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Modern Day Private Clubs Evolving into More Active-Healthier Lifestyles

By Scott Kauffman

More than 500 years after Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon first landed in Florida to supposedly find the Fountain of Youth, many retirees like Linda Kortlandt keep following de Leon’s path to the Sunshine State in a pursuit to discover life’s secrets and solutions to looking and staying forever young.


For the millions of Baby Boomers now enjoying their prime sunsetting years of retirement, one way this generation is trying to slow the aging process is living an active and healthier lifestyle like never before. And where these attitudes and behaviors are prominently at play is the evolving modern private golf and country club of the future – where communities from coast to coast are investing hundreds of millions in reimagined or newly built leisure-oriented amenities in the past couple years.

A perfect example of where this dramatic shift toward leisure-time pursuits is pronounced is Audubon Country Club in Naples, Fla., where Kortlandt has a second home and loves playing the popular 18-hole course designed by the late Joe Lee.  But the club’s latest attraction creating quite the stir is the newly opened 19,000-square-foot Lifestyle Center.

This two-story, $7 million amenity replaced what was once the club’s modest 2,500-square-foot Courtside Café building that had a small little kitchen with a few tables and small tennis shop, according to club general manager Michael Rodriguez of Troon, whose Troon Prive division oversees the member-owned club.  The focal point of the new Lifestyle Center is the new and improved Courtside Café which will be substantially larger and feature an indoor/outdoor bar separated by a NanaWall that can slide open during Florida’s warm winter months, display kitchen, poolside dining, and increased outdoor lounge areas with fire pit tables.

The new fitness center, located on the building’s second floor, will feature state-of-the-art strength training and cardio equipment areas, two exercise rooms for fitness classes, a massage waiting lounge and two new massage treatment rooms, and men’s and ladies’ locker rooms. Rodriguez, who became the club’s general manager in March 2015, says the new facility’s pent-up demand portends to a prosperous future for the private club community.

“The lifestyle center will put us to the forefront of facilities in terms of fitness,” says Rodriguez, who planned to officially open the new facility by the end of August  “It’s going to be a gathering spot and will just be a good place for everybody to enjoy each other’s company and to just socialize in the safety of the gate. … The real estate agents are telling us our new building is selling all of these homes in here now.”

If that’s not enough leisure-oriented options, the new lifestyle center is adjacent to the club’s seven Har-Tru tennis courts and two bocce courts. 


Additionally, a new HydroGrid exhibition tennis court was added to the mix as well as two gel surface pickleball courts.

Another place where private club members are yearning to stay active, healthier and more youthful is Belfair in Bluffton, S.C. Among the highlights of Belfair’s new $8 million capital improvement project is a new 21,000-square-foot fitness center – more than twice the size of the previous facility - and an outdoor pool complex that rivals any top-ranked resort.

General manager/chief operating officer Ken Kosak of Troon Prive, says Belfair’s 36 holes of Tom Fazio-designed golf still scores as the No. 1 amenity based on recent member surveys, but fitness and food-and-beverage are making incredible gains, driven by the youthful nature of the club.

“Members are flocking to (the pool complex), and we’ve taken the stance as long as you’ve got a shirt, shorts or flip flops on, it’s OK,” Kosak says. “We just want you to be able to come down and have a good time.”

Belfair’s new “lifestyle center” is playing out just as it was envisioned by the Atlanta-based architectural group Kuo Diedrich Chi. KDC principal Mark Diedrich says his firm remains busy planning and “placemaking” similar leisure lifestyle hubs at numerous other private clubs from Lake Toxaway, Mountain Air and Balsam Mountain in North Carolina to Forest Lake and Colleton River in South Carolina to name a few.

Kortlandt, who is now Audubon’s club presidents, says the Lifestyle Center is “going to respond to what people are looking for” in a club environment these days – starting with more highly sought after casual outdoor dining venues.

“Who knew this was going to be even more important now than ever,” Kortlandt points out. “And then with the new state-of-the-art fitness center. I think the membership’s going to love that.”

Kortlandt, who is an avid golfer of nearly 30 years and resident member at Diamond Run Golf Club in Sewickley, Pa., during the summer months, says she may even take up tennis again. “I’m threatening to go out and get a lesson and see how I feel about that again,” she says with a youthful smile. “It’s another great opportunity to stay active in the community. There’s just so many different ways to get out and socialize and live a healthy lifestyle here."

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