Facelift, new spa sought for aging country club

Proposed renovations at the Newport Beach Country Club include a "boutique hotel" and spa open to non-members, as well as improvements to aging golf and tennis facilities.

Property owner Golf Realty Fund aims to reduce the tennis courts from 24 to 10, remodel both clubhouses, create a health and wellness center, full-service spa, swimming pool and build five, single-unit "villas" and 27 temporary-stay bungalows.

"We're looking to offer something new for tennis players, golfers and for the community," said Executive Director Robert O Hill. "We want to create a very healthy lifestyle experience and in that way, we're kind of rebranding a little."

The project is tentatively scheduled to go before the Newport Beach Planning Commission on Nov. 18. Planners will then pass their recommendations onto the City Council.

For the first time, elements of the Newport Beach Country Club will be open to nonmembers, O Hill said. Visitors as well as club members will be able to use the bungalows, spa, health and wellness center and swimming pool.

However, O Hill said that members will not lose any of their exclusive use of the tennis and golf facilities, which will remain, for the most part, closed to the general public.

Even so, the "boutique hotel" is aimed at attracting new visitors to Newport Beach and is expected to bring in about $1 million a year in bed taxes.

"People will play golf, spend money and recreate in all sorts of different ways," Chamber of Commerce President Richard Luehrs said. "Sales are generated, which helps businesses, and sales tax is generated for the city — it's nothing but positive."

The project plan originally proposed downsizing to seven courts, however, 10 was later agreed upon because of an anticipated resurgence in interest among tennis players once the renovations are complete, O Hill.

"Tennis isn't as popular as it used to be," O Hill said.

But, when players can relax under the hands of a trained masseuse or sit in on sports or health lectures lead by industry professionals in a new meeting facility, he said, "tennis isn't just a place you show up and hit balls around anymore — it's become something more sophisticated."

One other element to the project is a proposed "landscape buffer" between the golf course parking lot and the Irvine Terrace neighborhood.

Measuring 700 feet long, and ranging from 22 to 85 feet wide on the north side of East Coast Highway, the landscaping will dramatically improve the views of residents who have for years described the parking lot as looking like a swap-meet, O Hill said.

"We've worked very diligently when addressing any concerns of the founding golf members, tennis club members and Irvine Terrace residents," O Hill said.

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