More than just golf

By Dick Mason, The Observer August 16, 2010 08:35 am
DICK MASON/The Observer The new west entrance to the La Grande Country Club features a porch and a rock face  exterior.
DICK MASON/The Observer The new west entrance to the La Grande Country Club features a porch and a rock face exterior.
The La Grande Country Club is taking its biggest step forward since the days when Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf and Johnny Miller were three of the world’s top golfers. The completion of a major renovation project, the biggest since the early 1970s, is being celebrated this summer. Many golfers saw the renovations for the first time this weekend during the La Grande Country Club Amateur Open presented by McDonald’s. The event, conducted to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House, was the second tourney the club has hosted since the renovations were recently completed.

Several golfers did double takes.

“There is a definite ‘wow’ factor,’’ said Cody Goodan, the head golf professional at the club.

Carol Summers, a member of the La Grande Country Club Board, agrees.

“It is just wonderful. People are thrilled and pleased,’’ Summers said.

The renovations drawing second looks include extensive remodeling and expansion of the upper clubhouse. Space was added to the upper clubhouse by taking the 40- by 40-foot golf shop out and moving it into a new structure that is below the upper clubhouse and just north of it.

The added space the clubhouse has means it can easily accommodate 120 people, about 40 more than its previous capacity.

In place of the golf shop is a fireplace area in the upper clubhouse’s northwest corner and a display center for the trophies of any current tournaments being conducted.

“It allows us to highlight what is happening,’’ Goodan said.

The added space in the clubhouse also means that there is more room to accommodate people playing games like bridge, poker and cribbage. The extra space has also allowed an additional television viewing area to be created.

Upper clubhouse interior improvements also include the replacement of all doors and windows, an upgraded sound system and kitchen renovations done by the club’s Ladies Association.

One of the most striking improvements is a new west side main entrance. It features a porch with a rock-face exterior. Goodan said the new entrance is a great place for people to relax after a round of golf. It is proving to be a popular location for people to meet.

The upper clubhouse renovations mean that the country club may be able to host events like weddings and receptions, Goodan said.

The La Grande Country Club’s new golf shop has about twice as much space as it did in its previous location, allowing it to carry more equipment. The ground level shop, only about 20 yards from the tee-off area, is much more accessible than the previous clubhouse. Summers pointed out that it also allows the country club’s golf professional to easily monitor the course’s first tee and its driving range.

Renovation work was last done at the country club about a decade ago when its lower clubhouse was created. The lower clubhouse is at a site that previously had a small apartment and a banquet room.

Goodan said the country club has been able to make its improvements because membership has remained strong despite hard economic times. Membership has fallen at many golf clubs throughout the United States but not at the

La Grande Country Club. Goodan attributes this to several factors, including its easy accessibility to La Grande and Island City residents. People living in the area are just five minutes away from being able to play a quick nine-hole round of golf on an excellent course, he said.

Summers credits much of the country club’s success to its hard-working staff and members who continually step forward to maintain the course when help is needed.

For example, after a wind storm members will be out removing branches and debris from the course.

The recent renovation work at the country club was led by Clint Williams, president of the La Grande Country Club Board, which was responsible for the project. Summers credits Williams with playing an instrumental role in spearheading the renovation work.

She also lauded the help of the board’s other members, praising the hands-on approach they took in pushing the project forward. Many club members, Summers said, also stepped forward at key times to help.

Summers said the country club has long had a beautiful, well-tended, tree-lined course. Now she said the course has an excellent clubhouse to complement. it.

“It has been a long time coming. People are thrilled.’’