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November 2020

The Fountaingrove Club

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Rebuilding From The Ashes

By Scott Kauffman

In mid-September, when massive wildfires ravaged communities along the California and Oregon coastlines, credit rating agency AM Best estimated California’s insured losses from the fires could top the unprecedented $13 billion recorded in 2017 when the state was hit by three of the five costliest fires in U.S. history. 

As Americans watched in awe as skies above major cities from San Francisco to Portland and Seattle were darkened with some of the poorest air quality in the world, The Fountaingrove Club in Santa Rosa, Calif., could appreciate the nightmare unfolding as much as any community. That’s because this upscale private residential golf club was at the epicenter of the Tubbs Fire in October 2017 that destroyed parts of Napa and Sonoma Counties’ sacred wine country and more than 1,700 homes in the surrounding Fountaingrove area alone.

At the time, it was the worst wildfire in Northern California history. And Fountaingrove’s 300 golf members suffered the brunt of the firestorm when their 30-year-old clubhouse and maintenance facility burned to the ground along with 5,653 structures elsewhere in Santa Rosa.

In a strong show of hope and renewal, however, Sonoma County’s only member-owned private club is revitalized and literally rebuilding its esteemed place in private club circles after breaking ground last August on an even-better $16.5 million clubhouse. According to the club, which is now managed by Troon’s private club division, Troon Privè, the 22,100-square-foot building should be finished in October 2021.

Set on the same location as the previous clubhouse, the new two-story building “embraces wine country ease with understated elegance, while seamlessly integrating indoor activities with outdoor spaces.” The design features natural materials including stone, wood, glass and steel. 

The lower level of the clubhouse features the golf shop, office space and meeting space, as well as men’s and women’s locker rooms.  The upper level includes a large kitchen designed to support a newly conceptualized menu with efficiently planned prep, cook and storage areas; a meeting room; two dining venues; and two outdoor dining terraces.

Fortunately, Fountaingrove’s Ted Robinson Sr.-designed course and athletic center were spared from the 2017 blazes and actually remained open for member play and tournaments. That in part explains how the club was able to keep its overall membership at the same levels as it was prior to the fire, including an additional 600 athletic members.

“This member support has been created by our motto ’to deliver on the promise’ of a new and futuristic clubhouse,” Fountaingrove Club Board President Marshall Andrew said. “The member's excitement to see shovels in the ground is the next step in completing our vision.”

According to BAR Architects principal Jeff Goodwin, the new clubhouse is being reimagined in a way that “encourages use throughout the day, intended to be both a home away from home and flexible work-place for members and their guests.” Goodwin added the building design also “embraces families and users of diverse interests as a foundational principle towards building a strong and vibrant community.”

These all-important lifestyle components notwithstanding, one of the main themes the club repeatedly heard from its focus group studies in early 2018 was the desire by members to have a place for just simple “relaxation, peace and openness.”

In the study’s executive summary released in March 2018, Fountaingrove reported it was clear that the future clubhouse design needed to incorporate “lots of openness to provide a relaxed, peaceful, wide-open experience.” The summary went on to say: “Members want a place to come (whether or not it is before or after golf/tennis) where they have the ability just to ‘chill’. They want the freedom to sit by themselves on a comfy chair watching the view, sipping coffee, and reading a book. Or they want to run into friends and have the ability to pull seats together to create a spontaneous small group experience.”

Now that the coronavirus pandemic is dramatically affecting lives in Fountaingrove, this soon-to-be tranquil escape emerging from the ashes of the 2017 fires couldn’t come any sooner.

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