Breathing New Life

Golf, like many other industries in the United States, has been hit hard by the slumping economy. Public golf courses are battling for market share, and private clubs are scrambling to attract new members and retain existing ones.

In the search for solutions, both have found interior clubhouse renovations can provide the energy and amenities necessary to remain relevant to today’s golfer. Compared to golf course renovations, clubhouse work can be quick, relatively inexpensive and painless when it comes to presenting – and passing – the project through membership boards and ownership.

Equally as important, the golf course (and even the pro shop) can remain open during clubhouse remodeling, thus keeping golfers happy and revenues flowing. At Tom Hoch, we actually built out the space in our 30,000-square-foot studio, insulating the course or club from the majority of the construction process.

Glen Oaks Country Club in West Des Moines, Iowa, is a leading-edge example of how a club is completely reinventing itself from the inside out with overwhelming support and zeal from its members.

Last year, Glen Oaks arrived at a pivotal crossroads. It was owned by the bank, lacking a true brand identity and member morale had reached rock bottom. The clubhouse had an interior that was tired, dated and not capable of meeting the needs of a sophisticated membership.

The bones of a wonderful club were in place: its centerpiece is a championship Tom Fazio-designed golf course, and it is located in one of Des Moines’ most well-respected and desirable communities.

Instead of allowing the slump to continue, three prominent members took matters into their own hands and acquired Glen Oaks. These investors made it their mission to restore the club to prominence and create a facility and lifestyle members could be proud of. When searching for ways to improve the Glen Oaks experience, they immediately recognized the clubhouse was in dire need of repairs.

From the outside, the clubhouse at Glen Oaks was, and still is, a thing of beauty. The elegance of the neoclassical architecture vanished upon entrance, however, giving way to an unremarkable interior that lacked character. The 50,000-square-foot, three-level structure looked less like a clubhouse and more like a series of hastily chopped-up spaces and disconnected rooms.

Before renovations, the member level was comprised of a golf shop, ladies’ locker room and small dining area. The spaces were poorly planned and had no continuity. In fact, the only relation to one another was the mundane corridors used for shuttling members from space to space. There was an opportunity to make the member level a place people would seek out, not just after a round of golf or game of tennis, but for myriad occasions.

The first step was to renovate the dining area. The initial problem was the space itself. It was small with minimal versatility. Space planning for a clubhouse is not just about making a space bigger; it’s about making it smarter.

Instead of being revenue-negative or neutral, golf shops and food and beverage operations can and should be revenue-positive. Our “revenue-based” design model factors in aesthetic elements, while balancing the operational needs and financial goals of a club with the overall experience and emotional connection members and guests make with the space.

Combining a financial model capable of projecting revenue by space allocation with interior design ensures the facility’s success as a revenue-enhancing space. Using this approach, one small perfunctory dining area was morphed into multiple spaces, all of which foster a sense of home, encourage interaction and operate efficiently.

One of the dining areas serves as an adults-only, fine-dining facility that celebrates fresh and local ingredients and rivals any of the dining establishments in the Des Moines area. A new bar and lounge with a very cosmopolitan feel was created for members who only have time for a quick dinner or drinks with friends.

When building out the space, it was vital to bring the interior in line with the club’s personality. Trendy is often confused with contemporary, and stodgy with traditional. It’s important to understand that interior architectural elements can be traditional, but they can also be fashionable, especially when they are set off with contemporary artwork or accessories juxtaposed against a traditional design.

That juxtaposition has a popular place in design, and club owners and operators want focal pieces reflecting the traditions and history of the game. Ideally, these pieces will also provide a sense of place tied to the area, or reflect a prevalent architectural motif.

In the case of Glen Oaks, the key word was “authenticity.” The people of Des Moines are very down to earth, friendly, warm and unpretentious. It was important those traits permeate the clubhouse interior. Through the use of high-quality materials, furniture, its fixtures and equipment, the space is highly sophisticated, yet maintains its veritable honesty.

The Glen Oaks project was completed in a matter of weeks through a fast-tracked design/build process facilitated by the in-house studio. The studio allows for the seamless transition from design to build and creation of a best-in-class product. Upon completion, the entire interior was delivered to the club and installed turnkey.

As the result of renovations, Glen Oaks now has a clubhouse commensurate with the quality of its championship golf course and paramount service. From the members’ perspective, it projects a sense of home. The revamped restaurant is now at the top of their list when it comes to a night out with friends or a meal with family. All told, the renovations have made Glen Oaks the new standard bearer for club living and have put the club in a position to grow.

Tom Hoch is the president of Tom Hoch, a leading design/build firm based in Oklahoma City, Okla. Founded in 1963 by his parents, Tom Sr. and Joanne Hoch, Tom Hoch specializes in club, resort, hotel, restaurant and recreational spaces. Tom Hoch has revolutionized the category via its “revenue-based design” model, a space planning, sizing and mapping process for retail-driven spaces, such as golf shops and food-and-beverage operations. For more information, visit www.tomhoch.com or call 405-524-0505.

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