It’s prime season for showing off updated outdoor gathering spots.
As the daylight hours lengthen and members spend more time on campus and outdoors, patios become the place to see and be seen. Post-game cocktails that extend into dinner and dessert mean that clubs must offer comfortable seating, ample dining space and an atmosphere that’s conducive to longer stays.
From small-scale makeovers to full-fledged overhauls, these patio projects share one goal: becoming a destination that their members return to, time and time again.
A Patio That Rocks
When Mother Nature bore down on the Grand View Lodge a few years ago, the Nisswa, Minn., facility lost its wooden deck from a severe summer storm. The 1970s structure, located just outside the main lodge’s Northwoods Pub, was replaced with a two-leveled terraced patio, outfitted with large boulders, waterfalls and a bar. Dubbed On the Rocks, the new space was unveiled on Memorial Day weekend of 2017.
“We knew it was important to add a stand-alone bar to this project, to maximize sales and facilitate service,” explains General Manager Mark Ronnei. “We also wanted to increase the seating capacity of our outdoor space, as outdoor dining is very much in demand by our guests.” The 3,700-sq. ft. upper level seats 100 patrons, while the lower level has space for 25.
A mix of hard-top tables and resin-base furniture, including couches in a fade-resistant fabric, create a casual, contemporary look. Stainless-steel countertops make up the high-top bar around the outside of the upper deck, which Ronnei credits for “adding a great look—and 15 extra bar stools.” Bistro lights illuminate the area, but do not provide overwhelming lighting at night. “We also elected not to install speakers, given the proximity of the patio to some guest rooms,” he adds.
Design decisions like these were taken into consideration when balancing the needs of the facility’s clientele with staying true to the 100-year-old log lodge’s original setting. But given the updated look and feel of the new space and its proximity to the pub, On the Rocks is able to achieve a purpose that the former site could not. “The lower terrace functions as a reception area for weddings and other events and allows us to keep the main patio open for restaurant guests while hosting private events—something we were unable to do before,” notes Ronnei.
If the numbers are any indication of the patio’s success, management can rest assured that the design choices were on target: On the Rocks sales grew 21 percent in its first year of operation and its popularity continues to grow. “The members love On the Rocks and in fact, they spend nearly as much [time] there as at the courses,” Ronnei reports.
Maximizing the Water View
The draw of a scenic setting can never be underestimated, especially when it comes to al fresco dining. For Pine Lake Country Club in Orchard Lake, Mich., highlighting the outdoors was the impetus for renovating the existing patio three years ago. “Because our club is on a large freshwater lake, the desire for outdoor dining is extremely popular during the summer months,” says Jamal “Jim” Farhat, who served as General Manager at the time of the renovation.Updating the 2,800-sq. ft. space prompted the relocation of the snack bar building to the waterfront, providing easier access for boaters and swimmers. Freeing up this space, in effect, created room for 80 extra seats, extending the patio’s total capacity to 250. Dining tables, chairs and umbrellas similar to the current furnishings were added to the set-up, creating an extension of the club’s other patio dining facilities. Mood lighting, lounge chairs and a fireplace helped to transform the space into a spot for lingering. “We wanted this area to feel comfortable, and often saw members relaxing over dinner or ‘working from home,’” says Farhat.
One of the few drawbacks of the updated design is the lack of an outdoor bar—a feature that was part of the original plans, but fell through after allocated funds were used toward structural work.
“A well-designed bar would have enhanced the space even further, serving as a gathering place for members after tennis or golf or before dinner,” says current General Manager Gregory Colombo. “It would also have helped to speed up service considerably, with a full beverage selection and as a place for members to wait for their tables on busier nights.”
Given the impact this, as well as the patio’s distance from the kitchen, poses, Colombo notes that management and the Pine Lake Board are currently reviewing options to add a bar and outdoor grilling station in the future.
In the meantime, Pine Lake is making good use of its patio area and has received more requests for outdoor weddings, private parties and other special engagements. Upcoming social events include Vino on the Patio, an event featuring live music and food stations paired with wines from local vendors.
Double the Pleasure
At Willow Oaks Country Club in Richmond, Va., enhancing the existing outdoor patio resulted in a two-level structure with twice the capacity. The 2,600-sq.-ft. project, part of a larger renovation project, debuted to members last July.
“Several considerations were made in the planning phase with an eye to the member and guest experience,” explains General Manager Chris Welles. “Having two levels really makes it easier to accommodate our diverse user group.”
The patio’s upper level connects to the club’s casual restaurant and bar (called The Rocks), while the lower terrace caters to a more family-friendly clientele and connects to the club’s main dining rooms. Seating for 80 diners and 45 additional soft seats are laid out across both levels, via a combination of hard-back chairs and rattan in grey and black.
Linking these spaces are two large sets of bi-fold doors connecting the indoor space of The Rocks and the outdoor space of the upper patio. “On nice days and [during] special events, those doors can be opened to create a unique indoor/outdoor experience,” notes Welles.
The patio itself is made up of stacked stone veneers and manufactured pavers, and features a retaining wall that includes drainage and conduit for power and gas. Conduit pipe installed underneath houses five gas lines with quick connect-and-disconnect fittings, enabling heaters and portable fire pits to be added and moved as needed. LED lights add atmosphere to the soft-seating area, as does a generously sized pergola that also offers welcoming shade.
To keep this patio space contained, the Willow Oaks’ horticulturist created a perimeter bed of plants and shrubs bordering the lawn area. This design choice was also intended “to encourage members and guests to avoid spilling out onto the golf course,” Welles adds.
Such a carefully prepared layout has helped to boost Willow Oaks’ overall revenue, including a 15 percent uptick in member dining. Welles believes that the facility is on track to have an even stronger season in 2019. “Last year, the mid-Atlantic saw historic records of rain,” he says. “With an improved weather year, the club can anticipate even higher returns. We will keep our fingers crossed.”
At Red Rocks Country Club in Morrison, Colo., an existing covered patio proved its usefulness…but not year-round. “It sat dormant in the winter, due to the snow and freezing temperatures we tend to experience during Colorado winters,” explains General Manager Ron Rottmann. “We felt this space could be put to better use if we could find a way to enclose and heat it.”
After adding infrared heaters and tile flooring, the patio re-opened in November 2018 and already proved its worth, by taking on overflow from the club’s bar and grille business, and affirming Red Rocks’ reputation as a destination for local clientele.
While the patio’s original 1,500-sq. ft. layout remained intact, a myriad of new additions enhanced the space dramatically. Concern over laying flooring during the fall’s fluctuating temperatures prompted the installation of infrared heaters first. “In Colorado, it could be warm and sunny one day, but snowing and freezing the next,” observes Rottmann. With the heaters in place, the porcelain ceramic tile flooring could remain warm and be properly cured.
Also improving the patio’s style is the addition of folding doors, which allows the area’s size to be adjusted as needed. “We could open up the doors so that on warmer days, we can return the patio to normal,” Rottman says. “However, if the wind kicks up, if it starts to rain or if it gets cold outside, we can close off all of the patio, or individual sections, easily and within minutes.”
Since the patio’s update, Red Rocks has seen a 25 percent increase in winter dining, and the club can now accommodate 60 additional patrons. “The enclosure has helped us handle the overflow we were previously experiencing in our bar and grille on a nightly basis,” notes Rottmann. “We are one of the only bar and grilles in the neighborhood, so we tend to get quite busy.
“We have received many thank-yous from members for giving them a space to sit away from the loudness of the bar area,” Rottman adds. “They have also expressed gratitude that they no longer have to worry as much if they will be able to get a seat when they arrive on a busy Friday night.”
Planting with Purpose
To beautify a redesigned patio area, updating a surrounding landscape is a natural next step. Deciding what (and when) to plant can help to simplify maintenance and upkeep needs, while adding to the aesthetics of a club’s outdoor facilities.
When determining which plants will thrive best in a patio setting, consider low-maintenance choices that work well in a wide range of climates: boxwoods, dwarf hollies, small conifers and azaleas. Flowering plants recognized for their vivid color palettes include pansies, vinca, impatiens, zinnias, begonias and petunias.
“Follow the formality of your club when choosing plants,” offers Peggy Roberts, a landscape designer in Alpharetta, Ga. “Bright colors and less-formal plants would work best for clubs with a more casual, upbeat flair, where more formalized plantings and softer colors might work best for a more established, traditional club.”
To keep plantings looking fresh, Roberts recommends a combination of evergreens mixed in with annuals for seasonal color. “The evergreens provide form and function with a constant backdrop, while the annuals provide a pop of color that can be swapped out as needed if they get overgrown and beyond their prime,” she says.
Also, be sure to factor in the patio’s location in relation to where optimal sunlight hits—for example, zinnias and petunias require full sun, but hostas and impatiens benefit from shade. Check plants’ labels to determine the appropriate “hardiness” zone, and visit USDA.gov to determine the last frost date in your region.