Bonita Bay Club | Club & Resort Business | February, 2014

"Playing with Fire"

Plush seating and cozy fire pits can turn ho-hum patios into bustling hotbeds of year-round activity.

In a fast-paced world with endless distractions, it’s tough to find a place to enjoy fresh air and the tranquility of the outdoors. Luckily, club properties across the country are helping members and guests discover an outdoor escape by creating impressive patios for them to gather, relax and dine. “Few restaurants, hotels and clubs today don’t have outdoor dining areas,” says David Kupstas, General Manager of the Tampa Palms Golf & Country Club in Tampa, Fla. “Outdoor dining has become an expectation at clubs."


  • Fire pits and outdoor dining can help draw people to your property and keep them at the club longer.
  • Comfortable, living room-class setups help make patios warm and inviting spaces to enjoy outdoor living.
  • Patios can be utilized year-round in many climates, thanks to modern and adjustable fire pits, heaters and fans.

However, members and guests are looking for more than a few outdoor tables. Today’s patios are lively social centers that draw people to the property and encourage them to stick around. Living room-style seating and fire pits have become popular ways to turn a simple patio into an outdoor destination.

Creating More Options

During its $2 million renovation, Tampa Palms G&CC transformed a small, under-utilized porch into an expansive outdoor patio with fire pits.

“The goal was to expand our dining area and take dining outside; we didn’t have outdoor dining before,” says Kupstas. “We also wanted a gathering place with fire pits for members and guests to relax and have a drink.”

Adjacent to the club’s reinvented Elements restaurant, the new west-facing patio overlooks the 18th fairway (the club’s signature hole) and the 17th green, and affords views of sunsets, a pond with a fountain and tropical landscaping.

Tampa Palms Golf & Country Club, Tampa, Fla.

To transform the sleepy porch into a lively patio, the club started by doubling the size of the space. To create continuity between the existing porch area and the new addition, the club chose a cream-colored, stained concrete surface. “The choice of the surface was really important,” says Kupstas. “We needed to blend the two pieces together and create a new, fresh, clean look. We also had to choose a surface that would hold up when exposed to the elements.”

The new patio offers a mix of seating styles. The two fire pit areas have teak rockers and bronze-toned, overstuffed chairs with pale blue cushions and cocktail tables. The fire pits also have a two-foot granite ledge, where members and guests can put up their feet or rest their drinks. The outdoor patio dining area is set up with traditional tables and chairs.

“We had to choose furniture that holds up well to our particular climate and environment,” says Kupstas. “With the amount of sun we get, we needed furnishings that wouldn’t fade quickly. That’s why we chose the pale blue cushions; dark fabric would fade faster.”

Maintaining the Pit

Modern gas fire pits are safer, easier to use and easier to maintain than their wood-burning counterparts. While they are low maintenance, follow these tips to make sure your pit stays in good shape:

  • Clean and check the burner, to ensure it is free from obstructions
  • Cover the pit when it’s not in use
  • Use rocks, glass or ceramic logs that are approved for your fire pit
  • Wipe down ledges, and make sure no foreign objects fall into the fire pit

The club is able to use the fire pits year-round. “They give off enough heat to keep people warm, and we can adjust the temperature as needed,” says Kupstas. “But people still want to sit by them in warm weather. When we put on the fire pits at our opening party in September, we weren’t sure how many people would want to sit by them. But they were magnets; when the fire pits are on, people flock to them. They are a huge draw.”

Since reinventing Elements restaurant and adding the outdoor spaces, the club has seen a 20 percent increase in a la carte dining. “When people want to go out for a drink, the club comes to mind more quickly now,” says Kupstas. “The patio and fire pits give the club a more resort-like feel.”

Increasing Club Usage

As part of a $10 million renovation, The Club at SpurWing in Meridian, Idaho added a 750-sq. ft. patio with fire pits on the north side of its clubhouse. “Outdoor dining is really big in our area, and we wanted to make sure our members thought of us first,” says John Thomas, CCM, General Manager. The patio has two circular fire pits and one large rectangular fire pit that all overlook the club’s 18th hole and mountains in the distance. “Before we expanded the patio, we redefined the 18th green to make it more visible from the clubhouse,” says Thomas. “Now it is really a focal point, and people love sitting on the patio and watching people putt out.” One of the top goals for the new patio was to get more activity at the club regardless of the season. “The fire pits keep people on the patio, even when things cool down at night,” says Thomas. “We can adjust the fire pits to turn down the heat if it’s warm out, or turn it up when it’s cooler.” Dark-beige, overstuffed love seats and rockers, along with granite-topped cocktail tables, surround the fire pits. “We chose thick, padded outdoor furniture that could hold up to the weather well,” Thomas says. “The material allows any kind of water to dry very quickly.” There is seating for six around the circular fire pits and seating for 14 around the rectangular one. And the furniture is easy to move, to allow members and guests to reconfigure seating as needed. “We have dining tables set up on the patio, but many people actually end up eating around the fire pits and using the granite ledge around the fire pit for their food,” says Thomas. “We have a wide variety of people who enjoy these areas,” Thomas adds. “On Wednesday nights, we often have a lot of men come in to enjoy scotch and cigars. Other times, we’ll have family nights where kids and their parents enjoy the area.” The new space has been successful at the club, with food-and-beverage sales up 40 percent from the year before. “People are sticking around the club longer too,” says Thomas. “Over the summer, our bartenders were used to closing up around 10 p.m.—but this past summer, they were there after midnight every night.”

Enhanced Outdoor Living

Diablo Grande Golf & Country Club, in Patterson, Calif., is in a part of the country that enjoys beautiful weather almost year-round. Yet, the club’s outdoor dining options were lacking. So when Troon Golf took ownership of the property in 2009, the company was committed to expanding the amenities.

To create a dynamic outdoor space for dining and socializing, the club transformed a covered grassy pavilion into a stamped-concrete outdoor patio, complete with a dining area, a living room setup with a fireplace, and a gathering area around a stone fire pit.

“The pavilion was not well-utilized and the grass often got soaked out in the rain,” says Alyssa Christensen, Special Events Coordinator. “Now, these are popular areas that bring more people into the club.”

The covered dining part of the patio has gray-toned mosaic tables and dark brown chairs. Just off the dining area are dark brown, wicker couches and chairs, with ivory cushions and a fireplace. The fire pit space has similar seating, along with a stone ledge around the pit for holding drinks.

“We are always moving furniture around on the patio to customize it for different events, tournaments and so on,” says Christensen.

As the fire pit, fireplace and portable heaters help warm up the outdoor space during cooler weather, overhead fans cool the patio on warmer days and nights. “We use these areas 365 days a year,” Christensen. “They let our members enjoy the outdoors more.”

Since the renovation, the new outdoor spaces have been a hit. “Our members are very happy with it,” says Christensen. “And they tend to stay at the club longer and eat and drink more.”

Casual Comfort

When the Bonita Bay Club in Bonita Springs, Fla., underwent an $11.5 million renovation, the club put an emphasis on creating casual, “drop-in” dining and gathering areas both inside and outside the clubhouse.

To do this, the club built wraparound terraces surrounding the new indoor casual bar and grill. “The spaces are separated by a complete series of ‘Nana’-style walls, which, when opened, fully integrate the outside areas with the inside,” says Dan Miles, CCM, CCE, General Manager/COO. “The terraces are an attractive and effective extension of our interior spaces.”

The terraces overlook the property’s scenic surroundings, including gardens, a fountain and golf practice areas. The elegant yet casual furniture on the terraces is set up with a combination of dining tables and casual gathering areas. Candle lanterns, colorful pillows, fresh flowers and strategic lighting help create an inviting atmosphere.

A staircase connects the upstairs wraparound terraces to a lower-level cocktail terrace, which features a built-in tile and stone fire pit. Built-in upholstered semi-circle benches and soft seating surround the fire pit.

Members and guests have been overwhelmingly positive about these new outdoor spaces, Miles says. “South Florida clubs are lifestyle-oriented and focused on lush, tropical outdoor living,” he notes.