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W. C. Fields of Philadelphia asks, ‘How important is locating the clubhouse?’

By: Jeffrey D. Brauer


Without a spectacular site – or budget – we usually start routing by locating logical clubhouse sites, which must provide:

• Adequate area for structures. Expansive sites allow for stately appearance, good circulation and expansion. Depending on clubhouse size, and other activities – pool, tennis, etc., clubhouses require 4 to 12 acres, plus 10 to 12 acres for practice areas.

• Cart storage and staging areas, tournament pavilions/scoreboard, and room for "milling about" during delays.

• Visual Control of Starting Holes and Cart Staging. Attaining views to all necessary areas is often difficult. Occasionally, first tee starters or cameras substitute for direct vision.

• Views, which are desirable and may be good business, as they encourage clubhouse usage, meaning greater food and beverage sales. Great natural views are best, if available, and course views are acceptable, as golfers enjoy watching other golfers. Many courses feature views of the back side of closing greens outside the dining room. However, since holes are designed to look good as you play them, seeing the starting holes often provides a better view, especially if heavily bunkered or landscaped.

• Circulation. Finishing holes near the clubhouse provide easy food/beverage and restroom access. Sales increase with purchasing opportunity, explaining the emergence of beverage carts, which do allow more flexibility in arranging the finishing greens.

We consider off-site circulation, usually placing clubhouses closest to town or major roads, to minimize driving, and locating an entry road to create good course identity and drive-up appeal.

• Convenient Practice Areas. Golfers hit balls and practice their short games first, and putt just before teeing off. Putting greens should be convenient to starting holes. A convenient practice tee to the first tee is desirable, but not critical. Practice sand bunkers pose safety problems. Placement should assure stray shots fall in unused areas.

• Good Sun Orientation for Views and Golf. Architects prefer north-facing interior views, but only west-facing views are truly detrimental. However, clubhouses located north of the course provide superior north/south orientation for opening and closing holes. Playing into the sun is usually unavoidable for all holes, but starting or finishing into the sun makes a bad impression.

Clubhouse sites at "12 noon" and "6 o'clock" provide both needs. Nine o'clock (western) clubhouses force golfers to start and finish playing into the sun. Three o'clock (eastern) sites improve golfing-sun orientation, but hurt afternoon clubhouse views.

Development courses usually require central clubhouse locations, which helps spread holes throughout the property for maximum exposure, usually meaning one nine may have sun-orientation problems.

• Circulation Separation from Churches, Schools, and Houses. Generally, clubhouses and parking should stand within course boundaries, and away from nearby homes, although condos can make good neighbors. Liquor licenses usually require separation from churches and schools.

So, finding a site that provides all these needs is a tall order of business, and one reason why – in most cases – we usually locate clubhouses at the beginning of routing.