Given the size of their enormous cohort, Millennials wield incredible clout to change society. Since maturing into young adults, they’ve been fingered as culprits behind the demise of a great many societal habits and norms, from the donning of business suits and the shopping of department stores to the use of banks and golf clubs.
Given that last item, they’re not surprisingly also being named the guilty parties in the slow death of U.S. country clubs. In the place of sport-centric, niche settings, however, Millennials are embracing a new phenomenon. That is the emergence of members-only social clubs catering to varying, often active and outdoorsy, interests and demographics.
As one-time country clubs are repurposed into social clubs, several design trends are emerging. Because members value experiences above all, a broad array of food and beverage offerings and the correct culinary experience are essential. Social clubs also are seen as places where members can partake of work-ready spaces allowing them to work as hard as they play. Finally, social clubs take advantage of the natural world around them to serve up fitness activities ranging from trail running to skiing.
Officials of architectural firms tackling the conversion of country clubs to social clubs understand this is an undertaking with no shortage of headwinds.
“Any time you’re adapting a space once used for something else, you’re going to encounter challenges,” says Rebecca Stone, AIA, LEED BD+C with Denver, Colo.-based OZ Architecture, a firm involved in several such conversions.
“Layout updates are often needed to bring the flow of these spaces into current guest and operations expectations. For example, many country clubs had very formal dining rooms and today this experience is more open, activated with the bar, and flows indoor to outdoor. Despite the challenges, we also find a lot of inspiration in adaptive reuse projects. Outdated or historic properties can often be a source of some really fun, quirky ideas and inspiration for designers.”
Examples of today’s members-only social clubs include the following. Designed by OZ Architecture, Gravity Haus in Aspen, Colo. is a social club designed for mountain-loving outdoor enthusiasts who like access to premium gear and expert-led fitness programs.
Park House Dallas is a private social club that provides curated experiences within a modern social setting designed by architecture and interior design study Droese Raney, which focuses upon commercial, hospitality and retail projects nationwide.
HEIMAT, in Los Angeles, is a pioneering social club concept that incorporates fitness, exercise, wellness, fine dining and socialization. The club is designed by INCO STUDIO, focused upon motion design, corporate design and interior architecture.
It’s important for architectural firms to pinpoint the distinctive facets that make the property unique, whether they be part of the built environment or alternatively are qualities members believe intrinsic to the experience, Stone says. These elements become parts of the design story as expansion or renovation plans are outlined.
“The goal of each property is very different, and as designers, we look to ensure that a strong sense of place is achieved for every project we touch,” Stone says, adding OZ team members of differing generations are encouraged to deliver their thoughts about the properties and projects upon which the firm is focused.
“Gen Z and Millennials are changing the conversation around social clubs,” she concludes. “The outcome has been a significant trend toward creating active social spaces where members can work, play, work out, meet friends, relax and bring their families. Clubs are being positioned to serve a much deeper demographic than just golfers in the country clubs of old. And this new generation wants a more casual environment where all aspects of their lifestyles are wrapped in.”