By Mr. Tim Hipps (FMWRC)January 31, 2008
Golfers at Fort Eustis have a new 19th hole.
A grand opening ceremony Jan. 25 officially welcomed patrons through the doors of a new clubhouse at The Pines Golf Course. The building exemplifies the Army Family Covenant\'s pledge to provide Soldiers and Families a quality of life that is commensurate with their service.
"This makes the golfers feel like they are at a top-notch club," The Pines Golf Course PGA Pro Manager Andy Weissinger said. "There's no reason why Soldiers that are out fighting the war, serving our country and sacrificing so much, have to come home to second-rate stuff.
"They deserve to have the best golf club and golf course, because if it weren't for them, nobody else would have the nice things that they have. This is a huge step to show them what we've been telling them is happening."
The 13,030-square-foot building features a 130-seat Reggie's Quick Casual Restaurant (a Morale, Welfare and Recreation-branded eatery).
"That's great because people around the military know Reggie's," Fort Eustis Director of Morale, Welfare and Recreation Bill Franssen said. "Reggie's means quality. Reggie's means a good product. They know the dAfAcor is going to be nice. They know that the food is going to be great and service is going to be wonderful. The FMWR folks came down and did a wonderful job of training the people. Our employees were ecstatic that people spent that much time with them going over how they serve their product."
The $4.5-million facility also features a full-service bar, pro shop, men's and women's locker rooms, four administrative offices, a stock room, a rental club room and several supply closets.
"This clubhouse is another example of how the Army has provided for its Soldiers in a very relevant and cutting-edge way," Fort Eustis Commanding General Brig. Gen. James E. Chambers said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. "By renovating our golf course with this clubhouse, I'm very proud to say we are keeping things current within the golf industry so our Army community can have some of the best facilities available."
Additional outdoor seating is available on a covered porch that provides a view of the practice putting green.
"We also have a walkup window for those golfers making the turn who don't have time to come inside," Chambers said.
For those in no hurry to complete a round of golf in timely fashion, the clubhouse can be reserved for military unit parties, hail and farewells, promotion ceremonies, working lunches and social gatherings.
"We'll pick up and increase our food and beverage service and be able to do a lot more offerings for different units and different Soldiers," Weissinger said. "I've already been getting requests for safety briefings, prayer breakfasts, hail and farewells, retirements, things like that where we can offer a much more casual setting than say, the Fort Eustis Club, where it's more of a formal setting. It's a lot more relaxed so people can come out and enjoy."
"Fort Eustis is one of the better courses around here," said Dave Kelley, 63, a retired chief master sergeant who has been golfing here for 30 years. "Now to have this clubhouse as a part of it, the government has really done us well."
Golfers are delighted to have a place to unwind after playing any combination of the Ponderosa Pine, Virginia Pine or Shortleaf Pine nine-hole layouts.
"Now you have a bar that's bigger than your old pro shop," a customer half-jokingly told Weissinger, whose smile cast a "look at us now" reflection off the stainless steel beverage drain.
"The manager I worked for as the golf professional my first two years here was always saying: 'We're going to be getting a new clubhouse. We're going to be getting a new clubhouse,'" Weissinger recalled. "I never heard anything officially about it, so I just thought: 'Yeah, OK, you're dreaming, right''
"We moved into the trailer on July Fourth weekend 2006. It hurt business extremely. Our food and beverage business all but disappeared. Our golf shop merchandise, due to lack of space in the trailer, was decreased by probably ninety percent.
"We had some basic shirts, balls, hats and that was about it. Now we've been able to expand with our new golf shop to get a variety of lines with different price points to service all of our clientele, not just the guy who wants to spend twenty dollars on a golf shirt."
Franssen echoed that sentiment.
"They would go to the trailer and register, buy a bottle of pop, and out to the golf course they'd go," he said. "Now they have time to enjoy the camaraderie, come inside, sit down and have lunch, have a snack afterward, and lie about their game."
Weissinger thinks the clubhouse also may help boost membership. Kelley, a member of The Pines Community Golf Association, agrees.
"We've lived in trailers quite a while periodically and we've had renovations done over the years, but this is a fantabulous setup here," he said. "I'm amazed and really impressed. Watching it being constructed and being so patient waiting for it to actually come to pass, it's everything that I imagined it would be. I look forward to enjoying it."
"A facility like this is going to be more enticing to someone who is on the fence if they want to join the club," Weissinger said. "We're hoping it will pick up our membership base a little bit and show the members that we're giving more back to them and backing up what we say in that we want to become the best the Army has to offer. This is a giant step towards that."
"Nice facilities bring the people to the golf course," Franssen concluded. "Now you've really got a business here, plus the golf course, so it's really going to be interesting."