The H. Chambers Company

Archive for the ‘Club Road Issue No. 2’ Category

Style & Substance: The 5th Wall

Even the oft-traditional club world can get excited about these hot new products that work in traditional, transitional and contemporary spaces.


Microsuede Acoustic Panels

Microsuede Acoustic Panels

Controlling the acoustics is critical in both large and small spaces. Fabric panels like these provides elegance and absorb sound, whether quiet voices or boisterous partygoers.


 Bahamas Painted Ceiling

Lyford Cay, New Providence Island, Bahamas

Painting, moldings and a sculpted frieze turn this dining room in the Bahamas into a veritable aviary — and a showcase for the varied wildlife outside its doors.


Plank ceiling

Plank Ceiling

Wood beams have long been used to create a tavern feel. Plank ceilings are now adding visual interest to traditional and transitional spaces.


Concealed decorative lighting

Concealed Lighting

Concealed lighting adds another level of ambient light. Flexible LED tape light in a ceiling cove like the High Output tape light from Nora Lighting makes the ceiling look like it’s floating on air.

Nora Lighting

High Output tape light from Nora Lighting



Wood millwork at country club

Unique ceiling millwork

Molding, rosettes and other architectural details can transform a ceiling from staid to stunning.

Ceiling moldings at private clubs

Detailed molding around light fixture



For more information about these or any products you need for your club, contact Clubhouse Furnishings Associates at


Smaller is the New Big

Versatile spaces in private clubs

The entrance is grand and elegant, with a 30-foot atrium and marble floors.  It, at once, awes and welcomes as it escorts you quickly to dining, fitness and meeting spaces.

Rewind tape, enter the same front door — this time as a wedding guest.  That same lobby is now host to a beautiful pre-dinner cocktail reception.  The registration desk is now a fully stocked bar. If you were to peek behind the door around the corner, you’d find the one-time conference room is now a food service staging area for this 300-person formal event.

The versatility of the space is not an accident.  It was carefully considered when Inverness Country Club in Birmingham rebuilt in 2008.  “The silver lining,” says club Owner Bill Ochsenhirt of the devastating fire that leveled the original 1970s-built clubhouse, “was that we were able to build our dream club.”

Indeed, Inverness is considered the new prototype according to Chambers Architect Ken Hart, who led the club’s redesign. “It combines all the amenities and even architectural integrity of an older club,” he says, “but in a much smarter, more efficient way.”

The club of the future, say the experts, provides coveted member services while optimizing everything from energy use to staffing.  At only 25,000 square feet, Inverness is 13,000 square feet smaller than the average American clubhouse.  Yet with state-of-the-art fitness facilities, childcare and a technology-obsessed kitchen, it provides the same or better services than clubs many times its size — and at operating costs far less.

Member amenities at Inverness Country Club

Rethink, Reuse, Rebalance —
Older clubs think
new, too.

Efficient planning isn’t relegated to ground-up construction. Many older clubs are rebalancing spaces to get the most use out of their floor space, creating flexible spaces, introducing modern equipment and systems to improve energy usage and efficiency, and reprioritizing layouts to address evolving member needs.
IN: fitness facilities and childcare.
OUT: single-use spaces and vast and empty hallways.

No Idle Spaces
“No one has ever said, ‘I wish this clubhouse were bigger’,” says Ochsenhirt.

The new club (and older clubs can rebalance and retrofit — see the sidebar at right) focuses on three areas of efficiency…

Prioritized Member Amenities
Along with the traditional amenities, fitness facilities, childcare and casual dining are critical to current member satisfaction. At Inverness, nothing was sacrificed to provide them — spaces were simply prioritized and made more flexible:

  • banquet and meeting facilities can be reconfigured to accommodate virtually any sized event
  • locker rooms are significantly smaller (half lockers are plenty adequate for most members)
  • massive hallways were eliminated in favor of pass-throughs, freeing up square footage and engaging members with more of the space


Operational Efficiency
The Inverness clubhouse is 40% larger than its predecessor but costs 18% less in utility costs to operate, which it accomplished through “better insulation, more efficient energy management systems and eco-friendly construction,” says Ochsenhirt. Among its energy-saving moves:

  • online management of energy systems that enable the club to monitor and adjust
  • installation of highly efficient HVAC, lighting and water systems, plus kitchen equipment that uses less energy and costs significantly less to maintain
  • landscaping and golf course irrigation that tie into a lake water system rather than relying on city water

Focus on Staffing
Perhaps the greatest genius of the Inverness plan is its careful consideration of every room, every employee, every step:

  • the kitchen is closer to the dining room than in many clubs, requiring fewer servers and enabling faster service times
  • unseen to members, the fitness reception desk is connected to the laundry room — just one example of where fewer employees are required to staff spaces, as one can move easily between these two.  “The same staff member can monitor who’s coming in and out of the fitness area and fold towels during a lull,” says Hart
  • the kitchen layout and equipment mean most of the work can be done with only one or two chefs or cooks on duty. “You do have to have a chef who’ll embrace technology,” Ochsenhirt says, of his state-of-the-art combi oven than means you can have 120 hot dinners ready to go at the same time with “one guy in the kitchen.”

All this efficiency did not come at a price, says Ochsenhirt. In fact, it is saving the club money, members are happy and retention is greater. “The truth is, they’re getting more value than they were paying for before,” he says. That IS big.


On the Road with… Bill Ochsenhirt

Bill Ochsenhirt of Inverness Country Club

Bill Ochsenhirt,
Inverness Country Club Owner

We understand you took an interesting career path to the club world. Can you give us some of the highlights?
I started out as a commercial fisherman, actually, turning a high school job into my first career. One year of that convinced me that I wanted to go to college. I showed up my first day wearing a tie, became an accountant and moved to Washington, D.C. Like all self-respecting accountants, I became an avid golfer and when I decided I was ready for something more entrepreneurial, I got into the club business.

Any lessons learned from the fishing business that still apply?
I’ve always been hardworking, but that was without a doubt the hardest work I’ve ever done. I would say that it put me on the straight and narrow toward an education and a career.

What’s your customer service philosophy?
In this business, the most important thing is anticipating members’ needs. What we offer isn’t unique (golf, tennis, gym, a great dining venue); what we’re selling is atmosphere. It’s our job to personalize the experience of every single member and ultimately know them well enough that we know what they want before they ask for it.

How do you find the right people to deliver on that kind of expectation?
We hire personality. Then we train, train, train.

You’ve had a pretty varied career. Is there anything else you wish you’d done?
Gone into politics. I think more people with real life experience — who’ve owned their own businesses, had to pay their employees and take care of people, and who’re judged based on results — need to get involved in the system.

The Chambers Survey: Make More, Waste Less

This quarter’s Chambers Survey of club leaders around the country focused on generating revenue and combating inefficiencies.

Generating Revenue at Private Clubs


80% have added special events and programs in hopes of increasing revenues
69% have recently improved recreational facilities
54% ginned up outdoor food & beverage service
Fitness facilities were most often the most recently renovated space:
50% have renovated within the last 3 years

Renovating dining facilities increased revenues by at least 10% for 76% of respondents
58% of those who upped the ante on their function and banquet facilities have seen a 20+% increase
Improvements to fitness and swimming facilities made for at least a 10+% bump for more than 75%


63% have up-to-date infrastructure systems (HVAC, electrical, plumbing)
For those who’ve updated their systems in the last 5 years, 29% have seen an 11-20% energy savings
57% are saving 5-10%
70% are NOT using a technology-based system to manage and optimize mechanical and energy systems


54% are overstaffed because of layout inefficiencies
46% have added extra HVAC to regulate problem spaces
23% have had to shut down spaces because they’re too hot or too cold

Want to participate in our next survey?  Email us your name, title and club.

The results of The Chambers Survey will be released with each quarterly issue of Club Road. Chambers received responses from club owners and GMs in 14 states, from California to New York, Michigan to Florida.

Inside Out

Navesink Country Club's indoor-outdoor casual dining

Navesink Country Club, Red Bank, NJ

Indoor Amenities Find Their Way Outside

Clubs as “an extension of home” — we hear it daily.  So where home trends venture, so too goes the club world.  In this case — outdoor living areas that reflect their indoor counterparts.  Comfortable, full service and versatile.  For clubs, they also require some creative thinking to enable comparable food & beverage service, keep the bugs at bay, and provide a variety of relaxation and entertainment options.



Country club food and beveragePrivate club applications

There’s an App for That!

Full outdoor food & beverage service is coming to more areas of the club — from poolside and porticos to courtside and even the fairways.  The trick is keeping service fast and efficient

Clubs are responding by adding dedicated service staff, outdoor bars and grilling areas for easy access, and tapping technology to help — yes, there’s a country club iPad app for placing food orders!


Private club food and beverage

Keeping it Fresh.

Food & beverage trends make their way outside, too — we’re seeing everything from the expected (fresh food options, often “grab and go”) to the novelty (remember tiki bars? they’re baaack).



Private club firepits

All the Comforts of Home.

Fireplaces and firepits, intimate social seating areas and TVs are an increasing presence at clubs in a variety of climates.

Clubs are responding by adding dedicated service staff, outdoor bars and grilling areas for easy access, and tapping technology to help — yes, there’s a country club iPad app for placing food orders!

Ask Chambers’ Architects & Designers

City Clubs: Evolving in Close Quarters

Private city clubs are facing issues similar to country clubs — the need to attract younger members, increased emphasis on casual dining, the need to be more technologically sophisticated to meet the needs of their members and maintain or grow their meeting businesses.

Q: With more finite spaces to consider than their country club brethren, where or how does the smart city club focus its evolution?

Reconcepting dining spaces into more exciting and lively spaces that allow them to compete with area venues.

Dick Heise, Architect, Director of Club Studio

Allow for spontaneity — ensure there’s always an available space to gather even if other areas are reserved for private events.

Bob Hickman, Chairman, Interior Designer

Casual, casual, casual.
Younger professionals, especially, won’t dress up just to go to the club after work.—Chad Flickinger, Interior Designer

Rebalance. Look at the revenue stream for your club and consider reallocating spaces to maximize revenue potential.

—Rick Snellinger, President & CEO, Master Planner

Redefine the parameters of membership. Offer reciprocal memberships with comparable clubs — especially those with varied amenities, offer mini memberships to graduate students at local universities, or target businesses that are starting up in your area with trial memberships.

Patricia Sampson, Managing Director

Video conferencing, media rooms, audio visual capabilities and the like.

Bob Doyle, Architect

Reach out beyond the membership to host events that bring new faces (and potential new members) to the club. Make sure they leave with information on how to join — perhaps at a discounted rate.For instance:

  • Invite established groups to host their meetings and gatherings at the club — the local Rotary or Lions Club, Junior League and university alumni groups.
  • Organize events that combine the club with other activities, like dinner at the club, the symphony, then back for dessert.
  • Host events for the younger set (30/40) — a musical performance or talk by a local artist or museum curator, a presentation on how and where to travel with kids, business mentoring “speed dating,” etc.
  • Coordinating through local chapters of professional associations, host dinners for young attorneys, doctors, real estate agents or developers, etc.

Steven Sutor, Senior Interior Design Associate


Establish quiet areas within the club where a member can work on a laptop for an hour or two between appointments.

—Chris Smith, Architect

Even skyscrapers can offer flexible options — think of them in different ways to offer member options. We created a “loft” bar on the 32nd floor for one of our clients.  We’re working on a rooftop terrace for another.

—Rick Snellinger, President & CEO, Master Planner