Terry Lundgren, retired Executive Chairman of Macy’s Inc., estimates he has stayed in the Ben Hogan Room at Riviera Country Club about 60 times. A member of the Pacific Palisades, Calif., club for 10 years, the former executive has roots in Southern California and used to visit Los Angeles regularly on business. Instead of staying in hotels, he preferred resting up for the night at Riviera.
Except the nights weren’t especially restful… at first. “Knowing that Hogan had stayed in that room was an incredible feeling,” he says. “But the bed was awful. My wife and I would roll into each other in the middle during the night. I remember thinking the mattress was probably the same one Hogan had slept on.”
Lundgren asked Michael Yamaki, the club’s Corporate Officer and General Manager, if he would accept a donation of a new mattress from the Bloomingdale’s on Santa Monica Boulevard.
Lundgren says the high-end mattress has made a big difference to the Hogan Room, one of 24 guest rooms on the second floor of the imposing clubhouse, and named in honor of the man who won two LA Opens and a U.S. Open at Riviera in the space of 18 months. Next door is the Snead Room, named for Sam Snead, who won two LA Opens of his own just out the door.
Staying overnight in either the Hogan or Snead Rooms, or, indeed, any clubhouse room or adjoining “dormy house” (as the Brits call it) is a singular pleasure no hotel can match. There is something profoundly satisfying about closing the bar and heading up to bed, then shuffling down the stairs in the morning for coffee and a spot of breakfast before your early morning tee time.
In the UK, several clubs offer overnight accommodations to visitors: Royal Porthcawl, Formby, Burnham & Berrow, and Royal Lytham & St. Annes are among the most notable. In Australia, one can stay at Victoria, Royal Sydney, Peninsula Kingswood, and Barwon Heads; in Canada at Toronto, Coppinwood, and Redtail. But in the U.S., the privilege is usually reserved for club members and their guests.
Some 300 miles north of Riviera, and 10 miles inland from Pebble Beach, is the magnificent Santa Lucia Preserve, which possesses a beautiful Tom Fazio/Mike Poellet-designed golf course and 20,000 acres of mostly untouched land in the Santa Lucia Mountains above Carmel (90 percent is to be left permanently undeveloped).
At the heart of the property is the Hacienda, a handsome Colonial-style building built by wealthy Canadian businessman George Gordon Moore, who purchased the property in 1922. Moore led a Great Gatsby-like existence, hosting A-List celebrities at his sporting events and jazz-age parties. Today, members and guests stay in the Hacienda’s nine simple, sophisticated, comfortable rooms and enjoy access to the club’s many amenities as well as the exceptional bar and dining room overlooking the polo fields. “We prefer not to give the names of some of our current guests who stay here regularly,” says Lisa Guthrie, Director of Marketing and Sales for the property as well as Managing Broker for Santa Lucia Preserve Realty. “But some of the famous names we’ve welcomed in the past include Robert Redford, Loni Anderson, Suzanne Somers, and Julia Child.”
In Chicago, venerable Olympia Fields Country Club—whose Willie Park Jr.-designed North Course staged the 1928 and 2003 U.S. Opens—offers members 25 rooms directly above the Grill Room. Frank O’Neill, a Senior Vice-President at RBC in Houston, Texas, and a national member at the club, has been taking clients there four or five times a year for the last four years, and finds it very hard to leave. “It’s like a summer camp for adults,” he says. “I go for four or five days at a time and just have a blast. You come down early for breakfast, go out and hit some balls, play 36 holes, and are back in the clubhouse for dinner and drinks. Then you do it all again the next day.”
O’Neill says the rooms at Olympia Fields are comfortable without being extravagant. “They’re not over-the-top opulent,” he adds. “I love it. It really does feel like a home away from home for me.”
Michael Clayton, the Australian professional turned course designer, was a long way from home when he visited Stonewall Links in Elverson, Pa., in 2002 as part of an American tour that took in a handful of the country’s finest courses, including Cypress Point, Bandon Dunes, Sand Hills, Crystal Downs, Merion, Pine Valley, Shinnecock, National Golf Links of America, and Maidstone.
“It was quite a long time ago now, so I don’t remember too much about it,” he says. “But I do recall the rooms were high up in the roof of the clubhouse, and were nice and spacious. There really is nothing better than staying at a golf club.”
Stonewall’s General Manager Paul Mauer says there’s a total of eight rooms between the two clubhouses, and two cottages with four rooms each. “Members tend to prefer the cottages,” he says. “They’re more private, and there’s a sporty little putting green between them that encourages betting games among guests. It can get quite lively.”
Spirited late-night putting matches after a hearty dinner in the clubhouse. A cozy bed close by. Breakfast on the clubhouse porch. And another 18 or 36 holes tomorrow. Ain’t life grand!
Have you spent the night at a golf club? Tell us about it in the comments!