“We want this club to be a part of the Auburn experience for the University and community alike.
That’s what one of the club’s new owners, Mike Thompson, local developer and Auburn University undergraduate, hopes to accomplish with the recent renovations to the facilities, grounds and Clubhouse restaurant and with his outreach programs in partnership with the University and his fellow co-owners, Will Herring and Mike Poole. It’s also why he purchased the property with the hopes of revamping its look and operations to make it more appealing to the Auburn family.
The clubhouse itself, which acts as a kind of welcoming center for the property, has undergone a refreshing makeover.
“We got in here and realized we really needed to upgrade the whole facility, so we repaired, repainted and refinished the entire outside,” Thompson said.
Members and visitors are greeted inside the 1,200-square-foot, $1.1 million clubhouse with a quote from the Auburn Creed painted boldly across the primary entryway, which reads, “[…] I believe in Auburn, and love it.”
As for the inside of the facility, Thompson reached out to Auburn students to help him freshen up its appearance.
“As far as the Clubhouse [restaurant] is concerned, I partnered up with Auburn’s Department of Interior Design and had students coming in here doing labor, such as distressing tables out on the porch,” Thompson said. “The restaurant has already been remodeled, and it’s open for lunch and dinner daily.”
The Clubhouse Restaurant’s esteemed chef, David Bancroft, former Amsterdam Café chef, has also reached out to Auburn students by working with the office of sustainability to focus on the agricultural side of the club’s new image.
“Under previous management, the restaurant served a lot of simple foods, like hamburgers, chicken fingers, hotdogs, French fries,” Bancroft said. “Now, we feature a lot of locally-grown foods, including fresh grits ground in Wetumpka, fresh tomatoes and blueberries from Beauregard and goat’s cheese from Huntsville.”
The Clubhouse also grows some of its own herbs and produce on site in a small garden on the back patio, according to Bancroft.
“The entire mindset of the restaurant is just locally-sourced, fresh-made-in-house,” Bancroft said. “Everything is prepared by all of the cooks in the kitchen, all of our own staff, from start to finish.”
Bancroft has also founded a Slow Food Chapter for the University at the Auburn University Club that will kick-off with a fundraiser on Sept. 29.
“Slow Food is a culinary movement that started in Italy and focuses on slowing down the pace, going back to using local ingredients and fusing culture back into the food,” Bancroft said.
However, its purpose is not only to savor a meal.
“Our purpose is to raise money for the campus gardens through the Auburn Real Food Challenge, which is a group on campus comprised of students of all different majors who are passionate about clean, regenerative food systems,” Bancroft said. “Together, we started the Slow Food Chapter to represent the community, and we hope to raise over $20,000 to fund the first community garden on campus led by students.”
Besides going with it’s homegrown-in-Alabama approach to fine dining, the Clubhouse restaurant has also made it’s delicacies available to the public, not just its members; although only members of the Auburn University Club may make reservations.
Thompson said he wants this club to be a part of the Auburn experience for all of those residing in the Plains and those visiting or passing through. According to Bancroft, by making his restaurant open to nonmembers, Thompson and his co-owners have laid a welcome mat passersby cannot pass by.
“Making this restaurant open to the public was a huge decision made by the new owners,” Bancroft said. “We really wanted to make this a club for the people of Auburn, the locals. And this is very true in this instance.”
Thompson also said he has long-term plans to utilize the department of interior design in the future.
“In the fall semester, one of their projects is going to be to come up with plans to re-do the three main lobbies, which is why those rooms haven’t been touched,” Thompson said. “They’re going to pick three students’ projects, with my guidance, and then I’ll choose the winner. Then, we’ll jointly redecorate those three rooms.”
According to Lindsay Tan, assistant professor of interior design within the department of consumer and design sciences, five interior design students volunteered to work at the club this summer with Thompson.
“Since we couldn’t work this into a class time, we had students volunteer and work in a kind of informal setting this summer so we could determine if this was something we’d want to offer as a course and build a relationship with the club for future endeavors,” Tan said. “The course offered in the fall will allow the students to work much more formally with their professor and Mike Thompson.”
Tan said allowed students to focus on the hospitality environment, which has to be entertaining and engaging, but students also had to focus on health and public safety because of the potentially crowded situations.
However, Thompson’s buck for community-and-University-wide outreach does not stop there.
According to Thompson, the club is working with the department of horticulture to redesign the front of the clubhouse and students in turfgrass management track within the department of agronomy and soils to re-do the course and grounds and allowing them to continue research on the property
Thompson also said the turfgrass management facility currently located at the intersection of Shug Jordan Parkway and South College Street will be moving closer to the club.
“I’m working with them right now to move that facility from the corner of Shug Jordan and South College to get them to come out here and be near our course over by the tennis center,” Thompson said. “Unofficially, I was told [yesterday] that it’s going to happen. We’ve been working on this for some time, and it’ll be great because they’ll be right here and we’ll be able to work jointly on some ventures.”
According to Thompson, the club already allows the turfgrass management department to conduct research on the property to test grass and fertilizers, but with this change in location their partnership will grow stronger and be more direct.
The course, which is home to Auburn’s men and women’s golf teams, is also changing for the better.
“There are going to be a lot of changes on the golf course,” Thompson said. “We’re taking out a few bunkers and improving the condition and playability. We’re also clearing out 10 yards of the tree line so that players can find their errant golf balls, changing the front nine into the back nine and we’re probably going to add more tee boxes.”
“I’m trying to reach out to any department at Auburn that touches my business in any way,” Thompson said. “We want affiliates of the college to feel like a part of this club, and we’re doing that by having them help us with the renovations.”
Even with all of the new redecorating going on, Thompson said this facility will remain affordable to Auburn residents.
“Since my partners and I have take over on the management side, we’ve nearly doubled our local members,” Thompson said. “Our initiation fees and monthly dues are significantly less than other clubs, and I have made a commitment to hold everything steady for at least a year. There will be no increases in dues, or assessments, or minimums at the restaurant.”
Thompson said the club also honors several discounts for students, alumni and other affiliates of the University that make being a member affordable. Members will have full access to the grounds, which includes tennis courts, a fitness center and a swimming pool.
For more information on the Auburn University Club and membership, visit its website at www.augolfclub.com.