Wake up everyone! There’s a new world in club design. A new world is opening up for country clubs in how they are being changed to attract the next generation of members. And these changes are very much affecting clubhouse and recreation facility designs.
The traditional golf club of yesteryear was changed to the country club we know today by adding a larger clubhouse, swimming pool and tennis courts. And again, our country clubs are now being transformed into a new version of country club, i.e., the family recreation clubs.
These visionary clubs carry the name country club, but they are now progressing far beyond the once seasonal country club, which primarily emphasized golf. This transformation in our traditional club concept is being caused by the changing wants and needs of our future Millennial members. These future members have lifestyles which value:
- A great diversity in recreation activities Have short attention spans that five hour rounds of golf don’t appeal to
- Have concerns about the environment and what we should be doing to protect it
- Have tremendous concerns about health and wellness affecting everything from eating, playing and exercising
- Have become addicted to technology
- Have respect for all types of diversity in people, i.e., no snobbery.
So, with this new generation of our children and grandchildren, here’s how the country club of the future will be changing so it can adjust to the new society it serves today and will serve tomorrow.
The additive effect of starting with the golf course and adding recreation facilities wherever vacant land was available has resulted in an overall layout of facilities, which isolates each activity and the members who use them.
And with the addition of more and more recreation activities at our clubs (pickleball, bocce, croquet, paddle tennis, par 3 courses, extensive wellness center, spas, etc.) we can see that the old country club design model for golf, swim, tennis and dining; is no longer working.
Here’s the new country club design model for the country club of the future, and this model doesn’t require tearing down existing facilities.
Simply put, we need club facilities that are designed to bring members together, rather than keep them apart.
Today’s clubs are silos of club activities. Golfers stay with golfers. Tennis players stay with tennis players. Our existing clubhouse layouts with all the recreation facilities clustered around it worked when we only had golf, tennis and swimming facilities at a club. We, in effect, have outgrown the old country club model.
The new country club model serves the main clubhouse as the dining and social center of the club. Many aspects of golf like its locker rooms, grill rooms, pro shop and support areas can stay in the main clubhouse. However, all other recreation offerings the club has should be relocated in a new recreation/social hub near but separated from the main clubhouse so it can be expanded as the club increasingly adds new recreation offerings.
The primary advantage of combining all or as many as possible recreation offerings in this new social/recreational hub is this: it encourages interaction among all members and their families, and this should be a primary mission of every club.
Now you might ask, has this been done successfully in the past? Yes, it has in such clubs as Royal Oaks in Dallas, Paradise Valley in Scottsdale and Woodmont in Maryland.
But one of the best and most current examples is Interlachen Country Club in Orlando. This fine country club had the typical country club layout for golf, tennis, swimming and fitness with its large clubhouse.
Now while the club’s golf and clubhouse offerings were fine, nothing else was. And a nearby racquet club was attracting all the young members.
Fast forward and spending about $10 million to create its family recreation and social center with the latest pool, fitness, tennis, quick casual dining (inside and out) along with croquet and water playground. Now all the young members are joining Interlachen.
Interlachen now has the country club of the future and it is reaping the rewards from visionary leaders. So, look at your club. Is your facility layout meeting the demand of your membership? Does it bring members together or keep them apart? Don’t spend another dollar on facility improvements until you have analyzed your facilities to be sure they are helping to achieve your club’s strategic goals. BR
Bill McMahon, Sr., AIA, OAA is chair of the St. Louis, MI-based The McMahon Group. He can be reached at (314) 744-5040 or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org