Creating the Country Club Recreation Center

Club Support Drawing

Over time, country clubs have greatly expanded their recreation offerings.

What began as a simple golf gathering place in the late 1800s has become a multi-recreational club of significant proportion. Clubs began the essential process of changing with the times as other recreation activities like tennis and swimming gained popularity. Dining became increasingly important as convenience and prosperity factors made clubs the ideal place for all dining needs; and finally, the primarily summer use of the traditional country club for him, became the club for the entire family. However, while enduring all this change in usage, it is surprising how little the actual club facilities changed. In many cases the club of the past changed to the club of the future, but the facilities lagged behind.

Country club growth today points to ever-expanding, year-round recreation offerings for more and more members and their families.

Country clubs need members who participate in many recreation activities year-round; and as these activities expand, the traditional clubhouse containing all dining and recreation facilities under one roof is no longer ideal. Therefore, we are seeing an almost campus like design for our country clubs. The family recreation center and traditional dining/social clubhouse are both needed, but in separate facilities where each can expand and relate better to how members want to use them without over-shadowing each other.

Clubs serve a very diverse membership.

By properly designing a club’s facilities, it is possible to expand membership sizes to maximize the capacity of the club, thus increasing member satisfaction while lowering the per-member cost. Club membership research has shown that the larger the membership, the higher the member satisfaction. From a facility viewpoint, we are seeing a definite trend in separating the ever-growing recreation facilities from the main social clubhouse. The best country and golf clubs in North America are doing this as they serve more members with ever-expanding offerings. The Country Club of Detroit and The Briar Club (Houston, TX) are good examples of this. Don Hunter, General Manager at Quail Creek Country Club in Naples, Florida is pioneering the recreation center approach at his Club as it strives to better serve its members.

The private club industry must rethink how to best provide the country club of the future.

While the superior offering of recreational activities attracts members to our clubs, the dining and social aspects keep them there. By combining as many recreational activities together as possible, we bring members from all recreation offerings together, thus making our clubs the great social interaction places they are meant to be.

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About Bill McMahon, Sr. AIA, OAA

Bill is a strategic, financial and architectural planning consultant to clubs throughout North America. He established McMahon Group in 1983 as an affiliate of the family architectural firm his grandfather founded in 1906. Over the ensuing years, the firm has expanded its club consulting services beyond clubhouse improvement planning to a full range of services for all aspects of private club challenges. To date, the firm has assisted more than 2,000 private clubs across the United States, Canada, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean. McMahon Group provides a unique approach to developing club facility projects first establishing design and financial feasibility so membership approval is achieved. Thereafter final design and construction firms are selected to build the member approved project.

Mr. McMahon is unique among club consultants in providing an integrated strategic, financial and architectural approach to solving club problems. His personal involvement with his own clubs in St. Louis (serving in the roles of president, board member and committee member) has allowed him to bring unparalleled experience to each client. Mr. McMahon’s club memberships have included Bellerive Country Club (St. Louis), Racquet Club Ladue (St. Louis), University Club of St. Louis, Spring Lake Yacht Club (Michigan) and the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania.

Mr. McMahon is a graduate of Washington University School of Architecture in St. Louis and holds architecture licenses in 44 U.S. states and in Ontario, Canada. He is a featured author in industry publications and a featured speaker at the annual conferences of the Club Managers Association of America, the Canadian Society of Club Managers, the National Club Association and the Hospitality, Financial and Technology Professionals. He serves as a visiting lecturer at continuing education sessions offered by regional CMAA chapters and at Michigan State University. Bill is a co-author of McMahon Club Trends®, the comprehensive research reports on strategic issues facing private clubs published with the National Club Association. He is also founder of the Excellence in Club Management Award.

Mr. McMahon is a member of the American Institute of Architects, and the National Club Association. He is a former president of the Missouri Council of Architects, AIA and has served on various charitable boards in the St. Louis area.

More articles by Bill McMahon, Sr. AIA, OAA
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