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Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 9/27/16. Brandon Smith lays out the pool extension as construction continues at the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club renovation on Tuesday, September 27, 2016.
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Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 9/27/16. Billy Ware lays block as construction continues at the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club pool renovation on Tuesday, September 27, 2016.

Fast facts

› Chattanooga Golf and Country Club, located about five minutes from downtown and founded in 1896, has the oldest course at its original site in Tennessee, according to the club. Located on the banks of the Tennessee River at the end of the old Riverview trolley line, the club was formed only eight years after the opening of the first golf course in the United States.

› The $6 million expansion will include a redesign of the current pool with the addition of a zero-entry section for young children with splash pads. Also, a new adult pool with pool bar will be built. In addition, a new fitness center will go up along with upscale outdoor and screened-in dining area.

› Morgan Construction Co. is doing the work on the expansion project, which is expected to be ready in May 2017.

 

Chattanooga Golf and Country Club has teed up its biggest expansion in at least two decades as it seeks to drive future growth by connecting with families.

"People are doing more as a family," said Michael Murray, the club's general manager. "We needed to be more family friendly."

In a $6 million effort, the club has redesigned its existing pool and is adding a "zero-entry" section for young children with splash pads while building a new adult pool. Also, a fully equipped fitness center is under construction along with an upscale outdoor and screened-in dining area, Murray said.

Murray said the club industry has changed. Where golf used to be the driver — and the club still operates its 18-hole course along the Tennessee River in Riverview — people are expecting more, he said.

"Successful clubs have a fitness center and outdoor dining," said Murray, adding that improved dining is the No. 1 feature that people seek.

Tom Baird, the club's board president, said that while the club is in a fairly strong financial position, that doesn't help much unless money is reinvested for the members.

"The days of Dad going off and playing golf all day, those days are over," he said. "If you're not providing an opportunity for the family to do things together, you're not an attractive option."

Chris Curtis, the board's vice president who's overseeing the expansion project, said younger members really want the added facilities.

"We're trying to attract the whole household to the club," he said. "While we're a country club with a golf course, we'll offer options so the whole family will enjoy the membership."

Murray said the finished product will be a "resort-style" setup where people can sit by the renovated and expanded existing pool and have dinner and drinks.

The 2,500-square-foot fitness center, to be ready in mid-May 2017, will be adjacent to the existing pool. Murray said that limited child care will be available so mothers can work out, he said.

"We hope [the club] can be a one-stop shop," he said.

The general manager said he formerly worked at Vestavia Country Club in Birmingham, Ala., which undertook a similar project about 10 years ago.

"We saw a huge membership growth," he said.

Curtis, a Chattanooga developer who recently opened the Douglas Heights apartment building near the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, said he toured the Vestavia club and checked out what it had done.

"They saw great success," he said.

Baird, a club member since 1988, said the existing pool was too small and could be too crowded. Also, it was 25 years old, he said.

"I think we're on a good path here," he said about the expansion. Baird said members can "get all this done by coming to the club," even wooing grandchildren and extended family.

Chattanooga Golf and Country Club has 715 members, and that membership level has been stable the last few years, though there's growth this year, Murray said.

"We expect to see some growth with the new facilities," he said. "There has been a lot of interest."

Baird said the last renovation of this size, which involved the clubhouse, was at least two decades ago.

"This is one of the biggest we've ever bit off," he said.

Murray wouldn't reveal membership costs but said there are options available depending on category and age.

"We're looking to the future," he said. "This can be a great thing at a great time. It's the right time for us."

More people are moving to Chattanooga, and to the downtown area, which helps the club, the general manager said.

He termed the golf course "one of the top five" in the state.

"I feel we've got a unique product," said Murray, 56, who is originally from Scotland but moved to the United States in the 1980s.

He began at the Chattanooga club in March after serving at Vestavia, most recently as assistant general manager, for nearly 20 years.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

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