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The renovated John’s Island West Clubhouse provides a peaceful oasis for golf enthusiasts

bringing a clubhouse up to par


The renovated John’s Island West Clubhouse provides a peaceful oasis for golf enthusiasts

bringing a clubhouse up to par by mary beth vallar Photography by gridley + graves

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The assignment: 1.) Renovate the John’s Island West Clubhouse so that the clubhouse would be as impressive as the club’s championship golf course. 2.) Maintain the original footprint but update the facility to meet today’s standards of functionality; create adequate dining and gathering spaces, and add outdoor seating. And be sure to take advantage of the glorious view. 3.) Furnish it with custom-made pieces and use whatever architectural and decorating means are available to ensure the space is acoustically pleasant. 4.) Strip away all vegetation that blocks the view of the golf course and re-landscape, using plantings and natural materials to enhance the compatibility of the building with its surroundings. 5.) Stay the course despite the naysayers who believe the original 26-year-old clubhouse is perfectly fine, thank you, and only requires some repairs. 6.) Oh, yes, and one more thing. Complete the job in record time, between the end of the season in May and the opening in November. Mission accomplished!

I

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t took a strong team to pull off the complete renovation of the John’s Island West Clubhouse over last summer, and such a team did just that to the universal approval of the people who count – the members of the John’s Island Club. The team included Tommy FarnsRe-landscaping was a major part of the project. worth, president of the John’s Island Right: Aerial view of the renovated clubhouse and its surroundings. Club when the decision to renovate the facility was made; Connie McGlynn, chairman of the Facilities Committee, and committee members Laura McDermott and Terry Young; David Moulton and Scott Layne of the architectural firm Moulton Layne P.L.; Janet Perry, interior designer with J Banks Design Group; project manager Charles Croom of Croom Construction; landscape designer Warren E. McCormick; Brian Kroh, John’s Island Club general manager; Rex Wilson, John’s Island Club facilities manager, and Greg Pheneger, John’s Island golf course manager.


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The clubhouse under construction. Right: The redesigned exterior of the clubhouse causes many to think it is a brand-new building.

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The finished product met all of their expectations, and the many kudos made the hard work and long hours gratifying. “This is the first project I’ve been involved with in 25 years where the response has been 100 percent favorable,” Kroh says. A frequently expressed view is, “I can’t believe it’s the same building.” Comments from enthusiastic members on seeing the clubhouse for the first time include, “It’s a home run!” and “The clubhouse is to die for!” And there is even this remark made sotto voce to another member: “I’m not telling people whom I voted for president and I’m not telling people I didn’t think this renovation was a good idea.” In fact, McGlynn admits, “This generally was not a popular project.” However, the reasons to renovate the decades-old clubhouse were clear to Farnsworth. “All clubs and their facilities must continuously improve not only for the enjoyment of their members but in order to attract new members. Over the life of a building, its functionality changes and it must be updated to meet today’s standards. It was time to do this with the West Clubhouse. And while the majority of the structure was in good condition, the building had some maintenance issues that we needed to address.” The final impetus to renovating, as opposed to just patching, was the


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Seating on the covered terrace. Right: A rounded, open porch at the northeast corner of the clubhouse provides a panoramic view.

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desire to bring the clubhouse up to the quality of the golf course. “We all know that we have a championship Tom Fazio golf course, recognized in the golf world as one of his best,” Farnsworth says. “But we no longer had a fine golf-club facility to go along with such a fine course. “The overall experience needed to be enhanced. The golf experience is not just golf. It’s also dining and it’s the opportunity to be with fellow members in a pleasant setting. So we basically have created an updated setting for the members to enjoy not only the golf course, but also the overall club experience.” McGlynn’s Facilities Committee unanimously agreed with Farnsworth and together they brought the rest of the team on board to focus on a shared vision. As she put it: “Our goal was to create a spectacular building that would celebrate the view.” So, at the end of last season, they gutted the interior, removed plantings around the clubhouse to open up the view to the golf course,


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The main dining room under construction. Right: Upon entering the dining room, the visitor’s eye immediately takes in the room and the view beyond.

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and began the process of breathing new life into the original structure. Within the existing footprint they created four separate pods: central dining area, bar area, Grill Room and library. Outdoor seating was also a priority. So at the northeast corner of the clubhouse they created a rounded open porch that provides a virtual panoramic view of the surroundings. In addition, they added a wide covered terrace that extends from the central dining room through retractable glass doors. “We also felt it was important to make the clubhouse inviting for people who are not there to play golf. They can come for lunch and enjoy the view,” McGlynn adds. And what a view it is! The clubhouse sits on the highest elevation on the course, which was built on the natural sand ridge that runs through the county. It is now possible to gaze from the clubhouse and see as far as the Wabasso Bridge.

With the use of “quiet” colors, the space was designed to flow effortlessly through the interior and out to the vistas beyond. “The inside and outside work together,” says Janet Perry, who also was the interior designer on the John’s Island Fitness Center and the Beach Club. “The colors that we used on the inside are timeless – mauves, taupes, blues, grays and different shades of greens. Everything you see outside is inspiration for the inside. “We did pop in just a touch of color, but our intent was that when you come in, your eye doesn’t stop on the inside. It keeps right on going to the outside. The details are there but nothing demands your attention.” To fully experience the clubhouse and its view, the entrance was paramount. “The elevation is high and the view is exquisite,” Scott Layne says. “We wanted to make sure that people enter through the front door and experience the project as it was meant to be experienced, and so


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The Pro Shop is located to the right of the foyer. Right: In the bar, an antique prayer chair – called a prie-dieu, which in French means “pray to God” – was the inspiration for the barstools.

we created an entrance that would be the easiest and most logical path of entry after dropping off golf clubs and parking. Now when people walk through the front door, there is a ‘WOW’ factor. They immediately see the great view of the golf course and beyond.”

J

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ust inside the entrance is a small pro shop. The locker rooms are also located at the front of the clubhouse off the foyer. The volume ceiling of the original structure was reworked in what is now the central dining area, and it enhances the space’s visual openness. However, the ceiling was lowered in the bar area. “We removed volume by putting a flat ceiling in the bar so we could create a different environment – a casual area that would be a popular spot to meet friends,” Layne explains. The bar was an added feature, where none existed in the original clubhouse. A partial wall with a two-sided, working fireplace separates the main

dining area from the Grill Room, which is made to feel comfortable even if the room is less than full because of its booths. “Everybody loves a booth, and we have seen how successful they are at the Beach Club,” Perry says. “So we found a way to design an area to use three booths in the Grill Room. We increased the length of the benches so you can easily fit six people in each one. They have high backs, and there is a step up into them so they are very cozy.” “By creating the different environments, we have provided options and flexibility for the members,” Layne adds. “Do they want to socialize or have a private conversation? Do they prefer the openness of the dining room, the golf terrace or the porch, or do they want the intimacy of the Grill Room. It’s a matter of choice.” The team also paid considerable attention to the sound quality of the interior. In the dining areas they used a minimum of wood, and chose carpeting on the floors, upholstered pieces and soft seating. Leather wall


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The same fireplace before renovation.

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panels in the Grill Room and acoustical panels in the ceiling also help to absorb as much sound as possible. All the furniture was custommade for the clubhouse, with McGlynn scouting for ideas. For example, she found an antique chair that she suggested would be perfect for the dining chairs. She sent a photo to Perry, who in turn worked with her furniture manufacturers to customize the chairs that are now found at the small tables in the central dining area and in the Grill Room. In the bar, an antique prayer chair – called a prie-dieu, which in French means “pray to God” – became the inspiration for the barstools. The stools are fashioned so that people can rest their arms on the back of the stool. The bar countertop is made of composite glass, combining different earth-tone shades of recycled glass and items such as sea shells. All the chandeliers were custommade and Perry points to the two in the pro shop that are especially meaningful to club members. “We took a panoramic photo of the par 3, 13th hole of the course and sent it to the manufacturer, where craftsmen carved it into the diameter of the chandelier. The clubhouse is full of little treasures like that.” Other treasures include two photos in the foray – of a man and woman golfer – by famed New York photographer Rodney Smith.

The double-sided fireplace as seen from the Grill Room.

The exterior of the clubhouse also was renovated, which has caused many to think it is a brand-new building. Such features that update the clubhouse’s exterior include railings that surround the entire structure, three staircases, new doors and windows and a new roof sporting wood shingles. David Moulton explains, “One technical challenge was the 30-foot sliding glass doors that pocket into the dining room walls. To accommodate handicap accessibility and hurricane wind loads, each door weighs 350 pounds – yet can easily be

moved with two fingers.” The clubhouse’s re-landscaping was an important finishing touch to the project. Landscape Designer Warren McCormick eliminated vegetation that had veiled the expansive view and also eliminated most of the nonindigenous plants in the surrounding area. “We decided quite early to rely on a small selection of native plants that already exist throughout the golf course property,” he says. “We eliminated sod as much as possible and covered significant exposed portions of the site with


View of the par-3, 13th hole, with a portion of the 18th green in the foreground.

Perennial Peanut and White Fountain grass in order to reduce future water consumption and minimize undue plant grooming. “In concert with the established character of the golf course, meandering expanses of open sand were left exposed for a natural look, while beds of pine straw mulch provided a source of unification with the existing native hickory and other vegetation that is found throughout the periphery of the property.” McCormick also planted several large “Ranch Oaks” – some 30 feet tall with 25-foot spreads – to frame the arriving view of the clubhouse from the adjacent 18th fairway. “Our clients in John’s Island have been raving about the new West Course Clubhouse and when I inquire as to how they like the landscaping, they

tell me that they didn’t know anything was done. That makes it the most successful planting design that we could ever have hoped for!”

T

he entire project was completed in a record time of five months. According to Croom Construction project manager Charles Croom, a job of this magnitude normally takes eight months. He worked closely with John’s Island Facilities Manager Rex Wilson to push the project to its timely and successful conclusion. “We often served as cheerleaders as well as project managers to make sure everyone knew how important this project was. “We realized that working nights and every weekend was the only way we could pull this off, and that’s what

we did. The key was the commitment that everyone at Croom and all the subcontractors brought to the table. Janet Perry was an integral part throughout, and Scott and David were there to support us all the way through. It was a great team.” Wilson agrees. “There was a lot of good effort by a lot of good people, and we are proud that the members have a facility they can be proud of.” A prestigious group of senior golfers was among the first to experience the new clubhouse less than a month after it opened, and Mark Mulvoy is one such John’s Island Club member who was proud to show it off. The Society of Seniors, an elite organization of senior amateur golfers, held a tournament at the John’s Island West Course November 30 through December 2. Mulvoy, the retired

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Visitors to the John’s Island West Clubhouse may now catch a glimpse of the Wabasso Bridge in the distance.

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editor and publisher of Sports Illustrated, serves as president of the Society of Seniors and was responsible for bringing the tournament to the course. “The Society of Seniors is the strongest group of senior amateur players in the world,” he says. “It includes every living senior U.S. amateur champion and a number of British amateur champions as well. We play eight to 10 tournaments a year – scratch, no handicap allowances – on the best courses in the country.” Mulvoy, who has written extensively about golfcourse architecture, calls the John’s Island West Course, “a masterpiece.” Designed by Tom Fazio, it was the first course in Indian River County to be built on the sand ridge in order to take advantage of the natural variations in elevation. “Three aspects of the course point to the genius of Fazio’s design,” Mulvoy says. “First, no two consecutive holes go in the same direction; second, you rarely see other golfers when you are on a fairway; and third, this course has the most distinctive and challenging second shot on its four par-5 holes of any course in the country. The second shot on these holes must be played with consummate skill and direction because of the barriers and hazards out about 100 yards from the green. It is absolutely genius architecture.” And now, he adds, the golf club has a clubhouse that matches the excellence of the golf course. “Everything about it is perfect. And we needed it! In the old clubhouse we didn’t have a place to sit, have a drink, look at the vistas and relax. It was just in and out. Now we have this new facility that is charming and beautiful. It just doesn’t get any better.” `

Vero Beach Magazine John's Island West Clubhouse  

Article in Vero Beach Magazine on John's Island West Clubhouse

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