New Country Club owner Bob Husband talks with Men's Club members.
Bob Husband, whose company is buying the Country Club, shared his thoughts about club improvements at a Men’s Club dinner Wednesday night. Among his topics were the need for staff training, a fitness-swim center, creating indoor-outdoor spaces and a quality driving range. His goal: to make the club the social center of the community.
Nearly 100 men attended the dinner in the club’s Murieta Room. Husband spoke after dinner, offering remarks and taking questions for a half-hour.
He cautioned that his ideas wouldn’t all be realized in the first six months or year. But in a couple of years, he said, members should be experiencing a different club.
Last February, the club announced that Husband, a veteran of the golf industry, was heading a company, Bellagio Road LLC, that wanted to help the club buy out its lease and then assume ownership. A membership vote on the sale won 95 percent approval. Last month, the club announced the purchase deal had been completed at a price of $4 million. The transaction is in escrow.
Part of the deal calls for the new owners to spend $3.5 million on capital improvements. Here are Husband’s thoughts on how that money might be spent.
Husband said he will look to the members to help him prioritize his spending: “For example on the golf course, what’s your highest priority? Is it bunkers? Is it greens? Is it leveling the crowning of the tees? Is it conditioning?” He added, “We’re going to work really hard to try to understand what you want. Because what I want really doesn’t make any difference if it doesn’t satisfy you.”
‘Moments of truth’ for a club
Establishing “traditions and standards” for the club will begin with training for all club employees, he said. As he told members in meetings last winter, Husband said he wants the club to shine in “moments of truth,” experiences that set an impression of the club.
“When you arrive, you have an impression,” he said. “It’s a moment of truth. You go to the front door and you grab hold of it: It’s filthy; it’s got junk all over it. Or if it’s perfectly shined and looked like somebody just finished it, that’s a different impression.
“By the time at a golf course when you get to the first tee, you’ve made many of those ... decisions. By the time you get to the first tee, you’re 80 percent there.”
The fitness-swim facility
He said it’s possible the construction of a fitness-swim facility could be delayed by the need to perform an environmental impact report. If that happens, Husband said he’s looking to get a double-wide trailer, “nicely landscaped and presented,” to house fitness equipment temporarily.
When a member suggested it was fine if the fitness-swimming center was delayed, Husband said the contract with the club requires the new owners to provide the facility. “I also believe that’s really key to the whole development,” Husband added, “and getting more young people involved and gradually sliding them into golf.”
Club design and aesthetics
He said lighting and signage is extremely important around the club, as is creating a sense of arrival.
He asked the attendees to imagine, “When you turn onto Alameda Drive, at some point along there we’d like to put something that says you’ve arrived at the club. I think that’s important, because right now when you drive in, you really don’t know. ... We would create a sense of arrival. We would landscape everything up. We would resurface the street. So it feels new. So it feels exciting. It feels like there’s something happening.”
Becoming Rancho Murieta’s ‘social center’
“It’s not that people like living here, they absolutely love living here,” Husband said, “so what we need to do is not ruin that, but to add to it by, hopefully, restoring the golf course and the club and adding some additional amenities to where everybody who lives here will feel left out if they’re not participating in what’s going on here. We can make it exciting. ... We can have stuff going on every night to attract people here. ... I want to make it the social center of this community.”
Redesigning the clubhouse
Husband said he met that day with a Los Angeles designer who has handled 25 or 30 renovations for him. “She is tremendous,” he said, “especially at taking older structures and adapting them to make them spectacular. She had some great ideas. I’ll just throw one at you; you can tell me I’m stupid or crazy.
“One of them was that the locker rooms are not very highly used. Somebody told me there are 25 men’s lockers being used and maybe half that in the women’s.” Each room could be split between lockers and a card room. “This is her idea, and she just came up with it out of the blue. I think it’s a great idea, because ... I’ve been out here a couple of times when the ladies didn’t have enough room to play – mahjong, bridge or whatever.”
He drew applause with the suggestion that the club make more use of its outdoor space.
He suggested the Murieta Room should have a window wall that opens onto a patio. “In the 19th Hole, it’s, to me, absolutely imperative that we create an outdoor patio there, with a couple of fireplaces at each end, some heaters, so that 250 or 275 days a year we can open that up. With the same kind of deal – take out some of the panels and just walk right out there. And hopefully we can use that for Parasol Room as well.”
He spoke multiple times about improving the driving range, expanding it to a 300-yard range. “We could create a spectacular driving range," he said. "And I’m really big on driving ranges. I think they’re a key.”
Asked about the ball machine, he said he’s not a fan of the machine or of limited-flight balls. “I’d love to get rid of that ball machine at the absolute first opportunity, and I’d like to regrade that range to create some better targets to orient the balls more to the center,” he said.
He said on their list, but not in the first phase, is the possibility of creating a short-game area where the upper parking lot is now.
Gathering community feedback
He said the new ownership will begin to gather member – and non-member – opinions about what the club should be.
“We’re going to do some focus groups ... about the clubhouse, about food and beverage, about the golf course conditions, golf course improvements, and we’re going to (do them) about the fitness and swimming we’re going to build.” He said they’ll talk to younger members of the community to try to understand their price sensitivity to a swim-fitness center. “So we’re going to talk to as many people as we can.”
He said, “It’s our job to try and figure out what are the key things that you want in the club from an improvements standpoint, from a service standpoint, from a food and beverage standpoint, and from a fitness and wellness standpoint.”
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