Popular new “resort” touches in its renovated and expanded North Complex have positioned Scarsdale GC for an exciting new era.
The directions posted on the club website for how to get to Scarsdale Golf Club are as helpful for what they tell travelers NOT to do (in all capital letters, to make sure the message gets across) as for the detailed routing instructions that are provided. Clearly, when writing the directions, the staff at Scarsdale GC—located in the hamlet of Hartsdale, 20 miles north of New York City in Westchester County—wanted to do everything possible to help members and guests avoid the perils of making a wrong turn when trying to navigate the New York metropolitan area.
The club has now gone out of its way to ensure that once people arrive at Scarsdale GC, they can also have an experience that is as far removed from the hassles of the city as possible. To complement its long-standing status as one of the area’s top recreational havens—with a history that dates to 1898 and includes a golf course designed in the 1920s by A.W. Tillinghast, as well as active tennis, platform tennis, bowling and swimming programs—the club recently unveiled the results of a $7.5 million renovation and expansion of its North Complex facility, which adjoins its classic clubhouse that was built in 1921 and renovated in 2004.
The North Complex project added a much-needed fitness center and made major facility improvements to the ladies’ locker room, pro shop, cart barn, bag room and pool area, as well as snack venues at the pool and at the golf course turn. Just as significantly, the project included subtle touches designed to enhance the “resort-type setting,” as General Manager/Chief Operating Officer William Minard describes it, that has put Scarsdale GC on the map as one of the New York area’s most accessible sources of secluded recreation and relaxation.
“[Scarsdale GC] definitely has a unique advantage with how its property is set up,” agrees Rick Snellinger, President of Chambers, the Baltimore, Md., firm that served as the architect for the North Complex project. “It’s in the middle of the biggest metropolitan area in the country, and you can walk to a train station from its parking lot and get to Manhattan in minutes. But when you’re at the club, you feel like you’re nestled in a place that’s 100 miles from any city.”
Embracing the Challenge
The North Complex project was driven by a need to upgrade the ladies’ locker room while also addressing an existing structure that was on its last legs. The building, which had not been significantly renovated since 1956 and was feeling the effects of deferred maintenance, needed a major upgrade to bring not only the ladies’ locker room, but also the pool changing facilities and golf support areas it contained up to par with the men’s locker room and other clubhouse features housed in the main building.
At the same time, Minard, who came to Scarsdale GC from nearby Westchester Country Club in 2006, and who is a Culinary Institute of America graduate, saw that the project could also offer the opportunity for taking auxiliary F&B venues on the property to new levels, and for introducing fitness as an amenity that would be essential to the club’s future success (he had overseen installation of a new fitness center at Westchester CC in 2004).
The challenge came from the fact that the North Complex building was connected to the club’s swimming pool, which still had a useful life. So the project had to be shaped, as Snellinger describes it, as “a retrofit where essentially a new building would be wrapped around a major component that wouldn’t change.”
That’s not to say, though, that the pool area would be left untouched. A case can be made, in fact, that while what was spent on pool-related parts of the project was relatively minor, the impact from those changes was perhaps the most immediate and dramatic. The pool enhancements were also important to stay competitive in a market that not only includes other private clubs but the high-quality municipal pools of affluent Westchester County.
Playgrounds for All Ages
The pool area work included expansion of the kiddie pool and the addition of water-play features (aqua domes, bubblers and dump buckets). At the same time, Scarsdale GC’s “bigger kids” got a great new “play” area of their own, in the form of a new, elevated adult deck (designated for 21 and older) that includes an outdoor bar.
The deck was created in what had been a nondescript eating area for a standard pool snack bar. It now features comfortable and colorfully cushioned new outdoor furniture, decking that resembles hardwood flooring, and a distinctive pergola assembled in a series of tight, trellis-like grids. “The way it’s set up, it provides tremendous shade while still having an open feeling,” says Minard. “And we left it unpainted, to add to the resort-like setting.”
Because the adult deck sits atop the part of the North Complex building that was being bumped out to accommodate the need, on its main level, for an expanded lounge area in the ladies locker room, it also gained a huge bonus from being moved closer to Scarsdale GC’s Tillinghast golf course.
“Now we have a million-dollar view that gives us more opportunities, and flexibility, for parties and weddings,” says Minard. “Eventually I can see us offering some a la carte dining out there, too.”
Already, on an everyday basis, all levels of the new-look pool area (which also got a complete makeover with high-quality pavers) have been seeing impressive levels of traffic that began with a Grand Opening party that attracted over 300 people.
One major new draw that has kept members coming back is the chopped salad bar at the enhanced cafe, with full-service kitchen, that replaced the previous snack bar. “We wanted to go beyond your typical burgers and other snack bar food,” Minard says. He set up a line where a full variety of options are offered, including six dressings, for customized personal salads that are made as they are ordered, one at a time, in an operation that emphasizes freshness and cleanliness with every step (chopping is done with a special two-handled blade, mixing is done in a wooden bowl, cutting boards are washable and new mats are used for every salad).
“It’s been a home run from the start,” says Minard. “We’ve been averaging 50 salads on weekdays, and on weekends we make from 150 to 200 per day. The next step is to start making wraps from the same line.”
The excitement over the new views gained through the project carried over to the other side of the expanded North Complex facility as well, with treadmills and other equipment in the new fitness center positioned to also enjoy panoramic golf course vistas.
While Scarsdale GC was late to get into the fitness game, it could draw from one huge built-in advantage to help it catch up in a hurry. “At any time we’ll have 80 to 90 members using our parking lot to commute [to New York] each day,” says Minard. (Hartsdale’s train station is just a short walk from the club.)
Scarsdale GC also had the benefit of Minard’s experience with the Westchester CC fitness center. “I had a good sense for what to expect in terms of size needed, and the usage it would get,” he says. Over 3,000 square feet was dedicated to fitness in the expanded North Complex building, divided among a main workout room and a separate aerobics studio.
Management of Scarsdale GC’s new fitness operation has been contracted out to The Salus Group, which has developed a niche with private clubs in the New York market, including the Apawamis Club in Rye, N.Y. (“Breathing Room,” C&RB, June 2009) and Greenwich (Conn.) CC (“A Name That Works,” C&RB, June 2008). Now that it’s open, Minard has seen a quick climb to steady usage that he doesn’t expect to subside; he’s planning for 365 days of 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. operation.
“All the statistics show [fitness] is an amenity a club now has to have to attract members,” he says. “And when you have it, it has a positive effect on how all members use other parts of your facilities, too.”
From Halfway House to Midway Cafe
Activity at the fitness center has certainly been a big reason—but not the only one—for the success of the Midway Cafe, the club’s unique new take on F&B that’s designed to serve not only golfers as they come on or off the course or make the turn, but also those using other parts of the North Complex. And for many, the cafe has become a destination all its own.
Inspired by retail set-ups he’s seen at boutique hotels and resorts—there’s that word again—Minard says the goal was “to go beyond a limited menu with no hot food and build a cafe that mirrors Starbucks’ grab-and-go concept.” As part of following that model, he’s put several flat-screen TVs in the cafe and also pipes in music through a sophisticated sound system that can be switched to TV sound if needed or requested.
And to really make the comparison complete, Minard—in what to his knowledge is the first such arrangement in a private club setting—arranged with the California-based Peet’s Coffee & Tea chain to sell, and make, Peet’s-branded products in the cafe.
“We buy the product direct and make it on our equipment, with our staff,” Minard says. “It’s a win-win because they’re trying to get more of a presence in the East, and it gives us a better look and product and adds credibility to what we’re offering.
“The feedback I get all the time when members come in here is they say this makes them feel like where they like to go when they travel,” he adds. “And that’s exactly what I was aiming for.”
Bringing Drawings to Life
To Chambers’ Rick Snellinger, great views and concepts like the Midway Cafe are what distinguish inspired projects from ones that simply create nice new buildings.
“I tell managers and Board members all the time, it’s not just about the bricks and mortar,” Snellinger says. “It’s also about the member/guest experience. And it doesn’t have to be something major to have a significant benefit—[the Scarsdale project] shows how things that didn’t involve that much cost in the grand scheme of things have helped to make a real difference and take a needed project to another level.
“The spectacular views from the adult deck and fitness center are hidden gems you can’t really know about just by putting lines on a drawing. And halfway houses or snack areas at the turn are often overlooked or treated as afterthoughts. But when you add cutting-edge ideas and good operators to a sound building plan, that’s where you really get the energy and rejuvenation that a renovation project should provide.”
At Scarsdale GC, that new energy is tangible, not only in how existing members have embraced the changes brought by the project, but in significant buzz and interest among prospective new members as well.
“We’re incredibly busy in all areas, and revenues in some outlets are off the charts,” says Minard. “We’ve also gained over 50 new members since the start of the year, and what we were bringing on stream through this project was definitely a big part of that. You have to have the right facilities to be competitive, and I think we’ve now built the right things and added the right amenities that will help maintain us as a leading family club for many years to come.”
For a complete list of Scarsdale GC’s fitness center equipment, click here.
Click on the following links to see site plans for the North Complex project: