Gaillardia Golf and Country Club couldn’t live with the lies another day — so the sand bunkers were the first things fixed.
This week, it’s the clubhouse roof, long overdue for replacement after the unusually heavy hailstorm of May 16, 2010.
Next to see renovations: the insides of the 55,000-square-foot Normandy French-style clubhouse, the community symbol of Gaillardia’s upscale lifestyle since 1999 and, thanks to deferred maintenance, its collective handicap for most of the past few years.
All it took was money — some $2 million.
Money was lacking for long months leading up to Concert Golf Partners’ cash purchase of the club in far northwest Oklahoma City from a lender and Little Rock, Ark.-based Herrington Inc. early this year.
Gaillardia Golf and Country Club, community center for a neighborhood of some of Oklahoma City’s wealthiest people, was picked up, presumably at a bargain, as a distressed property — a troubled asset — in a deed-in-lieu-of-foreclosure transaction.
Peter Vitali, director of golf and vice president of business development, said it was the kind of investment that Concert Golf Partners, based in Newport Beach, Calif., specializes in: a cash deal “in the 11th hour” made with the intention of putting more money in to “position up” a place. Concert Golf has bought and operated more than 40 golf properties — or the loans attached to them, as with Gaillardia — since 1990, and now has seven.
The new owner considers the club its premier property and boasts on its Web site: “Gaillardia Country Club is the premier private club in Oklahoma City featuring an 18-hole Tom Kite-redesigned Arthur Hills masterpiece on 230 acres.”
Membership in the club northeast of Kilpatrick Turnpike/Memorial Road and N MacArthur Boulevard is at about 500, Vitali said, counting all categories: golf, junior golf, nongolf and corporate. In an exclusive, gated neighborhood of 300 homes, and just 60 or so lots remaining, growth among residents is limited, he said. So Vitali said the club is broadening its approach with competitive initiation fees and dues — and upgrades.
New to Gaillardia is golf pro Mark Fuller, formerly of Oak Tree Golf and Country Club.
And, masterpiece or not, the course needed a little work, Vitali said, so golfers saw the first of the new infusion of cash: bunker rehab, under the supervision of golf superintendent Sean Hogan.
“We’re recontouring some of the problem bunkers that had a very steep grade, a steep slope. The sand wasn’t adhering to the face. So if we did have rain, like Thursday evening, we’d have some washout. The sand would wash down. We’d have to push it up, so it leads to inconsistency of the sand. We did have some plug lies, and that’s not member-friendly,” he said. “The Pro/Angle sand we’ve added, it’s just a coarser texture. It drains very well. It also adheres to the bunker slopes much better. It prohibits the plug lies. It’s just a fairer, more consistent bunker sand.
“It’s very high quality, player friendly, and it was a necessary change for us. That was kind of the one negative factor that we had with the golf course: great conditions but our bunker sand was inconsistent. So we’re proud to make that change.”
Also under way are redesigns, renovations and improvements to the clubhouse space.
“We’re fortunate to have just a world-renowned men’s locker room,” which is more of a private club in itself, with dining, lounge areas and a built-in multiscreen entertainment center, Vitali said, “but that’s also a limiting factor for couples and spouses, and that’s why we’re addressing the inside of the clubhouse.”
Major changes are coming to Pool Grill and Turn Grill. Renovations will include creating a central gathering space for members and guests.
An interior wall will come down to open up space. The clubhouse space is too compartmentalized, Vitali said, and traffic flow between formal and casual dining has been awkward.
“We’re reorienting the bar-dining area to make it more casual, more friendly,” Vitali said.
“We have a very intimidating clubhouse, intimidating space. And it’s also partitioned, so right now, the traffic pattern is — the casual diners have to walk through formal to get to their casual space and it’s a little limiting.”
He said a central casual space will be accessible from the main clubhouse entrance or the back, where members can park their golf carts, and formal dining areas off of those for business dinner, wedding parties and the like.
An addition is a 1,700-square-foot space for children, “with Xbox, beanbags (chairs), Foosball, air hockey, down to little bitty children’s toys,” Vitali said, “just a good space that your family can utilize whether it’s coming for an event or even just having a dinner or birthday party, and allowing their kids to go up there and be supervised.”