golfers and families enjoying conversation and drinks. “We created an entirely new area in the clubhouse, and it has helped us increase food and beverage revenue,” says Jacobs.
| Lakewood Country Club
“The day spa will provide our members with an additional opportunity to come to the club. It’s a great way to get cars into the parking lot, and to generate revenue.”
—Eric Dietz, PGA,
The space has grown so popular, in fact, that Jacobs added eight more rockers to provide ample seating. The club is planning to add fire pits this fall to maintain usage as the weather cools. The popularity has also inspired the club to incorporate the area into club-wide events, such as barbecues. “We now get maximum capabilities and benefits from this once-unused space,” says Jacobs.
To make the most of a property’s physical space, Jacobs encourages managers to look at everything, inside and out, as a blank canvas. “Look at your amenities and think about how to utilize them to their fullest capabilities,” he suggests. “As the club business dynamic is changing, it is important that we provide more ways and opportunities for our members to enjoy their clubs.”
Juniors in the House
As clubs across the country continue to find ways to cater to families, Columbia Edgewater Country Club, in Portland, Ore., now provides kids with a place to call their own. A new 1,000-sq. ft. junior clubhouse, located just 100 feet from the back door of the main clubhouse, features air hockey, foosball, a television, a Wii, iPod docking stations, and other games. There is an attached snack bar and boys’ and girls’ locker rooms, complete with showers and bathrooms. “It is a little more rustic than the main clubhouse, but for kids it is perfect,” says Kelly Odiorne, Sales & Membership Director.
The junior clubhouse doubles as an aquatic center in-season. “In the summer it gets a lot of daily use,” says Odiorne. “Kids go in there to change for the pool, use the bathrooms and play games. It’s air-conditioned, so if it’s really hot, they can hang, too.”
Not surprisingly, the space has become a popular spot for birthday parties. “We allow birthday parties in the summer, but we don’t close it off to other members,” says Odiorne. “In the off-season when no one is using the pool, we have the capacity to do more in here and shut it down to others.”
In the near future, the club hopes to incorporate the junior clubhouse into club-wide events, giving kids a place to hang during holiday parties while adults enjoy an evening among friends.
The kid-focused space is not only popular with younger members, it is also a valuable sales tool. “It’s been a great thing, especially when it comes to selling memberships,” says Bryan Fisher, General Manager. “It is all about families right now, and when parents look at the junior clubhouse, they see all the opportunities we have for their kids.”
Let’s Take This Outside
Who says creative use of space has to be limited to the main clubhouse? Not these clubs, which also got creative in finding ways to maximize space—and engage members—outside club walls.
Fairmount Country Club’s Drive-In (Chatham, N.J.)
Lakewood Country Club’s Camp Out (Rockville, Md.)
Columbia Edgewater Country Club’s Bocce Ball Tourney (Portland, Ore.)