Amenity No. 1: Your clubhouse

While the golf course is the main event for the game’s countless players, for those responsible for creating residential resort communities centered on a golf lifestyle, the continual challenge is to attract perspective home buyers and the clubhouse is often amenity number one.

In course design, rolling fairways stretch between tees and greens and are often complimented by a combination of bunkers, water features, and vegetation, all placed to test the player’s decision and shot making abilities. Excellence in clubhouse design, on the other hand, is achieved through a combination of exceptional architecture and interior design along with an acute appreciation for the surrounding context and the owner’s objectives. For owners, developers, and community-led organizations who are considering a new or renovated clubhouse it is imperative to find an experienced, forward-thinking design team.

Every golf course and clubhouse is unique and the design process should begin with integrating the building into the site. Because golf courses tend to be located in beautiful places it is essential to nestle the clubhouse into the surrounding landscape to maximize views from within the clubhouse and create indoor/outdoor relationships that allow users to remain connected to the course even while inside. It’s also important to orient the clubhouse to take advantage of the sun’s thermal benefits and natural daylighting, which supports long-term operational efficiency and user comfort.

Much like the intrinsic relationship a player develops with his home course through many rounds of play, there is also a strong complimentary bond between the clubhouse’s exterior architecture and interior design. During the course of many clubhouse designs, Kimberly Timmons Interiors (KTI) of Denver has formed a strong collaborative bond with SHJ Studio of Phoenix resulting in many award-winning projects including the 2010 Golf Inc. Clubhouse of the Year award for the Tonto Verde Country Club remodel/renovation project.  

It’s important to develop and promote a sense of place and KTI’s clubhouse interiors take cues from local cultural resonances, site topography, and the building’s architecture. As an example, the recently completed Robson Ranch Arizona clubhouse, presents a color palette based on the hues of Arizona’s incredible sunsets and southwestern style textures and patterns. Embracing Robson Ranch’s resort living philosophy by balancing comfort and sophistication was a focus of the design process and the project took Gold honors at the National Association of Home Builders’ 2016 Best of 55+ Housing Awards.

With a thematic design inspiration often drawn from context, the clubhouse’s interiors are often tied to the more easily measured nuances of design performance – quality, cost, and on-schedule delivery. There are also certain sets of paradoxes that must be navigated during the decision making process. Interior selections must impart a sense of luxury and escape that is frequently associated with premium products. Simultaneously, they must also be highly durable and easily maintained to withstand guest use, while also being a budget-conscious decision. Premium clubhouses also benefit from a high-end residential design perspective that helps to make guest spaces feel a little homey, with comfort being a primary objective.

Through a layering of details, thoughtful timeless materials and color combinations, exceptional clubhouses present a memorable, comfortable guest experience. The result should be warm inviting interiors that are transformative in their ability to make the rest of the world melt away after a long round on the course, leaving only the enjoyment and comradery so many associate with the game.

A great deal of importance must also be placed on how the clubhouse will be operated during the design process. While clubhouse users are socializing, dining, exercising, and relaxing, the clubhouse staff is at work in an environment where the expectation of service invisibility is standard.  Architects should work closely with the owners to create adjacencies that allow a single commercial kitchen to support multiple functions happening simultaneously throughout the facility.  Keeping the owner’s long-term operational goals in mind is imperative to long-term success because the most expensive assets in every clubhouse are the employees. Designing spaces that can be serviced as efficiently as possible is paramount to creating the high level of service guests expect without the need for excessive staffing. Quality interior design takes staff needs, workflows and staff and patron circulation patterns into consideration while also choosing highly durable and easily cleaned finish materials for back of the house areas.

During the years, trends in clubhouse design come and go. Years ago many clubhouse interiors were designed around local historical references while today clients are seeking more dynamic, modern architecture that offers a unique elevated experience. Interiors need to account for the many different types of uses expected of the clubhouse with fitness opportunities being second only to social dining and drinking. As forms of fitness and the required equipment continues to change, clubhouse exercise facilities must accommodate a combination of yoga, pilates, spin classes, aerobics, and weight training, among others.

Creating spaces that have multiple uses and flexible configurations is a design concept that benefits far more than just the gym. Partitionable rooms and movable furniture allow large banquet spaces to be easily reconfigured into smaller meeting rooms, while also opening up additional sources of revenue available from weddings, corporate retreats, and other outside events.

For the design team, one of the most challenging aspects of developing a great clubhouse is trying to synthesize a single design direction from an ownership group that can be composed of many different people with very different opinions and objectives. In some cases, designers are working with large corporations developing hundreds of homes surrounding the course, truly influencing a local economy. In other cases, the client is led by a Home Owners Association that has inherited oversight for the clubhouse and other community facilities  In either case, the impression a clubhouse makes is often measured against the nearest rivals and a sense of one-upmanship is ever present. Each clubhouse ought to have a unique look and sensibility to it. Exceptional spaces should surprise and impress, giving the residents a sense of pride and ownership of a building tailored to the property and surroundings.

The ease of guiding the client’s leadership team toward a single unified solution generally depends on the composition of the group and achieving consensus frequently is a balancing act. With large corporate development clients there is a great deal of expertise and financial risk involved while HOA projects are often led by committees composed of retired business executives accustomed to having the final say. Regardless of client composition, new construction or renovation, finding the right combination of quality, cost, and schedule within the design is really the main puzzle to solve in almost every clubhouse design. Starting with an experienced design team presenting a creative climate and willingness to solve problems collaboratively is the simplest way to ensure excellence in clubhouse design. 

Kimberly Timmons-Beutner is the owner of Kimberly Timmons Interiors (KTI) of Denver, Colorado. With over 18 years of experience in premium golf clubhouse design, KTI is known for timeless, inspired spaces of distinction, and creative composition.

Comments

Kimberly, great article- wish more clubs would realize your ideas and act on them. Cheers, Jim Nordlie, Archiventure Group

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