Phase NeXt: New Dining Facilities Open at Carmel Country Club


According to our friends at Club Benchmarking, Carmel Country Club in Charlotte is a best-in-class example of net worth growth over the last 20 years. Working steadily from a strategic plan, the Club has invested in all areas of the member experience, beginning with a well-known resort-style pool project and continuing through the renovation of both golf courses and practice facilities, the reinvention of the main member bar and dining spaces, rebuilding the tennis complex, and expanding the fitness center. This is a great financial achievement, but the real payoff has come in the form of a lengthy (3+ year) waitlist for membership, higher initiation fees, increased revenue and engagement, and enhanced member satisfaction. The results are a great example of how capital investment is at the heart of club success. 

Carmel recently completed a $21 million clubhouse renovation and expansion. Billed as Phase NeXt, the plan included a completely reimagined lower level of the clubhouse, including a new Gaslight Grill, a quick casual dining venue with an indoor-outdoor bar that spills out onto a redesigned patio with expansive dining and seating areas overlooking the golf course. They also added the Post Market featuring Starbucks coffee, fruit smoothies, fresh pressed juice, and milkshakes amongst various grab and go items. The enlarged fitness center includes more space for equipment and classes, and the addition high-end cardio machines that are extremely popular. On the main level, the event side of the clubhouse was rebuilt, shifting the ballroom to ensure commanding views of the golf course and create a suite of tech-laden meeting rooms.

The improvements are the result of a strategic plan ‘updating exercise in 2018 to reconfirm priorities established in 2013. Having fully digested the 2015 main bar and dining renovations as well as the improvements to and renovation of the North Course, it was time to look to what was next. Member focus groups identified demand for a new and different dining and social experience, something quick and casual and that made use of the expansive but underutilized lower patio. Golfers and members coming from other recreational areas tended to have a quick drink and leave as they didn’t feel comfortable going to the main level spaces in their golf and athletic attire. The new lower level addresses that need, and it is likely to set a new standard for club dining for years to come. Early reviews and activity are very positive, with evidence that this differentiated concept is expanding participation rather than shifting activity from the other spaces. 


If you want a poster child for innovation and relevant facilities, Carmel Country Club is it. John Schultz, CCM, ECM & the board have done a fantastic job. Every couple of years the Club puts new capital to work. These projects create not only fun, they also create relevance and financial and economic success. The conversation around club projects often focuses on costs and funding, but the Carmel experience shows how by increasing the value of the Club you can create value for the membership.

The Club Leadership Alliance (CLA) is looking forward to hosting their President’s Council event at Carmel Country Club on November 15, 2021.  Please save the date. More information will be released by the partnering firms in the upcoming weeks.

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About Frank Vain

Mr. Vain provides consulting and planning services to private clubs throughout North America. Through use of specialized services including membership surveys, strategic planning, operational analysis and facility long range planning, Frank assists club in developing individualized strategies for their unique situations. 

Mr. Vain joined McMahon Group in 1988 and has more than forty years of experience in the management and development of hospitality properties including country clubs, city athletic and dining clubs and residential communities. Frank is Past President of The Country Club of St. Albans, a 36-hole country club located in Missouri, and he is a former partner in Concord Sports Club, a 1,700 member family athletic club in St. Louis. Frank was elected to the Board of the National Club Association in 2011 and served as Chairman in 2019-20. 

Mr. Vain is a native of Philadelphia and graduate of Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He is a featured speaker at the annual Club Managers Association of America World Conference, National Club Association National and Regional Conferences, Major Golf Associations and a regional chapter meeting of club managers and leaders. 

Frank is a regular contributor to industry leading publications like Club Management, Club Director and BoardRoom. He was named the Gary Player Club Educator of the Year for 2012 and 2015 and received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021 by BoardRoom. He is also a co-author of McMahon’s Club Trends, a recognized industry benchmark on the trends and issues affecting private clubs. 

More articles by Frank Vain
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