Club: Prestwick Golf Club
• Remodel and addition to existing 10,500-sq.-ft. facility, to upgrade and expand clubhouse to 22,000 sq. ft.
|Prestwick’s clubhouse was expanded to be twice as large at the same time it was remodeled, with new features added to both the upper (top right) and lower levels.|
Woodbury, Minn. was originally named in 1859 for a judge who was a friend of the town’s first board chairman. The city fathers must have liked the judge’s rustic-sounding surname and felt it was especially suitable for the timber-covered farmland that surrounded the sleepy hamlet, located east of Minneapolis/St. Paul.
But today, the name has a touch of irony. Like many U.S. towns that began as distant, rural “exurbs” of metropolitan areas, Woodbury has undergone a dramatic transformation in the past 20 years. Much of the original woodlands are gone and buried, to make way for a boom in new housing and related development. Woodbury’s population soared from 10,000 in 1980 to nearly 50,000 at the turn of the millennium, and is projected to nearly double again by 2020.
This growth has brought significant change in the area’s recreational landscape, too. As part of one of the first developments in Woodbury, a daily-fee golf course, Wedgewood Valley GC, was built on 4,000 acres by Minnesota Mutual Life Insurance in 1988. But the corporate developer soon got out of the golf business and sold Wedgewood to a father-son team, John and Dave Mooty, who had been managing the operation through their local golf management firm, Continental Golf. As a condition of the sale, the course was renamed Prestwick Golf Club.
Dave Mooty, who eventually bought his father out to become the sole owner of Prestwick, is a golf-business veteran with extensive experience in successful course developments around the country. But in the late ’90s and early 2000s, he, like everyone else in the industry, was confronted by unprecedented challenges from the one-two punch of a glut of courses and a post-9/11 slump in demand.
Even in once-remote Woodbury, Dave Mooty reports, “probably eight to nine courses had been added [during the ‘90s] within 15 miles [of Prestwick].” Almost all of these new facilities, he adds, were daily-fees trying to position themselves at either the low or high ends of the business.
Noting that the growth of Woodbury was largely being fueled by upwardly mobile young families (the median age of the town in 2000 was just 33, with a median household income of over $76,000), Mooty decided that the best strategy for Prestwick’s long-term success would lie in going beyond offering excellent golf at reasonable prices, to also provide family-oriented amenities that could not only complement the golf offer, but stand on their own.
That meant, though, that Prestwick’s existing clubhouse had to be taken to a new level. “All we had was the original snack bar,” Mooty says. “We knew we needed an F&B?operation with better quality food.”
Not a Do-It-Yourself Task
Prestwick first began to work with its architect, Partners &?Sirny of Minneapolis, to redesign its clubhouse with the idea of creating new restaurant and banquet facility space that the club would operate itself. “But as we looked at creating space for the typical golf course-style restaurant and banquet area,” Mooty reports, “we couldn’t justify the numbers. We needed a greater-volume restaurant to make it all work.”
That led Mooty on a year-long search that eventually led to his forming a unique partnership with Axel’s—a popular area operator of four upscale classic American-style restaurants and a well-established Twin Cities tradition, which dates back 60 years.
|Axel’s at Prestwick offers the same comfortable ambiance and upscale classic American cuisine as the other popular Axel’s restaurants in the Twin Cities area—plus the added appeal of “intimate” golf course views.|
From its side, Axel’s management saw the plans to remodel and expand Prestwick’s distinctive tudor-inspired clubhouse as the perfect opportunity to get in on the ground floor of the Woodbury boom, by putting an open-to-the-public fifth restaurant in a setting where its well-known fare could be enjoyed with great views of an established course.
“We formed a joint venture through which we now each own half of an LLC, Axel’s at Prestwick,” Mooty reports. “I don’t know of too many [clubs] that have this kind of accommodation, but it made sense for us. We just didn’t know that side of the business, and it gave us an opportunity to offer a well-known name that would really help to establish the club as a destination.”
The partnership led Prestwick to take its clubhouse renovation and expansion well beyond the original plan. Axel’s wanted a restaurant that would seat 120 and a banquet facility that could accommodate 280. The added space needed for these requirements also created the opportunity to expand the building for other purposes: specifically, additional golf-cart storage in the enlarged lower level, as well as a new group fitness/wellness center that includes an indoor golf practice area with two golf simulators.
Room to Breathe
For the architects, the expanded plans created new challenges, especially since the existing clubhouse was pretty much boxed in by roads and other impediments. “The economics just aren’t good when you have to try to add to all four sides,” notes Project Architect Dave Carlson.
|The clubhouse’s new terraces are especially popular for completing the “intimate” connection between the golf course and the restaurant and banquet areas.|
Fortunately, the one direction in which “breathing room” could be found was toward the 18th green—offering a perfect fit with one of Partners &?Sirny’s overriding objectives for all of its course building projects. “We like to bring the golf as close as it can be and create a real intimacy with the course,” says John Sirny.
So the building was stretched from one existing outer wall (see floor plans, pg. 23) to more than double its former size (from 10,500 to 22,000 sq. ft.). That put the terraces and windows of the new restaurant and banquet space in much closer contact with the closing hole. “They really have a good thing going now with how the [dining] areas are positioned on the site, especially when the outdoor terraces, which are a very popular feature, can be used,” says Sirny.
The new Axel’s at Prestwick opened, with the rest of the clubhouse, in July 2005. The daily restaurant side of the new business has been “making good progress,” Mooty says, and the banquet side, while “slower than we thought to build up,” is also gathering momentum.
“It’s a merger of two distinct entities that’s still a work in progress,” he says of the partnership. “There’s been a challenge for Axel’s, too—this is a different setting and clientele than their other locations, so they needed to make adjustments in their approach to menus, pricing, service and atmosphere.”
Overall, Mooty has seen an activity boost that makes him confident Prestwick will remain in solid position to capitalize on the changes now taking place in Woodbury.
|Dave Mooty now has a club to run year-round.|
“Our golf rounds are up over last year, and it’s clear that people are aware we’ve done a lot to improve not only our golf course, but also our clubhouse and the entire property,” he says. “[Axel’s at Prestwick] is the most upscale restaurant in Woodbury, and that’s helped create a perception of good value about the entire club. We’ve even been able to raise our [greens fees] while still being seen as very reasonable.”
Having an on-site public restaurant and expanded banquet facilities are also “great ways to get people to see the golf course who might otherwise never come here,” Mooty adds. “That’s certainly helping us market our membership options. We’re even using the banquet facility to show kids’ movies, and opening the club up for cross-country skiing or sledding events. Where we used to close much of the winter, now we’ve truly become a year-round place.”