The H. Chambers Company

Designing Ahead:
10 Must-Haves in Facilities Planning


Today’s members use private club facilities much differently than in decades past. Members are looking for family-friendly amenities and casual dining spaces that encourage spontaneity, while also providing breathtaking views of the outdoors and club surrounds. As utilization trends shift to cater to the new wants and needs of younger members, many private club facilities do not properly respond to today’s membership.

Here, we’ve summarized some of the biggest trends we have incorporated into our last 25 facility master plans—and we don’t see these trends going anywhere anytime soon! Be sure to consider these top ten “must-haves” when planning for the future and longevity of your club.


1. Rebalancing Dining Spaces
Many clubs are rebalancing the existing square footage of their dining spaces to create appropriate separation of spaces with tasteful, updated décor – similar to what members experience in local upscale restaurants. While doing so, keep in mind that the need for formal dining areas has reduced dramatically. Members are no longer looking for formal dining spaces with 85 seats, but instead prefer more jewel-like upscale dining spaces with about 30 seats. Today, members are looking for separate casual dining facilities, including dedicated bar/lounge areas where adults can socialize with friends, and family-oriented spaces where parents feel comfortable bringing their children.By renovating and rebalancing spaces within the existing building footprint, clubs are able to reimagine and revitalize their existing spaces to be more relevant to today’s member needs.  And by making these updates, clubs can expect to see a positive impact on their food and beverage sales as well.


2. Bars Becoming the Epicenter of Clubs
Today’s members are looking for a casual bar setting with round or horseshoe-shaped ‘cross-talk’ bar design that encourages socialization. Today, members are much less likely to make a reservation. Instead, they prefer spontaneity and wish to casually ‘drop by’ the club to meet friends and fellow members. These new bar/lounge designs encourage such interaction and have become the center of club socialization in many cases. Televisions are also an important element (when appropriate) so members can congregate to watch ‘the big game’ or golf tournament.


3. Outdoor Living Areas
Typically, members come to the clubhouse and immediately want to go outside to relax, socialize and dine with their family and friends. These spaces must capture views of the golf course and provide appropriate furniture grouping and fire pits. To minimize the distance from the kitchen, these outdoor terraces and patios often include outdoor cooking stations as well.


4. Bringing the Outdoors In
And if members cannot be outside on outdoor terraces or patios, they look for spaces that enable them to have as much connectivity with the outside as possible.  This is often accomplished through the use of French doors or NanaWallsTM—moveable walls of glass that allow the flow from inside to outside and vice versa—from interior dining spaces to outside patios and terraces.


5. Youth Activities
Progressive clubs recognize that being family-friendly is important now more than ever, which means certain spaces must be designed appropriately for today’s youth. This gives the club’s youngest members a place to call their own, providing spaces where they feel comfortable while fostering a deeper connection with club life and making memories they will carry with them into adulthood. Young children and teens have different interests and the programs and décor of these spaces should reflect this. Youth Activity Rooms are often found in the clubhouse in close proximity to the casual dining spaces for ease of access for families dining at the club.


6. Swimming Pools and Adult Cabanas
Despite being a 3- to 4-month activity, a club’s swimming pool area is now the number two amenity desired by prospective members in the industry (second to golf). Generally, no one complains about the amount of water at the pool… Instead, members look for “resort-style” pool designs, inviting pool deck spaces, ample shaded areas and additional spaces for socialization, such as an Adult Cabana Bar. These types of spaces, in addition to offering expanded menus at the Pool Snack Bar, are also critically important to providing an enhanced swimming experience beyond the traditional rectangular pool.


7. Cyber Library
Studies have shown that 30-40 percent of today’s members do not work out of a typical corporate office. Instead, a significant portion of their work week is spent working from home, or at café-style areas like Starbucks that provide a welcoming experience and free Wi-Fi. Members are now looking for this type of connectivity at their club. The design of these spaces should go beyond the typical ‘business center concept,’ and instead resemble the airport lounge concept with soft seating, light refreshments and most importantly, wireless and electronic connectivity.


8. Expanded Wellness, Fitness and Group Exercise
Today, the number one capital improvement in private clubs is centered on expanded fitness and wellness facilities. All generations desire to uphold an active and healthy lifestyle, and private clubs must respond to this desire by providing exclusivity for members to engage in strength training, cardio and group exercise classes. Fitness Centers continue to expand to meet these needs and have also begun introducing additional programming catered to various age segments (i.e. rehabilitation for seniors, ‘tiny tots’ classes for our youngest members, and sports-oriented classes for teens and college-age children).


9. Year-Round Utilization
In most areas of the country, there are periods of slowed activity on the golf course. Clubs are looking for ways to engage members year-round so they continue to use the club during the ‘off-season.’ Golf simulators are one example of meeting this need and some clubs are even taking this to the next level by developing a Golf Learning Center as a destination unto itself. Many clubs are also developing indoor club activities for increased socialization—from wine clubs to book clubs to dart leagues, just to name a few.


10. Aesthetic Upgrades
The typical life span for interior décor is 10 to 12 years. After this period of time, spaces begin to look either tired or outdated. Clubs should maintain a system of periodic updates—an interior enhancement plan, if you will—to keep their facilities looking fresh and current in design aesthetics.


Generally, it is important that private clubs evolve to meet the needs of current and prospective members. Taking a further look into how your facilities are being utilized today is a great first step in determining what can be done to increase engagement and overall member satisfaction within your club.

Are you planning ahead for your facilities? Contact me and let me know how we can help!

Rick Snellinger

Rick Snellinger

Rick is one of the private club industry’s most recognized voices on club planning and design. As President and CEO of Chambers, he has worked with hundreds of private clubs across the country to translate member needs and wants into creative, forward-thinking, successfully completed projects. Rick speaks about such topics on a national level, and was recently recognized by Golf Inc. magazine as one of the Top 10 Most Innovative Individuals Shaping the Future of Private Clubs.
Rick Snellinger

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2 Responses to “Designing Ahead:
10 Must-Haves in Facilities Planning

  1. Gerty Gift says:

    This has a really great overview of everything someone is looking for in a private club. I especially liked what you shared about having free Wi-Fi for members because of businesses being run less inside typical home offices. I think this is something that is definitely a must have.

  2. Hi Mr. Snellinger:

    Thank you for your emails. Should you have any locker remodeling jobs I would like to assist.


    Bruce Barilla
    Locker Room Consulting

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