The Clubhouse – New or Renovated?


Every older club sooner or later has to deal with this issue. Does the club pour good money into an older clubhouse or does the club replace it? More and more clubs today are faced with facilities approaching the end of their useful lives. The cost to transform these older clubhouses into compliance with current codes, safety and operating standards and energy conserving restrictions can easily approach the cost of building a new clubhouse.

This leads to the most challenging question: Renovate or Build New? Four club characteristics usually decide this issue for most clubs. They are the existing clubhouse’s architectural quality, the condition of infrastructure systems, the cost/financing factors and the support of the members to significantly improve the building.

Is Architecture Good Enough? 

Is the clubhouse architecture good enough to be renovated? If the existing architectural quality is marginal, then the issue of cost comes into play. The best rule of thumb on deciding the “renovation or new” issue is, when the cost to renovate approaches or exceeds 70% of the cost to construct a new clubhouse, the new clubhouse must be given serious consideration. 

Financing also a Key Determinate

A very important decision to consider is the financing aspect for a clubhouse upgrade. A new clubhouse should provide a building with at least an 80-year life expectancy, allowing a longer amortization period to pay off a loan (e.g. 25-years). On the other hand, the renovation of a 50 to 70-year or older clubhouse would have a much shorter life expectancy than the new clubhouse building, thus needing continual facility upgrades at least on a 15-year cycle. Thus, a major clubhouse renovation generally does not have financing loans with amortization periods of over 15-years.

Building Membership Support 

It can’t be stressed enough that the decision to renovate or build new must start with how the members themselves feel about the club, the existing clubhouse and their satisfaction with it. When a club’s leadership senses it is facing a major clubhouse decision, always involve the entire membership in the process. Start with a good comprehensive membership survey which lays the foundation for making the right decision which will affect the club’s future for many years to come.  

Share This Article

About Bill McMahon

Bill is a private club planner providing strategic planning, member research analysis and facility planning services for private clubs across North America. Bill joined McMahon Group in 1999 and has worked with over 200 clubs helping to solve their strategic and facility needs.

Bill is Co-Editor of Club Trends, a quarterly report published with the National Club Association (NCA). He has written for many private club publications like The BoardRoom Magazine, Club Director and more, and has been a featured speaker at national conferences, local chapters and other associations serving the private club industry. He is also on the NCA’s Communications Committee.

Bill has been instrumental in developing and enhancing the McMahon Group online presence. He created and runs Clubtopia® ( – an online business directory of firms and companies serving the club industry.

Bill’s club memberships have included Bellerive Country Club (St. Louis), Glen Echo Country Club (St. Louis) and the Missouri Athletic Club (St. Louis). He proudly serves on the Board of Cinema St. Louis ( and is Second Vice President on the Board of the Tennessee Society of St. Louis.


More articles by Bill McMahon