President Donald Trump is a regular on the golf course at his West Palm Beach and Jupiter country clubs when he’s at Mar-a-Lago, his part-time Palm Beach home. But in other parts of Palm Beach County, some golf courses struggle for survival or even shut down, as the number of golfers and club members dwindle, while demand for in-town land rises among home builders.
As the year draws to a close, two more golf courses are in play to be sold to home builders: Villa Del Ray Golf Course in suburban Delray Beach and Cypress Creek Country Club golf course in suburban Boynton Beach.
13th Floor Homes of Tamarac is seeking to buy the Villa Del Ray course, which has been closed for about a year. Michael Nunziata, division president, said plans are afoot to meet in January with the Palm Greens community that surrounds the golf club and get residents’ input on housing plans. The property is west of Military Trail, between Flavor Pict Road and Lake Ida Road.
Meanwhile, PulteGroup met this month with residents of Cypress Creek, an all-ages gated community of more than 400 single-family homes, north of Old Boynton Road, between Military Trail and Lawrence Road. Pulte wants to build between 250 to 275 homes on the 18-hole golf course, whch is privately owned and slated to close in 2019. The new homes would be priced in the high $400,000s to high $500,000’s.
New development on either golf course requires county approval.
“There’s not a lot of available land in this built-out area, and so we like infill projects (like golf courses) because there’s a lot of demand from people who want to live close to work and entertainment and shopping,” said Brent Baker, division president for Atlanta-based Pulte.
Some privately-owned golf courses within housing communities have been sold because upkeep is expensive and golf club membership is falling. Other community-owned golf courses have been sold because residents no longer want to shoulder the cost to maintain them.
Golf course conversions aren’t always popular, however. They can stir up heated feelings among residents who live near these golf courses and don’t want to see their open spaces disappear.
In the case of Cypress Creek, residents said they were taken aback by news the golf course was in contract to be sold by its private owner, True Shot LLC. This is especially the case because Theresa Marcacci, a member of the Cypress Creek property owners association, is the wife of William Marcacci, who is listed as a managing member of True Shot, according to state records.
The Cypress Creek homeowners association doesn’t own the course or have any legal rights to the course. Nonetheless, residents say Marcacci’s presence on the homeowners association raises the question of a conflict of interest. Some residents believe the association should have informed the community as soon as it knew the golf course was in play. “The board should have our interests at heart,” said Alec Pokras, a Cypress Creek resident.
It’s unclear when the association knew of the pending sale or how long the course had been shopped, including whether True Shot approached other golf course operators to buy the course, as residents of Indian Spring Country Club in Boynton Beach did earlier this year when they sold their golf course to Concert Golf Partners, a Newport Beach, Calif.-based owner of boutique, private golf clubs.
Word is that the Cypress Creek course is under contract for $32 million to Pulte, but Baker said the price is confidential and he would not disclose the amount.
In a telephone interview, Theresa Marcacci, the Cypress Creek member, reiterated that she is not an owner of True Shot; her husband is. (William Marcacci did not return a phone call seeking comment, and Cypress Creek association members could not be reached for comment.) According to county property records, the Marcaccis own a home on the golf course in Cypress Creek.
Some Cypress Creek residents worry the golf course’s demise will affect the value of their homes.
“This will reduce our property values,” said Scott Gould, a Cypress Creek resident whose home is on the seventh hole. “An overwhelming majority of residents want to keep the golf course and are against the development.”
In addition to views and property values, residents say they’re also worried about traffic, storm drainage and the fate of some burrowing owls on the property. They’re irritated they were never given the chance to save the golf course, including pooling their money to try to buy it.
Baker said True Shot hired a broker to interview potential buyers, settling on Pulte for its experience in golf-course redevelopment. Pulte is redeveloping one of two golf courses in Boca Lago, a Boca Raton community. Model homes are under construction and sales will start in the new year, although there’s already a list of interested buyers that totals 1,500, Baker said.
In addition to the Pulte brand, the company owns the DiVosta and DelWebb brands. Baker said it’s possible that homes built on the Cypress Creek property might carry the DiVosta flag.
Baker said he understands that Cypress Creek residents are upset about a change in their community. But he said he tells residents, “This golf course is closing. It’s a private business and the owners have a right to operate it or not operate it. Would you rather have a multi-million-dollar amenity center and improvements versus a closed golf course, which brings uncertainty?”
It’s true that Cypress Creek residents have no say in the club’s future. They are not required to have a membership in the country club, as is the case in some residential communities. Mandatory membership can help keep clubs afloat, but it also can dampen property values when the cost of a membership is high and acts as a deterrent to would-be buyers who don’t want to have to pay thousands of dollars to buy a club membership in order to buy a home.
On the other hand, communities without mandatory membership do not have a steady source of income, making the club’s finances more unpredictable. This was the case with the President Country Club in West Palm Beach, which was sold to an investor, and then resold to the Banyan Cay development group, now building homes and a hotel on one of two golf courses there.
As is often the case, prospective home builders seek to sweeten the loss of a community’s golf course by offering new perks.
At Cypress Creek, Pulte has floated the idea of an amenity campus that could feature a playground, resort pool, new clubhouse and sports facilities. Walking trails and new landscaping also are proposed, including a preserve, lakes and buffers so new homes won’t back up into existing homes.
Walking trails are a feature of a new housing project set for the former Marina Lakes Golf Course in the Villages of Oriole, an age 55-and-up community west of Delray Beach. There, 13th Floor Homes will build Avalon Trail with 521 new homes, Nunziata said.
13th Floor’s Nunziata said golf course redevelopments work best when the community’s residents and the developer work closely together. For Avalon Trail, Nunziata said 13th Floor took pains to work with the community and come with a plan for the site. “It’s a lot of leg work, a lot of community meetings,” Nunziata said. “But by dealing with things on the front end, it helps make the project move forward.”
Pulte’s Baker hopes to do the same at Cypress Creek, where more meetings with residents are planned in the new year.
Alexandra Clough writes about real estate, law and the economy.