Summing It Up
Reaping the full benefits of an outdoor patio requires efficient and savvy operations, as well as functional, yet stylish furnishings and accents.
Outside patios, decks and porches are taking on a more significant role in clubs and resorts. Rather than acting merely as adornments to clubhouses, these outdoor areas are becoming additional venues for both daily operations and special events. Incorporating efficient operations and décor into outdoor patio areas can increase food and beverage activity and create attractive new areas for members and guests to either enjoy the surroundings casually, or to host special events outdoors.
When the Evergreen Golf Club in Elkhorn, Wis., built a new clubhouse, the club decided to add a 1,500-sq.-ft. patio, specifically to increase its food and beverage and banquet business. “We knew we needed a new clubhouse, but had to figure out a way to pay for it,” says General Manager Bill Rogers. “Banquets and weddings popped up as the way to [help foot the bill].”
The plan worked. Since the new clubhouse opened in May 2005, Evergreen has seen a 25% increase in its total business. The club hosted 22 weddings last year and is virtually sold out from May to October this year. And the patio is getting credit for much of this success. “Our bar has a seating capacity of 99 people, so the larger events overflow to the patio,” says Rogers. “We often do the cocktail hour before the reception on the patio, where we’ll do passed appetizers and cocktail service.”
The benefits of decks and patios can extend beyond special events into daily club life. But in all cases, getting the most out of these areas requires savvy operation, quality furnishings, complementary décor, and the flexibility to ensure effective functionality.
Blending Into the Scenery
Many patios complement the natural beauty of club and resort properties. Consequently, creating distinctive outdoor décor that does not detract from the surroundings can be tricky. Furnishings that are functional, comfortable, and harmonize with the overall look of the club are key. Gone are the days of vanilla plastic tables and chairs. Today’s outdoor furnishings are designed to withstand weather without sacrificing style.
The Hunter Ranch Golf Course in Paso Robles, Calif., opted for wicker furnishings on its covered wrap-around porch, to enhance the “Australian Outback”-style clubhouse (see photo). Beyond the French doors of the indoor restaurant, wicker glass-topped tables and cushioned chairs are set for lunch. “[The furniture] was expensive, but it goes with the look around here, and it weathers really well,” says John Carson, Vice President/General Manager.
Wicker is also the material of choice for the Adirondack-style, screened-in porch at the Carnegie Abbey Club in Portsmouth, R.I. The porch, which wraps around the entire building, is naturally divided by structural turns, so each area has its own functional and décor features.Wicker, glass-topped four- or six-top tables, and cushioned wicker chairs, are set up outside the dining room. Along another side of the clubhouse, clusters of wicker loveseats and chairs are positioned around coffee tables to act as comfortable outdoor sitting rooms. And cushioned lounge chairs are set up outside of the spa area.
Maintaining wicker furniture is relatively simple, those who are using it report. “We clean the glass tops regularly and are replacing the chair cushions this year, because they have been here five years,” says Carson. “The tables and chairs get pressure-washed once a year. But otherwise, we have to do little maintenance on them.” Wicker is also a lightweight material, which makes it easier to reconfigure the outdoor spaces for special events.
Movers and Stackers
Unconventional materials are also being used for outdoor furniture. For instance, the Evergreen Golf Club chose bronze wrought-iron tables and chairs, instead of wood or plastic designs, because they complemented the prairie-style architecture and detailed stonework of the clubhouse.
Beyond pre-dinner cocktails, the Evergreen patio is also a popular venue for special events, which means the wrought-iron furnishings are often moved. “We are constantly reconfiguring the furniture,” says Rogers. “But they are actually not that heavy. We wanted them heavy enough that they didn’t blow in the wind, but they are more of a thin, wire mesh material, so they’re easier to move. Plus, the chairs stack.”
One of the best features of the wrought-iron furnishings is their simple maintenance. “We just squirt the furniture with a hose a couple times, and they’ve been pretty much maintenance-free so far,” says Rogers.
Patio furniture can also reflect the mission or philosophy of a club or resort. For example, the two terraces at Jackson Lodge at Grand Teton National Park in Moran, Wyo., are outfitted with recycled furniture. “We consider ourselves tenants in the larger scheme of the wildlife; this is their home,” says Cinda Culton, Director of Sales & Marketing. “Through the years, we’ve gone to furnishings made of recycled content; they have longer life and a more environmentally friendly production process.
“The furniture looks like natural wood,” Culton continues. “You can’t tell the difference just looking at it. We don’t have to paint [the pieces) or keep them up with harsh chemicals.”
Space to Store
As clubs and resorts transform outdoor patios from dining spaces and lounging areas into special event venues, adequate storage options are crucial.
When the Carnegie Abbey Club has to move its wicker furniture to set up a special event, the furniture is scattered throughout the property. “We can put it on the patio by the pool,” says Joe Krenn, Club Manager. “Or sometimes we’ll stack the tables and chairs by a little loading-bay area that nobody sees. However, 90% of the time when we move furniture, we just move it to another section of the porch, such as outside by the bar area, to increase seating there.”
When Waterfall Country Club in Clayton, Ga., hosts a special event on the patio, all of the metal patio furniture is removed, and the club utilizes traditional rounds and rectangular tables and white wooden banquet chairs instead. “We dinput the patio furniture in a separate indoor bay area that is near our cart storage area,” explains Jack Sauers, General Manager. Sometimes, just rearranging the furniture works well. The staff at Evergreen Golf Club simply pushes some chairs against the building to create free space. Anything else that needs to be moved out of sight is then transported via elevator to the basement storage area, which extends along the entire length of the building.
The Comforts of Indoors
Inclement weather can often wreak havoc on outdoor patios, particularly when it’s needed for special events and daily dining operations. “The biggest challenge with the patio is weather,” says Rogers. “Some nights it’s too hot, some nights it’s too cold, and some nights it’s perfect.You’re always dealing with the unknown.”To deal with this uncertainty, the club has six to eight portable heat lamps on the patio, and will often work with a rental company to tent the patio for outdoor wedding receptions.
In Central California, the Hunter Ranch Golf Club faces temperature fluctuations that can range from 105 degrees on a summer day and then drop to 50 degrees at nighttime. “We would like people to utilize our porch area more, but it is a matter of weather,” says Carson. The club has permanent outdoor heaters attached to the ceiling for cooler evenings, but the extreme daytime heat deters guests and members from venturing outside. The club is now looking into installing a misting system and ceiling fans for the upcoming summer season.
The screened-in porch at the Carnegie Abbey Club is used almost year-long, except for the dead of winter. The screens keep the bugs at bay and overhead ceiling fans cool the porch in summer, while portable heat lamps make it comfortable in the fall. The porch is protected from wind and rain by canvases that can be rolled down as needed.
But this extensive use makes it critical to preserve the porch through a thorough maintenance regimen. “We routinely pressure-wash the wood, and if it’s not pressurewashed, it’s coated and treated,” says Krenn. “The screens need to be inspected and either replaced or amended every year.” Daily maintenance from the wait staff and housekeeping is equally important. “They make sure the canvases are upright and the floor is swept,” says Krenn. “We make sure everything is wiped down, and we’ll mop up the floor if a puddle forms. But because of the canvases and the way the screens are installed, not a lot of water comes in.”
Many patios are designed to be “country club casual,” but sometimes the outdoor venue requires a shot of sophistication in both the layout and the décor. For instance, the Carnegie Abbey Club offers its members and guests a more formal dining experience, complete with linens and votives, on the porch one or two nights a week. “At nighttime we usually use the glass-tops, but when we want a formal dining experience outside on the porch, we put tablecloths on the table,” says Krenn. “Even though you’re still sitting in wicker chairs, the tablecloths change it dramatically.”
To set up for special events and smaller parties, the Carnegie Abbey also utilizes the classic table settings and sections off areas of the porch, with ficus trees, potted plants and flowers as added touches. Or, folding Asian-style screens are used. In all cases, the outdoor area maintains its rustic charm while accenting the club’s traditional design.
For weddings and other special events on the casual veranda at the Four Bridges Country Club in Liberty Township, Ohio, a more formal mood is also set. “We set it up to complement the theme,” says Ron Townsend, President. “If it is a wedding, we use linens and a candelabra on the tables, and we decorate with white lights.”
Efficient outdoor operations also require savvy staffing. Some clubs and resorts designate a specific outdoor staff for patio operations, while others have servers who can work both inside and out. Staff members at smaller clubs, like the Waterfall Country Club, learn to wear many hats for outdoor events. “For special events, it is not uncommon to see the golf pro assisting the bartender, and the maintenance staff moving tables and setting up,” says Sauers. “Everyone helps with all departments.”
For daily operations, if a member or guest chooses to dine outside at the club, they can simply call the indoor dining area from a phone by the pool, located next to the deck. “They can just buzz us on the phone and we come right out and serve them,” says Sauers. That allows the staff to tend to indoor diners when it is slower outside.
The Waterfall Country Club also utilizes its staff for annual maintenance. The club shuts down food and beverage service from December to February, but employees who want to stay on the payroll can stay on board to do annual maintenance. “Every year, the white folding chairs for outdoor special events are cleaned and touched up, and the outdoor patio furniture is moved inside, inspected and cleaned. We start the year with everything like new,” says Sauers. Staff members typically hand-wash the furnishings and pressure wash and re-stain the deck.
When the outdoor space is a popular venue, staffing can be relatively simple. “The porch is probably one of the best features the club has as far as dining,” explains the Carnegie Abbey Club’s Krenn. “In the summertime, no one sits inside.”