Summing It Up
• Many properties are bringing pools up-to-date with design trends such as such as zero-depth entry; shallower pools that encourage socializing; and multiple pools in a common area.• Moving pools to more convenient locations can create new centers of full-family activity.
Pools shouldn’t be hidden with shame in out-of-the-way corners of a property. Done right, they can become exciting new gathering point.
After years of what could charitably be called “benign neglect,” the pools at the Country Club at Woodmore, in Mitchellville, Md., were in dire need of a makeover. But completely replacing the 25-year-old swimming area would cost the club more than $1 million—over twice its budget. While it couldn’t afford a start-from-scratch do-over, the Woodmore staff was still determined to find ways to repair the cosmetic and structural failings, and revive its pool profile in the process.
Through a four-month, $500,000 renovation, the club replaced the pump house mechanics and renovated the pool deck and its three pools—and even had some leftover funds to spruce up the locker rooms.
When the next pool season opened, the work provided an immediate payoff. “It gave the pool a rebirth,” says General Manager Patrick Woolley. “Membership satisfaction is through the roof. Our attendance at the pool has gone up about 300% as a result.”
In step with growing demand for more family-oriented activities, this example shows it doesn’t take much now to get people charged up again about pools. But while even minimal changes can have a major effect, the big scores come when clubs and resorts find ways to make pools complement the property as a whole, through thoughtful designs and well-run amenities.
Pools are now being viewed with renewed potential for everything from setting the social tone of a club, to serving as a strong sales tool. Many properties are pursuing these goals by bringing their pool areas up to date with the latest design trends, such as zero-depth entry that appeals to kids; shallower pools that encourage more socializing; and multiple pools, for different demographics and uses.
Woodhaven Country Club in Louisville, Ky., has two separate pools—a large, family pool and a deeper pool with diving boards. The larger pool was designed with families and children in mind—its edge is only about a foot deep, and it gradually slopes to about four feet in the middle.
In adopting this approach, Woodhaven was way ahead of its time. “My grandfather built the facility [in 1957], and his idea was to have something different for young kids to be able to play in, hang out on the sides of the pool, and be safe,” says Chance Maguire, Owner and General Manager. “The slope in the pool is so gradual that kids can get comfortable with the water, and there isn’t any real chance of going under.”
|Lounge chairs, umbrellas, and meticulous landscaping can give pools a “wow” factor, but the most dramatic poolscapes, such as at Tucson, Ariz.’s La Paloma Country Club (opposite page and above), have been designed to complement the property as a whole.|
Distinctive water features are now also being used to set unique moods and give pools their own character. The Country Club at Woodmore has a multi-tiered design, with a main pool and an adult pool separated with a waterfall.
“The waterfall hadn’t worked in 12-15 years, so that was resurrected with new technology,” says Woolley. “Now we have a nice, clear sheet of water coming down from the waterfall into the adult pool. It is terrific, and really soothing for the adults.”
Emerging from the Shadows
Where pools were often tucked into remote corners of the property when clubs were originally designed, they’re now making the most of opportunities to have their moments in the sun. As the busiest venue at the Country Club of Culpeper (Va.), the pool has become the focal point of that property. Located directly behind the clubhouse, the pool is visible from the dining room, golf course and tennis facility. A large, shaded patio that sits just above the pool serves as the go-between with the clubhouse.
“This works well in encouraging members to sit on the patio and receive service and food from the dining room,” says General Manager Jim Aspley. “It gives them a place where they can get the same services available in the dining room, while wearing pool attire. It also lets Mom and Dad still keep an eye on the kids at the pool.”
The club also has a poolside snack bar, designed to blend with the overall look of the clubhouse. “It’s similar to the clubhouse in design and color scheme, which helps to give the entire property the same unique presentation,” says Aspley.
But some properties still see value in having pools attract people away from central areas. The pool at Cripple Creek Golf and Country Club in Bethany Beach, Del., is situated at the opposite end of the parking lot from the clubhouse’s main entrance. With its own entrance, locker rooms and changing areas, the area offers pool-goers their own space, and avoids having people walk through the clubhouse in swim attire.
Pulling Its Weight
Wherever a pool may be located, the keys to making it pay off are attractive venues and well-thought-out amenities. “We have a little more than 400 social members and they pay a small annual fee of $650 per year,” says Woodhaven CC’s Maguire. “With the food and bar business that we do at the pool, we generate probably about $425,000, and a good majority of that ends up in profit.”
Cripple Creek G&CC encourages members and guests to eat and drink by its pool with a special menu featuring lighter fare and specialty drinks. The window did $18,000 worth of business last year. “It definitely stands on its own,” says the club’s golf pro, Brian Trout.
|After renovating its pools and replacing its pump house mechanics, The Country Club at Woodmere got a 300% boost in pool attendance and saw guest fees, which had been next-to-nothing, skyrocket.|
A first-class pool operation can also increase guest attendance. Prior to the pool renovation at the Country Club at Woodmore, annual guest fees were a miniscule $500. After the renovation work, they jumped last year to about $14,000. “Members are proud of the pool, and they want to bring people to it,” says Woolley.
Growing activity like this is why many clubs and resorts are now considering the pool to be one of their most important amenities—even if the revenues it generates might directly pale in comparison to other streams. For example, while the pool at the Country Club of Culpeper generates only about 5% of the club’s overall revenue, it is clearly viewed as a critical part of the property’s overall appeal.
“Although this percentage seems insignificant,” Aspley explains, “if we didn’t have a pool facility our athletic membership numbers would definitely decrease, which would have a direct negative result on our dues income.”
The Place to Be
Decking out a pool area with chaise lounge chairs, tables, umbrellas, festive lighting, games and meticulous landscaping are some of the final touches that can give pools the “wow” factor needed to turn them into central gathering spots. “The pool is by far the ultimate place for social and family activities,” says Aspley. “The concept of being outside by the pool appears to enhance any member function. I have found that you can take the same special event and conduct it by the pool, and everyone seems to have more fun.”
|A new deck and bridge add further ambiance and style to the pool at The Country Club at Woodmere.|
At Lake Arrowhead (Calif.) Country Club, the pool area is surrounded by cedars and pines, overlooks the golf course, and offers scenic views from the club’s mountain location. To take advantage of the picturesque setting and draw more people to it, the club recently renovated the 3,000-sq. ft. aquatic deck. New concrete decking, overhead lighting, chaise lounges, tables and small tented cabanas were incorporated, to establish a thriving social scene around the pool.
The club now utilizes the deck for special functions, such as “TGIF” events, buffet dinners, barbecues and golf tournaments. “It is strictly a place for people to gather,” says Michael Stevens, General Manager.
Similarly, the newly renovated pool area at the Country Club at Woodmore overlooks the club’s 85-acre lake and its golf course’s 18th green, and is surrounded by tall pines and oak trees. The club highlights the tranquil setting by hosting a number of events at the pool. “We have birthday parties for kids and some group events, like ‘Wind Down Wednesdays,’ where we have a jazz trio come out,” says Woolley. “On other days, people simply like to hang out, drinking a glass of wine out there with friends.”
Lake Arrowhead’s Stevens agrees that in today’s club environment, successful poolscapes just seem to be a natural attraction. “Families like to have a place to go—and the pool is the place,” he says.
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