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November 2019

Skidaway transforms for more inclusive demographic

BY SCOTT KAUFFMAN

When The Landings Club was being developed in the early 1970s on Skidaway Island, Georgia, the original plan called for a private community of upscale homes situated among 27 holes of Arnold Palmer-designed golf in the pristine maritime forest 12 miles from Savannah.

After the developer started acquiring additional land, The Landings quickly expanded to 36 holes by 1979, and now offers 108 holes at six championship courses designed by some of the industry’s top course designers. For decades, The Landings was considered the consummate private golf club community.

 Today, The Landings still holds the distinction of being one of the largest single-site, master-planned golf communities in America, but it’s certainly become a lot more than just golf. Indeed, fueled by the club’s ambitious $26 million multi-phase capital improvements plan started in 2017, The Landings is nothing like its former self some 40 years ago.

In many respects, as the member-owned club wraps up the final stages of reimagining the flagship Marshwood clubhouse and introducing more family-friendly aquatic complexes and distinctive new dining venues, this community of 4,400 households is now the quintessential private club of the future.

 Leave it up to a person like Landings Executive Director Steven Freund, who came from a non-golf hotel and resort hospitality background, to lead this transformation encompassing destination dining, top-notch aquatic and wellness facilities, and a host of other family and lifestyle-centric amenities one would expect at world-class resorts.

“I was fortunate that I came to The Landings with no club experience except from a user’s perspective,” says Freund, who previously worked for Marriott’s Ritz-Carlton brand among other hoteliers. “I came from hotels and resorts, so I think I looked at the club with fresh eyes. What I saw is we had four full-service clubhouses and restaurants with a similar identity.

“They were all serving a pasta and a steak, and piece of fish and a burger. But there was nothing to distinguish them from one another. I thought that was crazy because what I witnessed was members might come once a week (to eat), but the rest of the week they were streaming off the island to go to restaurants with identity (in nearby Savannah).”

 So, one of the first new anchor amenities planned for the club was the family-friendly Franklin Creek campus that debuted in December 2018 and featured The Landings’ first fast-casual dining venue, The Deck, and various aquatic amenities designed for members of all ages. It was a vast upgrade from the previous venue featuring a nondescript poolside snack bar and nearby café for tennis members.

When it was initially proposed, members rejected the concept of one dining outlet serving all community constituents. After further design consultations with the board and a second attempt at selling the members on the vision of something more in tune with food and beverage trends at many clubs today, not to mention society as a whole, The Landings membership bought into the new plan spearheaded by Atlanta-based Kuo Diedrich Chi Architects.

According to Freund, the club is reaping huge dividends at the come-as-you-are Franklin Creek campus, with revenues likely doubling the original $1.5 million forecast. Meanwhile, the club’s new Marshwood clubhouse now under renovation also will be designed for multi-generational use with a more “sophisticated resort-style setting” in both the dining and aquatic facilities, according to Freund.

“As we were thinking about the development of this new clubhouse we had to think about the changes in our membership,” Freund notes. “When the community was coming out of the ground (in the early ‘70s) it was oriented largely to northeastern retirees, but now we’re a multi-generational community with nearly 800 children who are an integral part and vibe of our club. …. So, when we looked at the facility and the new amenities being designed … it needed to be inviting and embracing. With an edge of timelessness without being overly formal. A place that’s welcoming and warm to all generations of members.”

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