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The after-golf architect: A Q&A session with Oklahoma City's Tom Hoch

Mike BaileyBy Mike Bailey,
Senior Staff Writer
Tom Hoch
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Tom Hoch is president of Oklahoma City-based Tom Hoch Design. (Courtesy of Tom Hoch Design)

Tom Hoch Design of Oklahoma City ranks as one of the best in the business in designing and building clubhouses. Hoch's projects have included The Golf Club at Dove Mountain in Arizona, FarmLinks in Alabama, Tulsa (Okla.) Country Club and, most recently, a renovation of the Marriott Camelback Inn and Golf Club in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area.

Tom Hoch Design has, in many ways, reinvented the practice, using what Hoch calls a "revenue-based design" model. It involves space planning, sizing and mapping for retail-driven spaces suitable to create food and beverage operations and golf shops.

We sat down with Hoch to query him on his favorite designs, what makes a good clubhouse and about the current trends.

Tom Hoch Q&A

WorldGolf.com: What are the current trends in clubhouse design?

Tom Hoch: On the resort side, we're seeing a lot of activity in renovations. We're seeing a desire to have quality and consistency in the design. We're in the process of finishing the Camelback Golf Club renovation (to be completed in October). That facility was the first flagship property for Marriott Golf and has a lot of history. We worked closely with Rob Bartley, who's the general manager, and Paul Rossi, the food and beverage director. We focused on this first phase on really expanding their bar/lounge area into a vibrant, energy-filled 19th hole. Interior details were decidedly contemporary. The colors and textures represent the region of the Arizona desert, but it's not fussy.

WorldGolf.com: Are facilities building larger or smaller clubhouses these days?

Tom Hoch: I think the trend is to make the clubhouses more efficient, not necessarily larger or smaller. Our clubhouse designs right now are all over the board from a design standpoint. We're doing clubhouses as small as 2,500 square feet and as big as 80,000 square feet. In China we're doing a couple that are as large as 120,000 square feet. It's all about the program that drives the design and the revenue that the program can drive for a club.

WorldGolf.com: The trend in recent years has been to build extravagant media setups. Is that still the case?

Tom Hoch: Media is very popular, not only in clubhouses but all the dining venues we go to. However, with that being said, I'm finding some private clubs wanting to keep some of their spaces quiet without the interruptions of media. I think people want the option to hang out in a quiet space or an energy-filled audio-visual space.

WorldGolf.com: What's the craziest request you've had for a clubhouse feature?

Tom Hoch: We're doing some work in China right now and they have some crazy cultural things. In China, the locker rooms, spa areas and restroom areas are very, very elaborate. Besides regular spa showers in the locker rooms, they like to have their squat showers, where you sit down and take a shower and kind of groom yourself. At a couple of clubs in western China in kitchen design, they have to have separate areas for Muslims to work in the kitchen, to prepare food for that type of menu. They also have a lot of salons. The men in China go to the salons quite frequently to have their hair done. Theater rooms are also big. One of the cool things they have over there, though, is a lot of VIP dining rooms. They basically consist of one fairly large room that has a 16-person big round table, its own bathroom and own pantry. People may show up at 5:30 p.m. to dine and socialize and not leave until late at night.

WorldGolf.com: What about in the United States?

Tom Hoch: As far as U.S. is concerned, the craziest thing I've been asked to do recently is a two-lane vintage bowling alley in the basement of a club I can't reveal (it's in Massachusetts). We're also doing a small ice cream parlor/soda fountain in the same club.

We've also been working on for a couple of years now on Johnny Morris' new clubhouse (Morris owns Missouri-based Bass Pro Shops), Top of the Rock Golf Club near Branson, Mo. It has a restaurant that seats about 500 people; it has a natural history museum; and it has a golf clubhouse that he's called Arnie's Barn, and it's all part of one big complex. It overlooks Table Rock Lake. The course has had (Arnold) Palmer's hands on it, (Jack) Nicklaus' hands on it and now Tom Watson's hands on it. It's really, in my opinion, Johnny Morris' creation. He's a great visionary. The place is phenomenal because it's a Disneyland-type environment. Overall, the whole complex is about 110,000 square feet. Our endeavor focused primarily on Arnie's Barn, which is the golf side of the clubhouse. That clubhouse is a timber-framed building that Johnny and Jeannie Morris found in Latrobe, Pa., (Palmer's hometown) of all places, and relocated.

WorldGolf.com: Outside of your own, what are you favorite clubhouses?

Tom Hoch: Two or three come to mind immediately. Augusta National. It has a gentile design. It's just a simple, pleasing structure. Another one that comes to mind is Bel-Air Country Club. It's a great Spanish Colonial clubhouse design in a great setting with great views. A lot of great Hollywood history there. It just has a lot of glamor and tradition mixed together. And I think Whistling Straits is up there, since I want to include a modern design. I think Herb Kohler has done a great job of creating great theater not only on the golf course but the clubhouse. Lot of character.

WorldGolf.com: What's the most unusual clubhouse you've ever seen?

Tom Hoch: I think one of the most unusual designs is right here in our backyard in Oklahoma City: Quail Creek Golf & Country Club. It's a very contemporary clubhouse. It was designed and built in the 1960s. At the time, it had a very avant-garde look to it with some Frank Lloyd Wright design elements to it. It's fairly organic and really kind of finding itself again in favor of those who are fans of contemporary architecture. We're doing some renovation work out there now, trying to restore it while updating it to today's lifestyle needs.

WorldGolf.com: Do regional locations dictate clubhouse design?

Tom Hoch: I think obviously climate plays a big part, particularly in the outdoor spaces. That being said, outdoor living spaces are a very important part of clubhouse design. For example, we're seeing resort-like pools at private clubs. But in renovations, however, it's primarily based on the architectural style of the existing building more than the region it may be in.

WorldGolf.com: You're keeping pretty busy, aren't you?

Tom Hoch: We're fortunate to be busy. I think because we're passionate about what we do and love to set clubs up for success by making them unique and authentic. That's what we're all about.

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The Golf Club at Dove MountainWhistling StraitsTulsa Country Club

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trio to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

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