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A premier experience on and off and the course

Green Bay Country Club ranked No. 2 on Club + Resort Business list of top patios

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September 5, 2023

GREEN BAY – Green Bay Country Club’s (GBCC) continued relevance 28 years after its establishment, Jerry Geiger, general manager (GM) and chief operating officer (COO) said, comes down to a focus on three key drivers – progress, forward and active.

“I see parallels between Green Bay as a community and GBCC,” he said. “The same spirit that built the Packers (and has grown) Green Bay as a whole also built the club.”

Geiger, who was born and raised in Brillion, said he was gone from Northeast Wisconsin for almost 30 years.

He returned to the Green Bay area and became GM and COO at the club last year.

Among the first things he noticed upon his return was how much Green Bay and the surrounding communities have grown, not only in size but in amenities – important to both attracting and retaining residents.

Similarly, Cathy Zehms, director of membership and communications, said GBCC – located at 2400 Klondike Rd. on Green Bay’s east side – strives to embrace continuous improvement as part of maintaining its reputation as a premier, member-centric community of like-minded individuals.

“People assume the golf aspect of the club, but we’re a year-round facility and a community of members who share a passion for golf but are also passionate about doing things with their families,” she said. “There is so much to do there that people don’t realize.”

The 400 member families, Geiger said, definitely do.

Currently, the club allows for a membership of 400 – and 300 are allowed to be golf members. 

“And we have seen movement in that throughout the years,” he said.

Geiger said 50% of the club’s incoming members are new or returning to the city within the previous two years.

The latest in renovations and innovation
Part of attracting and retaining an engaged membership, Geiger said, stems from providing ever-elevated offerings.

In 2022, the club embarked on an extensive, $8.5 million renovation of the main clubhouse and the sports center facility.

Geiger said in 2022, the club began talks of major renovations to both floors of the clubhouse – which included opening up the clubhouse with a large, expanded outdoor venue patio and veranda on the upper level, expanding it to 10,841 square feet.

In addition, the renovation reconfigured both bars in the clubhouse and included a large addition to house the new golf shop and golf simulators.

Since its opening, Geiger said members have thoroughly enjoyed the updates.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Jerry Geiger said club guests prefer to eat outside on the renovated patios. Photo Courtesy of Green Bay Country Club

The 19th Hole Patio also garnered attention from Club + Resort Business as the No. 2 top-ranked patio space chosen from among clubs across the U.S.

“The vision for the patio came out of COVID-19 when every club and every restaurant said, ‘We need more outdoor space,’ because it taught everybody how to eat outside,” Geiger said. “COVID taught us how enjoyable it is to eat outside, and that’s where everybody wants to eat now.”

This time of year, Geiger said the indoor dining spaces are quiet as members and their guests favor different areas of the patio for their meals.

He said outdoor fire pits – nine in total – beckon members in the evenings, and the club provides alpaca blankets to ward off the cold as well.

Zehms said the veranda has panoramic views of the golf course, as well as a retractable awning.

“The patio has doubled the use of the clubhouse,” he said. “It’s the preferred place of seating this time of year.”

Members are also appreciating their opportunity to capitalize on one of the latest trends, Geiger said – playing pickleball on the newly-installed pickleball courts, as well as enjoying the large tiki bar that was part of the renovation.

And, to prepare for the winter season ahead, Geiger said the club installed two new golf simulators in the golf shop right off the pub. 

On the course
Geiger said members appreciate the modern championship course – which golf pros say is different every time they play it.

“That’s attractive to them,” he said. “Most courses don’t have six tees and six options with distance of course. And we have Bowers Creek running through the course and a number of beautiful covered bridges, as well as rolling terrain. It’s pretty special.”

GBCC’s Championship Course, Geiger said, features five sets of tees to provide competitive play for members with varying handicaps, as well as elevation changes from tee to green, doglegs and strategically placed fairway bunkers that add to the challenge of the course. 

The Green Bay Country Club is a “Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.”

The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses, which is endorsed by the United States Golf Association, provides information and guidance to help the club preserve and enhance its extensive wildlife habitat and protect natural resources.

GBCC is one of five golf courses in Wisconsin, and 915 in the world, to hold the designation.

And while golf is always a draw at the club, a more recent development, Zehms said, is in the number of female members taking to the course.

“Women’s golf has exploded in popularity, with rounds of golf and league participation up by almost 50%,” she said.

In addition, Zhem said, some of the top youth golfers in the state come through GBCC’s Youth Golf Academy program.

“One of the things I find when I give tours is that people assume everyone at the club is a fantastic golfer,” she said. “And while we have those, others are at different levels, and the lessons and instruction programming we offer can get them better at the game of golf while they meet other members as well.”

Where it all began
The impetus for the club began in 1989 when a group of avid golfers sought to create a membership-focused club built around a great golf course.

By 1995, 240 acres of farmland in the Village of Bellevue were transformed into a diverse tract of golf, complemented by a clubhouse. 

“This core group of people who wanted access to a private golf course spread the word, and people literally lined up to support it and built this club,” Zehms said. “It was against all odds, if you think about it, with Green Bay being a smaller city at the time. But they had a mindset of making it happen.”

Ten years later, the original course and clubhouse were complemented by what Geiger said was progressive at the time – a sporting/recreational complex/sports center.

It features six tennis courts, a zero-entry swimming pool and waterslide, a six-hole par-three executive course, a golf practice area and other amenities. 

“The club was ahead of its time in the country club industry when it became a country club and not merely a golf club,” Geiger said.

Member-first culture
All the premier amenities in the world don’t matter, Geiger said, without the right culture behind it.

Setting a member-centric tone is something he said he and the club’s board of directors set forth for all employees.

Geiger said it begins with hiring the right people and having longer-term employees lead the way – anticipating needs is an integral part of the equation regardless of which part of the club a member is enjoying.

“It’s all about the experience,” he said. “It’s one thing to have a patio – it’s another thing to think of what goes with that experience, such as the alpaca blankets to cover their legs when sitting outside. It’s that special extra touch.”

A popular place for guests, Jerry Geiger said GBCC’s patios have outdoor fire pits and club-provided alpaca blankets. Photo Courtesy of Green Bay Country Club

Zehms said it’s also about remembering the smallest details.

“Whether it’s remembering something specific about a member who brought their grandchildren out or their birthdays,” she said.

Consistency, Geiger said, is a fundamental part of the club experience as well.

“When you have the right staff in the right roles, and the right culture, you can bring that experience of consistency to membership whether in dining, events or something else,” he said.

Members also become dear friends with their fellow members, with the club being the place where they come to “hang out with their friends,” Geiger said. 

“It’s the guys who golf in the morning in the summer who come in to play cards in the winter,” he said. “It’s feeling like you’re part of a giant family. First and foremost, people think of friends when they think of the club.”

That, Zehms said, includes serving as a great environment for people new to the area to plug into a community of friends. 

“It’s an easy place to do that as our membership is remarkably receptive to meeting people looking for community,” she said. “We’re also seeing growth in our younger membership – we even have some twentysomethings joining this year. And our 35-45 age range is a rapidly growing group. What’s great is no one sticks to themselves – you see people of all ages with others of all ages. It’s a great place to make friends and become part of a community.”

That extends year-round.

While the golf course is open typically from tax day to Halloween – weather-dependent – and the Sports Complex runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Geiger said the clubhouse and other amenities go strong year-round.

Whether it’s a Halloween Fall Spectacular event, holiday get-togethers to make wreaths and other crafts or Brunch with Santa – special events pack in families.

Those same families and others, Geiger said, also make avid use of the indoor golf simulators, as well as the transformed golf course.

During the winter, he said the club grooms trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking and fat tire biking; offers ice skating on the pond and transforms the hill off the clubhouse into sled central.

Collectively, whether it’s physical amenities, events, warm hellos or a host of other things, Geiger said the club is about the experience.

“It’s an experience,” he said. “And it’s our job to continue to elevate the experience so members’ value continues to improve.”

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