Cutting Edge

Whether it’s golf, sailing, or motorsports, member clubs in metro Detroit are expanding their offerings and undertaking multimillion-dollar renovations to attract new members and enhance their amenities.
Prime Scene - As part of a renovation project, the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club transformed its Spinnaker Room into a well-appointed steakhouse. // Courtesy of John F. Martin
Prime Scene – As part of a renovation project, the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club transformed its Spinnaker Room into a well-appointed steakhouse. // Courtesy of John F. Martin

The perfect time to renovate a country club, yacht club, or any other high-end membership facility is … never. Any renovation interferes or is intrusive, to some degree, with daily activities of the facility. Golf course upgrades mean people can’t play. Dining facility and clubhouse renovations mean there’s nowhere to meet.

And there’s always the challenge of paying for the upgrades, which often falls on members in the form of assessments over and above what can be considerable dues. But if facilities aren’t updated from time to time, membership drops off and those who remain can find their experience isn’t what it used to be.

Some of metro Detroit’s most notable private clubs undertook major renovations this year, recognizing all of the above challenges and more, but determined that they and their members would be better off for the short-term pain. For many high-end membership institutions, renovations can be a tricky balance between upgrades and maintaining a traditional look as part of the facility’s charm. Making things new with-
out losing the history and familiar ambience
requires a skilled touch.

At the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club, members recognized that certain amenities — including the dining rooms — were outdated.

“From surveys and talking to our membership, they were looking for something a little more high-end,” says Katie Susko, communications director at the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club. “Still casual, but more of a modern, high-end feel.”

The club responded to that desire by turning its Spinnaker Room, which had served as a casual dining room, into a high-end steakhouse-type atmosphere, with a menu to match. Meanwhile, the club’s main dining room will be transformed into more of a casual venue — an octagon-shaped room with TVs at the bar and a menu that still fits a private club but features the likes of a  Smashburger, as well.

“It used to be very dark in there, not a lot of light, no carpeting, dark leather,” Susko says of the Spinnaker Room. “Now there’s light on the walls, dark wood trim, and brand-new tables created by Conor Ahearn that are a kind of marbled wood. With the white marble countertop at the bar and beautiful nautical artwork, it’s brighter in there and more modern-looking.”

All of the renovations were accomplished without changing the architecture of the room. “There are the beautiful columns in the center of the room, which is kind of dome-shaped,” Susko says. “All the architecture is staying the same. It’s just being modernized.”

There’s a throwback element with chandeliers being brought in that date back to the club’s opening in the 1930s. At the same time, the club’s rotunda has gotten an update. New features include dark wood floors, new white paint on the walls, and a large compass on the floor made entirely from wood.

The club is also doing an update to its Binnacle dining area, which overlooks Lake St. Clair and a pool area. That part of the project hasn’t started yet, and there’s no timetable for its conclusion. When it’s done, however, the club expects the Binnacle to include new elements like a pizza oven, in addition to the availability of “little bites” like sushi.

All the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club renovations were funded by members under an effort known as the Founders Club, and the funds were collected over several years. The club has a total of 770 main members, in addition to spouses and children.

Further downstream, at Bayview Yacht Club, which is located on the banks of the Detroit River, the need for renovations was driven by a desire to attract younger members and the realization that an aging facility wasn’t helping with that effort.

“We were faced with a situation where our membership was already down,” says Chuck Stormes, who currently holds the title of commodore with the club. “It had been trending down for some time. We were struggling to attract new members.”

With about 350 active members, and the numbers dropping, the leadership team believed an aging clubhouse was one of the reasons new members weren’t appearing. “Things were starting to fail, even things like siding that were at the end of their life,” Stormes says. “We spent an awful lot of money just putting Band-Aids on the place, so we felt it was time to move forward with a proposal to membership.”

The effort started in the spring of 2018, led by then-Commodore Brad Kimmel, who is a principal at Auburn Hills-based Commercial Contracting Corp. Funding was in place by fall 2019, and members greeted the plan with enthusiasm — so much so that, by December 2019, the Club moved out of the existing clubhouse entirely so it could be demolished.

The teardown didn’t get far before COVID-19 stopped the entire project in its tracks. For several months, Bayview Yacht Club did its best to function with no clubhouse. Then a bigger problem presented itself. Because of the pandemic, the club’s bank pulled the plug on the financing agreement. “There was no financing we could count on,” Stormes says. “It was quite something. And we had a meeting to consider, how do we get it done?”

The club stayed committed to the project, and by summer 2020 the same bank came back to the table and, by August, provided $2.8 million in financing to kickstart a project with a total cost of $5 million. The remainder came from fundraising by members.

A key to the new clubhouse construction was a concrete slab foundation, which was poured after the floor joints were pulled up. Then the new clubhouse started to take shape — a new 12,800-square-foot structure to replace the former 10,000-square-foot facility. A crucial element of the project was to maintain some of the clubhouse’s most iconic features.

“The old block building that was constructed in 1935 had what we called the Mackinac Room,” Stormes says. “It’s what everybody thinks of when they think of Bayview Yacht Club. That and the bar.”

Long Game - The Red Run Golf Club in Royal Oak is renovating its clubhouse over the winter. The project will be completed in the spring. // Courtesy of Red Run Golf Club
Long Game – The Red Run Golf Club in Royal Oak is renovating its clubhouse over the winter. The project will be completed in the spring. // Courtesy of Red Run Golf Club

So, the Mackinac Room had to be included in the new clubhouse, as did the original mahogany bar. The builders also found a way to bring back the original fireplace and mantel. “It has that tradition and warmth to it,” Stormes says.

It also has important new features, including the Canada Club Room, which seats 60 people for dinner and has windows overlooking the river, as well as a whole wall that faces west toward downtown Detroit and Belle Isle. “It’s got a contemporary feel to it,” Stormes says.

Upstairs is the Regatta Room, which is designed to have a more Southern feel reminiscent of Charleston, S.C., or Key West. The view outside includes the river, Peach Island, and Canada. “The décor is more island, small, and fun,” Stormes says. “There’s a balcony with a couch that overlooks the river. When you look into the club, there’s a younger feel.”

The effort appears to be accomplishing its goal. The club has added more than 20 active members since May 2021 and now stands at 370, with as many as 10 more waiting to join. They’re following the example of some pretty committed existing members. “We have a very loyal group at BYC,” Stormes says. “As we built momentum with our fundraising, we had people that were giving in the hundreds of dollars. And 85 percent of our membership participated in the fundraising.”

While the focus at Bayview Yacht Club is on sailing, the main attraction at Pontiac-based M1 Concourse is on a different kind of motion — auto racing. But the two shared an imperative to upgrade facilities in 2021.

M1 Concourse recently completed a 28,500- square-foot event center, which also will accommodate an as-yet-unnamed restaurant. The new facility is located along pit lane adjacent to the club’s Champion Motor Speedway.

The center has three “salons” — sectioned-off areas for events — each with a garage-style door that opens directly into the pit lane. Their names are the Donohue Salon, Gurney Salon, and Hill Salon. They were designed to be a good fit for events like product reveals, presentations, and other activities. “We’ll play host to a number of signature events and galas,” says Chris Pokorski, director of marketing and communications for M1 Concourse.

That included a fundraiser called the Checkered Flag Ball on Oct. 2, which will support an effort called M1 Mobility that works with the Pontiac Community Foundation to connect mobility-challenged residents with access to vans or to Lyft and Uber services. The new center can handle groups as small as 50 or as large as 2,500.

“If people are looking for a unique venue, whether it be a private event or a corporate event, it really adds a different element,” Pokorski says. “You can also rent out the track and do high-performance lapping, lead/follow events, or a race-track speed experience where you sit in a car and (a professional driver) takes you around a 1.5-mile, high-performance circuit.”

Also expected to enjoy the ride next spring are members of Royal Oak-based Red Run Golf Club, which is taking advantage of the winter to start a significant renovation of its clubhouse and a complete replacement of its halfway house (a small building on golf courses that allows players to grab a snack during their round), plus upgrades to the golf course.

As it stands, Red Run has closed all 18 holes until April to perform a $2.3 million renovation of its bunkers and tee boxes, along with the addition of some new bunkers, tee boxes, and forward tees. Drainage upgrades and new native grass are also part of the project.

The new halfway house will be 1,700 square feet, compared to the old one at 1,100 square feet. It will also be one building instead of two. The halfway house replacement will cost $3 million — with new restrooms on holes 6 and 13 — and the clubhouse renovation will cost an additional $3 million.

“We’re remodeling the whole first floor of the clubhouse,” says Joe Marini, general manager and COO at Red Run. “We’re building a real big bar in our mixed-grill areas that seats 22 people, and putting in a new outside porch as well as a veranda so people can sit on top of the outside porch, as well.”

Accordion-style walls will provide open-air access for those in the bar area when the weather cooperates. The clubhouse isn’t bigger in terms of square footage, but the renovations are designed to make it a more modern and comfortable space for members.

The project required a slightly earlier closing to the golf course than normal, but the club’s 780 member families voted back in 2019 for a special assessment to fund the project, as well as the timeline. Members will pay $120 per month for seven years, plus three one-time payments of $1,100 to cover the full costs.

The entire project was delayed by a year because of COVID-19, but it’s now well underway. Ironically, the pandemic made it harder to close the golf course early. “COVID-19 has really spurred golf,” Marini says. “Most clubs in the area are really busy. We had 114 families join Red Run between October of last year and October of this year.”

So many new golfers present an excellent opportunity for clubs to showcase themselves and possibly bring in new members. Clubs that have been operating for the better part of a century have plenty of history to recommend them.

But buildings age, and foundations get shaky. Golfers expect more on the links. New generations don’t want the same things as those who came before them.

The clubs that underwent renovations have high expectations that their efforts will be rewarded, not only by an elevated experience for their existing members, but also by heightened interest from prospective new ones. High-end, private-membership clubs, after all, have to keep pushing the limits of what high-end means.

Barton Hills Country Club
730 Country Club Rd.
Ann Arbor
Members: 500 (estimate)
Initiation fee: NA
Monthly fee: NA
Offerings: Signature Donald Ross golf course; tennis courts; fitness center; newly renovated dining room, wine bar, and resort-style pool complex with an outdoor pavilion

Bayview Yacht Club
730 Country Club Rd.
Members: NA
Initiation fee: NA
Monthly fee: NA
Offerings: Indoor and outdoor dining, banquet space, marina, sailing lessons and races, regattas, and cruising activities.

Birmingham Athletic Club
4033 W. Maple Rd.
Bloomfield Township
Members: NA
Initiation fee: NA
Monthly fee: NA
Offerings: Indoor and outdoor dining, two pools, tennis, squash, paddle tennis, pickleball, fitness center

Birmingham Country Club
1750 Saxon Dr.
Members: NA
Initiation fee: NA
Monthly fee: NA
Offerings: 18-hole golf course, pool, tennis, fitness facilities, indoor and outdoor dining

Bloomfield Hills Country Club
350 W. Long Lake Rd.
Bloomfield Hills
Members: NA
Initiation fee: NA
Monthly fee: NA
Offerings: Golf course

Bloomfield Open Hunt
405 E. Long Lake Rd.
Bloomfield Hills
Members: Contact for information
Initiation fee: Contact for information
Monthly fee: Contact for information
Offerings: Dining room, swimming pool, fitness studio and yoga center, indoor and outdoor tennis, platform tennis, stables, indoor and outdoor equestrian facilities, kids activity center

Country Club of Detroit
220 Country Club Dr.
Grosse Pointe Farms
Members: NA
Initiation fee: NA
Monthly fee: NA
Offerings: 18-hole golf course, clubhouse, indoor and outdoor dining, tennis, paddle tennis, pool, bowling, fitness center, children’s day camp, guest rooms, dog park

Dearborn Country Club
800 N. Military
Members: NA
Initiation fee: NA
Monthly fee: NA
Offerings: Golf, swimming, fitness, dining, banquet facilities, junior golf, swim team

Detroit Athletic Club
241 Madison St.
Membership contact:
Members: NA
Initiation fee: Multiple offerings
Monthly fee: Based on age
Offerings: Albert Kahn-designed clubhouse built in 1915 and fully restored offers full-service athletic facilities, pool, restaurants, ballrooms, meeting rooms, guest rooms, bowling alley, salon, pavilion, named No. 1 athletic club in the country

Detroit Golf Club
17911 Hamilton Rd.
Members: NA
Initiation fee: Available upon membership inquiry
Monthly fee: Available upon membership inquiry
Offerings: Two 18-hole golf courses, clubhouse, three dining venues, swimming pool, tennis courts, fitness center

Detroit Yacht Club
One Riverbank Rd., Belle Isle
Members: More than 800; less than half are boating members
Initiation fee: $1,500 for active members, $3,000 for boating active members
Monthly fee: $384 for active members, $424 for boating active members
Offerings: Restaurant and bar, outdoor and indoor pools, swim team, adult and junior sailing, kayaking, tennis courts, social activities, more than 300 boat slips for boating members

Edgewood Country Club
8399 Commerce Rd.
Commerce Township
Members: NA
Initiation fee: NA
Monthly fee: NA
Offerings: 18-hole golf course, casual and fine dining, outdoor pool, fitness center, massage therapist

Franklin Hills Country Club
31675 Inkster Rd.
Members: NA
Initiation fee: NA
Monthly fee: NA
Offerings: Golf, tennis, swimming, banquet space, dining room

Grosse Ile Golf and Country Club
9339 Bellevue
Grosse Ile
Members: 500+
Initiation fee: Starts as low as $1,000, depending on type of membership and age
Monthly fee: Starts as low as $69, depending on type of membership and age
Offerings: Donald Ross-designed 18-hole golf course; two full-service dining rooms; swimming pool; GIGCC swim team; clay and hard surface tennis courts featuring adult and youth leagues, individual instruction, and professional tennis staff; social events year-round for all ages

Grosse Pointe Yacht Club
788 Lake Shore Rd.
Grosse Pointe Shores
Members: 770
Initiation fee: Active (boating) $12,500; social $5,000
Monthly fee: Active (boating) $703; social $570
Offerings: Named a Platinum Club of the World; three dining rooms with views of Lake St. Clair; ballroom and main dining room with Italian architecture perfect for weddings, special occasions, or corporate events; fitness center; Olympic-size pool, bowling recreation center, and a family activity center; 2,440-square-foot Marine Activity Center with sailing, watersports, and boat rentals

Indianwood Golf and Country Club
1081 Indianwood Rd.
Lake Orion
Members: 500+
Initiation fee: Class A Membership NA, Class B Membership $2,999, Family Fitness Membership $1,500, Social/Pool Family Membership $750
Monthly fee: Class A Membership NA, Class B Membership $130, Family Fitness Membership $130, Social/Pool Family Membership $130
Offerings: 18-hole New and Old golf courses, driving range, Junior Golf Program for children, clubhouse, dining areas including Pipers Pub and Men’s Grill, health club, variety of club and social events

Knollwood Country Club
5050 West Maple Rd.
West Bloomfield Township
Members: NA
Initiation fee: NA
Monthly fee: NA
Offerings: 18-hole golf course; four Har-Tru clay tennis courts; aquatics facility with locker rooms, snack bar, and outdoor dining; 55,000-square-foot clubhouse; fitness center; pickleball; golf simulator studio; banquet space for 400 people; Troon Privé – Private Clubs of Distinction; member golfing privileges at Troon-managed clubs, resorts, and courses throughout the world

Lochmoor Club
1018 Sunningdale Dr.
Grosse Pointe Woods
Members: 691
Initiation fee: Interim Golf 40+ $5,000; golf intermediate (30-39) $3,000, golf junior (21-29) $1,500; social intermediate (21-34) $500; social, (35+) $1,500
Monthly fee: Interim Golf $695; golf intermediate (30-39) $595; golf junior (21-29) $376; social intermediate (21-34) $272; social (35+) $392
Offerings: 18-hole golf course; men and women’s golf leagues; creative pop-up dining events and seasonal menus; summer patio bar and outdoor dining; wine club that features wine tastings/dinners; swim team for children, tennis programs, and junior sports such as golf and tennis; Lochmoor Athletic Center with year-round golf training; four Trackman simulators; 1,000-square-foot indoor golf practice area with chipping, putting green, and sand bunker; fitness center; two tennis courts; bar and food service.

M1 Concourse
1 Concourse Dr.
Members: 150
Initiation fee: $30,000
Monthly fee: $3,950
Offerings: Seven hours of track time per week; use of M1 Fleet Vehicles such as Dodge Hellcats and Lexus Performance Coupes; instruction provided by high-level driving instructors, including notable racers such as Johnny O’Connell; autocross competitions; guest events for friends/family of Members to Drive; exclusive social events

Meadowbrook Country Club
40941 W. Eight Mile Rd.
Northville Township
Members: NA
Initiation fee: NA
Monthly fee: NA
Offerings: 18-hole golf course; 25-meter pool, lap pool, and wading pool; fountain and wading pool for little ones; private tennis programs led by Wayne Jackson; tennis events, lessons, and tournaments; indoor and outdoor dining options

Oakhurst Golf and Country Club
7000 Oakhurst Lane
Members: NA
Initiation fee: NA
Monthly fee: NA
Offerings: 18-hole golf course, six tennis courts with USPTA pro available for clinics or private lessons, executive chef, cabana bar, junior Olympic-size resort-style pool, 1,600-square-foot fitness center, variety of social functions

Oakland Hills Country Club
3951 West Maple Rd.
Bloomfield Hills
Members: NA
Initiation fee: NA
Monthly fee: NA
Offerings: South and North 18-hole golf courses, tennis, swimming, Albert Kahn-designed clubhouse

Orchard Lake Country Club
5000 West Shore Dr.
Orchard Lake Village
Members: 650
Initiation fee: NA
Monthly fee: NA
Offerings: 18-hole golf course and driving range; six-tiered clay tennis courts and four platform tennis courts; seasonal menus prepared by award-winning chefs; lakefront dining; ballroom for wedding celebrations; racquet classes, competitions, and tournament training for all ages; personal training and group fitness programs; sailing clinics and swim lessons for children

Paint Creek Country Club
2375 Stanton Rd.
Lake Orion
Members: NA
Annual fees: $99 to $5,249
Offerings: Golf course, fitness center, pool, 20,000-square-foot clubhouse, 300-seat dining room

Pine Lake Country Club
3300 Pine Lake Rd.
Orchard Lake
Members: NA
Initiation fee: NA
Monthly fee: NA
Offerings: Golf course, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, Olympic-size pool, fitness center, clubhouse, dining room, grill

Plum Hollow Country Club
21631 Lahser Rd.
Members: 400
Initiation fee: $30,000 Stock, $15,000 intermediate, $12,000 social
Monthly fee: Varies based on membership category
Offerings: Golf course, caddie program, three Har-Tru clay tennis courts, Olympic-size pool

Polo Fields Golf and Country Club
5200 Polo Fields Dr.
Ann Arbor
Members: NA
Initiation fee: NA
Monthly fee: NA
Offerings: Golf course, clubhouse, dining, pool, lounge area, snack bar

Red Run Country Club
2036 Rochester Rd.
Royal Oak
Members: 690 families
Initiation fee: $6,000 (social), $20,000 (golf)
Monthly fee: $331 (social), $755 (golf)
Offerings: Golf course, Olympic-size pool, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, fitness center, indoor golf practice area, bowling  leagues

Shenandoah Country Club
5600 Walnut Lake Rd.
West Bloomfield Township
Members: NA
Initiation fee: NA
Monthly fee: NA
Offerings: Golf course (open to public), clubhouse, dining, partitionable 11,336-square-foot banquet room, two pre-function areas, 4,000-square-foot outdoor terrace

Tam-O-Shanter Country Club
5051 Orchard Lake Rd.
West Bloomfield Township
248-855-1900, Ext. 408
Members: NA
Initiation fee: NA
Monthly fee: NA
Offerings: Golf course, clubhouse, dining, four hydro-clay and two hard-surface tennis courts, Olympic-size pool, fitness center, banquet facilities, youth programs

Wabeek Club
4000 Clubgate Dr.
Bloomfield Township
Members: NA
Initiation fee: NA
Monthly fee: NA
Offerings: Golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus and Pete Dye, clubhouse, formal and casual dining, pool, tennis, fitness center, spa, banquet and event space

Western Golf and Country Club
14600 Kinloch
Redford Township
Members: 400
Initiation fee: NA
Monthly fee: NA
Offerings: Donald Ross-designed golf course, clubhouse rebuilt after 2018 fire, dining, pool, tennis, snack bar

*Wyndgate Country Club
1975 W. Gunn Rd.
Rochester Hills
Members: NA
Initiation fee: NA
Monthly fee: NA
Offerings: Two 18-hole golf courses, clubhouse, gardens, banquet and event facilities