The Golf Club as an Event Center

By John Dierdorf AIA
Design Inform Volume 2, Issue 1

A parallel use for a golf club often is to host large gatherings, such as golf outings, business presentations, service club meetings and even wedding receptions. These uses have distinct needs and functional issues that should be considered when designing a golf club for multiple users.

There are several key spaces to design in golf clubs and clubhouses:

  • Lobby/pre-function
  • Dividable dinning room
  • Kitchen/food service
  • Restrooms
  • Storage

The public dining areas for clubs must maintain their functional relationships to the lobby space and the kitchen areas, but they also should afford the patrons views to the golf course. In a private club facility, there may be spaces for outside uses, like a ballroom, which could be used by non-members. These uses need a logical circulation path and sometimes include a separate circulation path so club functions can continue simultaneously to a large event.

A separate, larger dining room for appropriately sized events may also be included. Tables for eight to 10 are typical, with spacing for a head table and/or buffet line for food service. Often, a buffet line is established for golf outings and other events for more than 100 people. Space for these tables must be planned for, or the total seating capacity will be diminished.

The banquet rooms at Hawthorns Golf & Country Club in Fishers, Indiana, maintain flexibility in usage by incorporating movable walls to divide the space into smaller areas, depending on the function’s needs. This is accompanied by full-height folding partitions that retract into the wall or by portable devices, such as planters on wheeled bases.

Additional functions may include a bar or lounge space. These spaces get significantly more use on a daily basis by golfers but can support the banquet function as a pre-function space for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. These lounge areas typically have a defined bar and are often at the center of activity of the club. The Purgatory Golf Club in Noblesville, Indiana, has a golf lounge that maintains a lodge look to create an intimate, warm atmosphere.

Access to kitchen space for service is necessary. Some kitchens are equipped for full cooking/preparation functions, and others are geared to be a holding space with warming equipment. Either methodology will work, but thought should be given to the flow patterns of both serving food and retrieving tableware and trash.

Banquet rooms and lounges will need restrooms in close proximity. Depending on the usage schedule and time of day access, there may need to be a separate lobby and entrance to the banquet facility. At a minimum, the golf shop will desire the capacity to be separated and secured after hours. A rolling grill or full-height doors can accomplish this separation.

Accommodations for outdoor dinging can be handled several ways. Areas for outdoor seating and potential tent connections for tent poles are beneficial in allowing the golf club flexibility for hosting outdoor events. Power for lighting and the availability of certain equipment may be necessary for hosting larger events. The provision of small balcony areas can be a successful design for seasonal exterior dining or cocktail events. Covered outdoor patio spaces may also be desired for short-term dining or socializing just prior to a round of golf.

The design of the exterior for the clubhouse at Prairie View Golf Club in Noblesville, Indiana, is modeled after an 1836 pioneer village with buildings surrounding a courtyard. The buildings are simple in both shape and scale. The exterior materials include wood siding, divided windows and native stone fireplaces. Lighting levels and surfaces/materials will differ depending on the overall usage projected.

Site issues influence the design solutions. At Hawthorns Golf & Country Club, the sloping site allowed a lower level for support functions, such as the locker and shop, to open onto the gold course while maintaining a single-story height for the club entrance, which was a design criterion from the owner. A club’s surrounding site and how it expands to the golf course can shape how the visitor feels about the clubhouse. It is important to consider how a visitor enters the clubhouse and the views he or she will see from the interior.

Clubhouses provide a unique place for an event to be held. It is key to take the above discussed items into consideration when working with the design to ensure a successful project.