The great outdoors

Outside entertainment spaces are helping clubs to serve members through the pandemic, and should position them for growth long term

Even prior to COVID-19, club members were clamoring for outdoor entertainment space. Sports like bocce ball and pickleball have been on the rise. Clubhouse architects have been adding covered patios, exterior bars and firepits. Operators have been utilizing their courtyard dining and other outdoor spaces. 

With the pandemic, these newly added spaces became the lifeblood of the clubhouse. With the risk of transmission lower outdoors, members have flocked to the outside. 

Experts say the trend will continue. Not only do the outdoor spaces offer better air movement, they also allow guests and members to socially distance. 

“Members enjoy clubs that have more outdoor engagement … regardless of climates,” said Erik Peterson, president and lead architect, PHX Architecture. “Some options include adding door systems that allow easy connection to the outdoors, along with outdoor activities that encourage food and beverage consumption, leading to more revenue. It’s a win-win—for the golf club and its members.” 

So how do clubs get more out of their outdoors?

Doug Fredrikson, president of Douglas Fredrikson Architects, Inc., believes exterior spaces can be expanded through additional hardscape, yet golf club managers can also consider establishing more exterior spaces in existing grass areas as a temporary solution.

“We’ve had success with setting up more spaced out areas on available grass areas with soft seating, moveable firepits and lounge/rocking chairs,” he said. “But the creation of more temporary service areas is also key, primarily to make sure operations continue to run smoothly.”

Like most golf club members, Chambers, a planning, architecture and design firm specializing in private clubs, has supported the addition of outdoor spaces at clubs long before anyone was ever aware of COVID-19. After all, when members visit golf clubs, they generally want to be outside, so clubs should strive to create welcoming spaces for them to do so. Yet, as a surprise to Charlie Turner, director of interior design and principal of Chambers, many golf clubs have not fully embraced this design trend — until 2020.

“In light of COVID-19, we’re seeing some great short-term solutions to expand outdoor areas right away — even simple solutions such as placing Adirondack chairs near existing outdoor terraces or putting greens, as members relax and enjoy views of courses,” he said.

Editor's note: this is the first of a two-part series on how clubs are using outdoor space. 


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