While other golf clubs close, Palm Beach Gardens’ Eastpointe has a plan


Eastpointe Country Club in suburban Palm Beach Gardens has found a way out of the rough and into a new source of money to upgrade its facilities, while keeping intact two golf courses for residents.

The club plans to sell one of two driving ranges and tennis complexes to a housing builder, then use the money from the 10-acre sale to create a recreation center plus make other upgrades.

Eastpointe’s move is in line with changes being made at golf course communities throughout Florida, particularly in Palm Beach County, as clubs adapt to changing demand for their amenities.

Some golf clubs have struggled to survive due to declining interest in the sport, aging members unable to play, or too much debt. A few clubs have struck deals to sell their community-owned clubs to professional club managers.

In Boynton Beach, Indian Spring Country Club sold to Concert Golf Partners of Newport Beach, Calif. Concert Golf already has poured money into upgrading the facility. Concert Golf also bought The Fountains Country Club in suburban Lake Worth.

But others, such as Polo Trace Golf Club in Delray Beach and Cypress Creek Country Club golf course in suburban Boynton Beach have seen their golf courses close and sold to developers.

That fate could await Sherwood Park Golf Club in Delray Beach, now negotiating a sale to Pulte Group, The Palm Beach Post has learned.

Eastpointe is in a unique situation because the club’s facilities are duplicated, said Paul Rogers, president of the Eastpointe Country Club.

The gated community of 875 homes is just west of Interstate 95 on the south side of Donald Ross Road. It featured two country clubs: Eastpointe Country Club and the Golf and Racquet Club.

For years, the clubs have debated their financial futures. The clubs at first did not require homeowners to buy a membership in order to live in the community, Rogers said, but starting in 2003, the clubs began requiring homeowners to at least become social members, at a cost of around $4,000 a year.

With the recession, and then changing recreation habits, two separate clubs competing in the same housing community became too difficult, especially for the Golf & Racquet Club, Rogers said.

In 2015, the clubs merged and Eastpointe assumed Golf & Racquet’s debt, Rogers said.

Today, Eastpointe is profitable and counts 526 golf members and about 380 social members, Rogers said. Revenues are about $8.7 million a year, he added.

The Eastpointe homes are filled with a range of residents, including young families who want to be near good public schools in the Palm Beach Gardens area.

But clubs, like any other property, need regular maintenance and upgrades.

“We did not have the capital funds available to do the major renovation you need to do,” Rogers said. And the club was reluctant to assess club members, or go into debt, to make upgrades, he added.

Rogers said club leaders came up a different approach. They devised a plan to sell the driving range and tennis courts at the Golf & Racquet Club to a developer to be selected this summer.

That parcel could accommodate 50 single-family homes starting at around $550,000, Rogers said.

Money from the sale would be used to transform the Golf & Racquet’s old clubhouse into a recreation center. Amenities would include a fitness facility, exercise room, new bistro and sports bar, plus a new ladies’ card room.

Golf operations would be centralized in the Eastpointe Country Club, which would see its driving range extended and a new short-game practice area added.

Rogers said talks are ongoing with club members about the plan.

Having two of everything is “a luxury and a curse,” Rogers said. It’s a luxury because of the added amenities, he said, but a curse because some features “are old and you’ve got to fix them.”

In the end, the goal is to end up with “one and a half of everything,” including keeping the two golf courses and adding a recreation center — without taking on heavy debt.

Non-residents of Eastpointe can join the country club, and many do, Rogers said. At Eastpointe, a family with a full golf membership pays about $12,000 a year in dues and food, beverage and gratuity costs, a figure lower than nearby clubs.

But in November the club will add an initiation fee of $7,500. So act now, Rogers joked.

Meanwhile, deep in the forest…

Stuck in the sand trap are Sherwood Forest residents who own homes on the Sherwood Park Golf Club in Delray Beach. There, the golf course owner has struck a deal to sell the 18-hole golf course to Pulte, which wants to build 142 villas and townhouses on the open spaces. Homes would range in price from the mid-$300,000s to the low $400,000s.

The sale, if it goes through, would mean most of the community’s 120 homes would lose their open views.

But the deal has some hurdles.

Sherwood’s homes and golf course were built by the same developer. but the golf course was sold years ago to Stuart resident Brad Dressler.

A month ago, Dressler shut down the golf course. In a letter to residents, he said the course has struggled due to the recession, maintenance costs and last fall’s hurricane damage. After being approached by several builders, Dressler said he picked Pulte because of its experience redeveloping golf courses in South Florida.

The golf course has a deed restriction requiring it to remain a golf course, unless the Sherwood Forest residents vote to undo the restriction. That’s up in the air.

During the past few weeks, Pulte officials have been meeting with Sherwood Forest residents to talk about their plans. Pulte pledges to build lakes between Sherwood Forest homes and the new multifamily units to create a buffer. A new clubhouse and pool also are planned, said Brent Baker, division president for Atlanta-based Pulte.

Residents aren’t convinced the golf course sale is the right thing to do. Some have started a Facebook page, The Delray Greenspace Alliance , to convert the closed golf course into protected green space.

Finality at The Fountains?

In April, Concert Golf closed on its purchase of The Fountains Country Club in suburban Lake Worth. The move followed years of division between residents of the community, some of whom were club members and some of whom were not.

Some residents who left the club were sued by the club for failing to pay dues. The lawsuits, and longstanding debates about how to manage the three golf courses and its country club, led to acrimony that lingers to this day, residents said.

But Peter Nanula, chairman of Concert Golf, said things are starting to look better and will improve over time.

Little by little, lawsuits against former club members are being dismissed. Old club members have been invited back and upgrades, including a resort pool, are planned. Annual dues have dropped to $12,500 from about $19,000 per year.

Also, mandatory membership in the country club has ended. This makes it easier for people to buy and sell homes, boosting the community’s home values, Nanula said.

Residents say there’s still some bad feelings among members, but Nanula said based on his experience, these feelings will fade over time.

Still on the drawing board are plans to sell parts of one of three golf courses to a real estate developer.

GL Homes had been in talks with the club board to build single-family homes and apartments. Then GL Homes changed the plans to feature 470 for-sale townhouses. The homes would classify as workforce housing, ranging in price from $140,000 to $260,000, said Larry Portnoy, GL Homes vice president.

Nanula said he expects to make a decision on the land sale this year. The proceeds will pay for the resort pool, he said.

Nanula declined to comment on the pending acquisition of Concert Golf’s country clubs by Club Corp. of America . Some 16 of 18 clubs owned by Concert Golf are being sold, including Indian Spring in Boynton Beach. But The Fountains and a club in Muttontown in East Norwich, N.Y., are not included in the sale.

Alexandra Clough writes about real estate, law and the economy.



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