The Newnan, Ga. club kicked off a phased renovation with the clubhouse in order to appeal to the greatest number of people. “I think we could have put a million dollars in the golf course and gotten two to five new members,” Board President Todd Browning says. “We put a million dollars [in the clubhouse], we can get 15 or 20 new members.”
The Newnan (Ga.) Country Club has completed its first phase of renovations, helping to transform the location as more than a place to play golf, The Newnan Times-Herald reported. For starters, there’s the 29 North restaurant located on the first floor of the clubhouse.
“It started maybe four years ago, and we were looking at a total renovation,” said Todd Browning, Board President of the Newnan Country Club. “We were looking at maybe $5 million. We took a breath, stepped back from that and said, ‘Let’s do this in phases.’ From a fiscal point of view, it’s more conservative [and] made a lot of members feel more comfortable with it instead of spending so much money.”
Browning told The Times-Herald the first phase involved something that could make a big impact not just for the existing membership at the Newnan Country Club, but for prospective members that could be interested in joining.
“I think we could have put a million dollars in the golf course and gotten two to five new members,” Browning said. “We put a million dollars down here, we can get 15 or 20 new members. So, again, we want to be a club for all people, not just for golf but also to socialize. That’s why we came up with this.”
General Manager Charlie Moller spoke of the excitement that club members felt for those changes, both on and off the course, The Times-Herald reported.
“When we first started talking about coming on board, my first thought was I had known Newnan from afar, but when I started doing research and talking to members and non-members, the excitement here is just incredible,” Moller said. “Obviously you’ve got a heck of a team, department heads are already here, and it’s just a great time for me to come on board.”
That team includes individuals who stuck with the club, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Times-Herald reported.
Downstairs in the clubhouse is the 29 North restaurant, which boasts 200 years of experience, including about 50 years of experience from Head Chef Lance Jeffers, who spoke extensively about the improvements to the restaurant, The Times-Herald reported. Many of the ingredients used in the 29 North restaurant, Jeffers said, are locally sourced.
Browning told The Times-Herald that before the renovations, the downstairs restaurant had a kitchen that was “a glorified hot dog stand.”
Jeffers said the kitchen was antiquated and small, and when he got to the Newnan Country Club five years ago, he “pushed it to its limit when it came to the kind of foods we were putting out of that kitchen,” The Times-Herald reported.
Jeffers has worked to improve the social side of the country club by improving the restaurant from that “glorified hot dog stand” to a full-service restaurant, The Times-Herald reported.
“When I came here five years ago, it was a golf club. There wasn’t a whole lot going [on] socially. Not a whole lot going on food and beverage wise. So I’ve been working and building that over the last five years.”
Browning told The Times-Herald the goal of the renovations has been to make the Newnan Country Club a first choice to visit on a Friday night, rather than an afterthought if all the other places in Newnan were packed.
“This is the place you think of first to come to. Tonight, we’ll have a packed house, especially with it being sunny, we’ll have more families outside. But there’ll be 70 in here, and it is a first choice.
On the outside, there are fireplaces, more chairs and tables and a television, The Times-Herald reported.
“One of the biggest challenges for a country club chef is to think of their club as a dining destination,” Jeffers said. “I tried to keep that foremost in my thoughts when we were building the program.”
He said that the restaurant has gained traction in weekday dining, which he said is not typical for country club restaurants, The Times-Herald reported. For instance, there have been weekday evenings where patrons had a hard time finding a seat because it was so packed.
Jeffers said with the renovations, the downstairs restaurant has increased from 32 seats to 90, and the kitchen has been completely renovated, The Times-Herald reported.
“The way people dine in clubs has changed. When this building was originally constructed, there was more formal dining. So we do have a full-service kitchen upstairs. But over the course of the last several decades, dining has become more casual in clubs. Most people wanted to be down here, not upstairs.”
Jeffers told The Times-Herald the food served at 29 North was a fusion between casual, bistro and upscale fares.
“We do have some upscale items on the menu, but they present a little bit more casual,” he said.
As Moller explained, rainy days at the Newnan Country Club are no longer a problem for the golf course, The Times-Herald reported. In years past, especially in the aftermath of heavy downpours, sand traps would turn into water hazards as drainage had been a serious problem. Balls would potentially become lost in the sand traps.
No more, The Times-Herald reported. Moller and Browning said with upgrades to the drainage system on the golf course, the course was playable mere hours after heavy downpours struck the Newnan area that week.
“Rain came through Wednesday night; we could have played Thursday morning with no issues,” Moller said.
“The drainage system was poor. It was old,” Browning said. “Any type of rain, and I’m not talking the monsoon we had a couple of days ago, would fill up the bunkers. We did our homework, we talked to several bunker lining companies, and we [selected] Capital A Concrete to help drain.”
Browning said there were 53 bunkers on the course before the renovation, The Times-Herald reported. By comparison, there are 56 bunkers on the Augusta National course. With the renovations, several bunkers were taken out, some were recontoured and made “more sense,” while others were added.
“Completely new bunkers, completely new sand, in fact the same sand they use at Sea Island,” he said. “Real pretty. So that was the big thing, and that was over all 18 holes.”
Trees were thinned and limbed out, while nine tee boxes were leveled and resodded, The Times-Herald reported.
“Tees, trees and bunkers, those were the three facets of what we did on the golf course,” Browning said.
Moller said that golfers have had rave reviews about the renovations to the course, both how it plays and how the sand traps have been modified, The Times-Herald reported.
“The bunker work is the biggest thing,” Moller said. “They love that. The bunkers are now playable just about every day of the year versus what you had in the past.”
The best news of all for the Newnan Country Club is that, with the modifications, Moller told The Times-Herald that the club is taking calls from individuals interested in becoming members.
“When you talk to members about the excitement on the golf course, the grass is starting to turn green, they’re excited about that, but the reputation outside of here, the members are excited. We probably get 10 calls a week from prospective members,” Moller said. “That’s when you know you’re on the right track.”