Glen Ridge Country Club renovations hit the midway point

Photos by Daniel Jackovino At the left of the clubhouse are the bays of the pro shop where the virtual-golf machines are located.
Photos by Daniel Jackovino
At the left of the clubhouse are the bays of the pro shop where the virtual-golf machines are located.

GLEN RIDGE, NJ — According to Glen Ridge Country Club President James Kirkos, renovations to the club are on schedule and have reached the halfway point of the 16-month timeline.

On a tour of the facility last week, among construction vehicles, exposed steel beams and workers, Kirkos said there had been no interruption of sports activities with only the main clubhouse being off-limits to members.
One new amenity that has been added during the renovations is the golf and tennis pro shop.

Previously, the pro shop was in the clubhouse. But expanding it would have eliminated some dining area so the shop was taken outside, according to Kirkos.
“We dug a hole here and a building was built here,” he said, while showing off the interior of the shop. “This renovation was about making the club functional for the members. This was an upgrade to make members happy.”

The cost for the shop was $1.5 million, according to Kirkos.
If happiness is a golf club, the pro shop has a special room that offers two hitting bays for virtual golfing experiences. One bay has a choice of 20 world-class courses from which a member can select to play a virtual round.

To play, a picture of the course, from the vantage point of the golfer, is projected onto a high-impact screen against which the ball is driven from a carpet. The golfer follows the trajectory of the ball until it comes to rest and then drives the ball farther toward the pin.

According to the GRCC head pro Tommy Monteverdi, radar detects the club speed and location of where the ball is hitting the screen and then a computer program displays how and where the ball would lie. After the ball has been hit, the screen gives the golfer a bird’s-eye view of the flight of the ball and its eventual stopping point.

“Our golf course is beautiful, but it never will be elite,” Kirkos said. “So to enhance that experience, we have the ability to train year-round with our pro staff. It’s assumed you make two putts. If you get close, a birdie, one under par.”

Monteverdi said that with the use of radar, a golfer, after some swings, can be outfitted with the right club head to correct the tendency to slice or hook the ball. The second virtual hitting bay is a driving range that does not use radar but is camera-based to “drive” the ball down the virtual fairway. The pro shop will be open Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings.

The walls of the hitting bay also raise up, like a garage door, giving the golfers the ability to drive onto the actual golf course for real. Monteverdi said golfers can thus practice their driving during inclement weather.

“It’s a new opportunity on how to use the club,” Kirkos said. “We have to compete in our market.”

He said the club has 530 house and regular members. A house member does not have access to the golf course. According to Marjorie Kaplan, of Axiom Communications, the public-relations firm that represents the golf course, the 4,500-square-foot golf and tennis pro shop are part of the overall $11 million GRCC project.

At the clubhouse, Kirkos said the front of the building, while conforming to historical guidelines set by the borough, will be changed.

“The front of the clubhouse now looks like the side,” he said. “On the whole campus, the buildings will have a similar look.”
On the side of the clubhouse facing the golf course, an exterior, upper deck, for dining, has been added.

“The footprint has not changed,” Kirkos said. “We just added a deck that wraps around the building. Outdoor dining is what people want.”
The upper deck will have a seating capacity of 60.

“It’s totally changed the personality of the back,” Kirkos said. “Everyone wants to be outdoors.”

Beneath this deck, at ground level, is another exterior dining area that will seat 64. Also at ground level, there will be seating for 144 diners while on the second level there will be seating for 280 in a ballroom. There will be two kitchens. Before the project, there was only one upstairs kitchen for both dining levels. A new kitchen has been installed on the lower level.

Kirkos said word of the renovations attracted many qualified applicants interested in being the new executive chef. James Haberstrough, formerly of Trump International Bedminster, was hired. Casual dining has been encouraged by a 2014 dress code policy change: It is now OK to wear dress jeans.
“People previously had to change from jeans to eat in the dining room,” Kirkos said. “Now the policy’s really coming into play.”

Kirkos said he was proudest that even during the construction, the club has increased membership.

“All our planning is coming to fruition because people want to be part of what we’re doing,” he said.

Membership interest may be helped along by a discounted initiation fee until March 1, 2017. Until then, the fee is $17,500.

“That’s fairly modest especially with clubs doing this,” Kirkos said. “It will probably be $20,000 in March. We know who we are, the market we’re in, and the members we want. These are members that look at the cost and the amenities and say, ‘That’s a value.’”

On the agenda is an expanded, 2,500-square-foot fitness center, three times the size of the previous space.

“As equipped as any great gym in any community,” Kirkos said. “It’ll be part of membership dues.”

Kirkos said a majority of club members are 35 to 45 years old, with families.
“We’re a full-service country club,” he said.