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The Trifecta of Dining Facilities: Clubs that Hit the Mark

Well-designed dining spaces call to mind a quote from Winston Churchill—no stranger himself to good food and beverage. “We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us,” he said.

As director of club architecture at McMahon Group for the last 27 years, I find this to be especially true at private club dining facilities. Working with many clubs over these years to shape the design of their private club dining spaces, it’s always a pleasure to see the way these spaces, once realized, shape the social interactions of members and foster club community. But this begs the question: How do we design dining facilities that work?

While no two clubs are alike, great club dining brings together, in a unity of design, three dining areas: The bar/ lounge, member dining room or casual grill and the outdoor dining space. This is the trifecta of club dining. Let’s look at what defines and unites these spaces and the clubs dining spaces that hit the mark.


  • A great bar, shaped to promote conversation and centrally located
  • Varied seating options and a variety of furniture types that promote movement and conversation
  • Discrete but fluid boundaries aid movement and member interaction
  • Transition to outdoors allows the natural energy of the bar to be shared with adjacent spaces

The Wanamaker Lounge at Pittsburgh Field Club
The Pittsburgh Field Club in Pennsylvania recently renovated their dining facilities and added a bar, the Wanamaker Lounge (so named for the 1937 PGA Championship the club hosted), sits comfortably in the heart of the clubhouse between the club living room and indoor/outdoor dining area. With 360-degree bar seating, panoramic windows overlooking the golf course, and multiple points of entry and exit to adjacent dining and social spaces, the bar creates a dynamic, circular motion of traffic. The balance between enclosure and openness brings the life of the club inside the bar, while also maintaining a separateness that encourages bar patrons feel comfortable in their revelry.


  • An outdoor focal point, ideally of the club’s core offering, like the golf course
  • Varied seating options with gradients of intimacy and table size for all ages and groups
  • Central clubhouse location—a hub at the wheel’s center
  • Spill-out effect, with bifold doors or sliding walls create no rigid separation between indoor and outdoor space

The Casual Grill at Country Club of Naples
Walking into the new grill at Country Club of Naples in Florida, members are struck at once by the light and the view. The view of the golf course is unobstructed from any point in the room—not by a sea of umbrellas or a low-hanging canopy— and so this connection to the outdoors feels immediate.

A setting with all chairs and tables alike puts a subtle straitjacket on the member, but here the choice is varied between high-top stools, low tables, both round and square, and built-in booths on the east wall. The space seamlessly transitions outdoors by way of moveable glass walls that are open on most Florida days.

It’s easy to imagine a couple, perhaps hoping for a quiet meal, a larger group of diners and even a more loose-and-free family all finding a welcome place in this environment.


  • Covered outdoor terrace that assumes the look of an indoor space (accounts for roughly 50% of available space)
  • Uncovered outdoor seating for the full-on experience
  • More organic layout of seating with various focal points like fire pits, BBQ and outdoor bar
  • Multiple points of entry and exit will not only increase utilization but invites a decidedly social vibe

Outdoor Dining at the Menlo Circus Club
The new outdoor dining patio and terrace at Menlo Circus Club in Atherton, Calif., wraps around the clubhouse, offering members a hierarchy of shaded environments spilling out from indoors. Diners have a variety of choices to match the mood, beginning with roof-sheltered area—which feels and looks like an indoor space—moving outwards towards the semi-shaded, under-trellis tables and, finally, to an uncovered, more loosely arranged outer layer with benches and firepit seating. A low, curving wall defines the borders of this space but also breaks open in spots, allowing commerce between the dining area and the club’s main feature—its expansive polo fields.