The words “country club” used to conjure up images of paunchy, aging men in Sansabelt slacks, drinking martinis after a few rounds on the golf course. Today, country clubs feature fine dining, fitness centers and activities for youngsters. These expanded amenities and improved architecture have increased memberships and spurred business by creating safe, family friendly environments.
The Tulsa Country Club is a perfect example. It was built in 1964, with only one major renovation a year later. Over the years, some façade work was done on the 65,000-square-foot facility, but no major overhauls took place until 2009, when Oklahoma City-based Tom Hoch Design was selected to renovate the building, literally from floors to ceilings.
The company began master planning in September 2009 and construction renovation in January 2010, with work completed in July 2010. The club remained open throughout the process, which generated excitement among members, as the work progressed in segmented phases. Since then, the club has added 130 new member families.
Tom Hoch Design has renovated hundreds of country clubs, and much of the work, says Tom Hoch, comes from the clubs’ realization that in order to survive and thrive, “They must make themselves relevant to people’s lifestyles, which demand a sense of casualness, comfort and belonging. Country clubs always had the image of a stuffy, unapproachable domain. Now they’re looking to make them comfortable and inspiring at the same time.”
When Hoch had his first look at the aging, bland Tulsa facility, he “saw opportunity.” The building’s architect also designed civic buildings, hence, “It was a flat, concrete structure with a lot of brick and no approachability, no lovability at all,” says Hoch. “They were considering tearing it down. I said, ‘It will cost a fortune to tear it down because it’s such a fortress. Why don’t we just work with what we have, embrace the architecture and make it better.’”
The company’s renovation plans worked around a revenue-based design model, in which they studied current operations in food and beverage and membership retention, and determined how additions and changes would impact the bottom line. “We’re actually dovetailing revenue forecasting with our design endeavor,” says Hoch. “We’re taking existing clubs that have poor operation efficiencies and coming in with new space planning recommendations to realign and rejoin spaces to make them more efficient. Scale to proportion is very important to the whole process. A lot of clubhouses were built as monuments to attract members, and they’re really too large for the clientele that they serve, so all the energy is dispersed in the facility. We try to rearrange the space so that we can focus the energy into different areas of the club.”
For the Tulsa facility, he says, the master plan included a branding assessment to zero in on membership demographic and needs. Based on these studies, Tom Hoch Designs handled architectural and interior renovations, utilizing Prairie School and Craftsman influences combined with contemporary flair. Their design staff built the furnishings in the company’s custom woodshop. “This ensures that the finished product not only fits our vision but the client’s quality and visionary expectations,” says Hoch. Rearranging spaces was integral to renovating and updating the Tulsa Country Club. “The structure itself had a lot of large columns on 25-foot centers throughout, so we moved a lot of walls, but it wasn’t a big problem,” says Hoch. “By rearranging a lot of the spaces inside, we were able to better orient all the dining views to look over the wonderful golf course and views of downtown. We did all this without adding any square footage to the building.” Stacking the lockers in changing rooms freed up more space that in turn doubled the size of the dining areas.
An energy-efficient Dichon heating and cooling system was installed, which also freshened circulating air. Plumbing was upgraded, with some new lines installed, and storefront glazing insulated the floor-to-ceiling windows in the dining area.
One of Hoch’s proudest moments came from the old, heavy, two-inch-thick oak benches in the locker rooms. “We brought all of that wood to our workshop and made a lot of new furniture out of it,” he says. “Instead of thousands of feet of oak going to the landfill, we made tabletops for the club, we made credenzas and different accent pieces. We recrafted a lot of the stuff that they already had. True sustainability is when you have a facility that you know is going to be there for a long time and you don’t have to renovate it every five years.”