Choosing a Country Club in North Broward and South Palm Beach Counties

March 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

The private country clubs that dot North Broward County and South Palm Beach County tend to be older and smaller than the better-known clubs in North Palm Beach County.

While the price of annual dues is about the same, it can cost significantly less up front to join a club further south, in the Boca Raton, Deerfield Beach, Pompano Beach and Coral Springs areas. For instance, Boca Grove Plantation in Boca Raton has just 18 holes for a golf membership equity fee of $85,000 and annual dues of $17,258.  Compare that with Frenchman’s Creek to the north, in Palm Beach Gardens, which has 36 holes and charges $150,000 for an equity membership and $22,559 a year.

There are clubs in North Palm Beach County that charge much less and much more than Frenchman’s Creek, but the clubs in Broward and South Palm Beach counties tend to have similar cost structures.  For instance, Mizner Country Club in Delray Beach, with 18 holes, charges a golf membership equity fee of $95,000 and annual dues of $17,300.

Boca Raton also offers Addison Reserve, Broken Sound Club, St. Andrews Country Club, Stonebridge Country Club and Woodfield Country Club, while Delray Beach also has the Delaire Country Club and Bocaire Country Clubs.

Whether you are relocating permanently or shopping for a second home, buying into a luxury country club community is an expensive choice.  While the ultra-wealthy may not be too concerned with club expenses, many successful people who move to the Palm Beaches and Broward County region need to ensure that their decisions do not derail their retirement plans.

A few country clubs in Broward and North Palm Beach counties went bankrupt or were sold due to the 2008 economic downturn, but most emerged intact and are currently advertising for new members.  Here are a few items to consider when you compare the country clubs in this area of Southeast Florida:

Renovation costs.

Find out how much is built into the annual dues related to future renovation projects.  This is important because these facilities tend to be older, having been built in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and because the area was hit by damaging hurricanes in 2005-2006.  Many clubs have renovated to repair damage or to update their new facilities and some of those “legacy costs” may be baked into the cost of membership.  If they haven’t renovated recently, they may be planning to.  Asking a lot of questions about the plans and financial structure of the club you are considering joining can avoid an unpleasant surprise later on.

Check the pro shop, bar and restaurant.

You can tell a lot about the health of a country club by visiting the pro shop and the food services facilities.  If they are busy, clean, attractive and up to date, that’s usually a good sign because it means the club has the funds to offer top facilities and services.  Look for a sharp appearance and friendly service.  If the pro shop and the restaurant appear rundown and lacking in help, that’s a sign the club may soon have to impose a large assessment on members to pay for upgrades.

Look for refundable equity memberships.

At most clubs, your equity membership fee is refundable when you sell your home.  A few clubs offer non-refundable equity memberships, though, and this is a sign they don’t have a healthy number of people trying to get into the community.  Such a membership is actually a capital contribution, not an equity membership.

Check out the membership waiting list.

Ask for the club’s waiting list.  A long list means there are people wanting to buy in, so you are more likely to find a buyer quickly if you decide to move out and have your equity membership fee refunded.  At some area clubs the situation is reversed.  They have a waiting list of members wanting to move out and get their equity back, clearly a bad sign regarding the future financial health of the club.  This latter scenario is all too common in older club oriented communities where the “new” home buyers of 30 years ago were 30 years younger and are now aged, not playing golf or tennis, but not yet selling their homes, resulting in a stagnant club membership.

Understand all of the costs.

Many country clubs require residents to purchase equity in the club through a one-time equity fee for a full golf membership that ranges from $45,000 at Woodfield Country Club to $100,000 at Addison Reserve, both in Boca Raton.  You also must take into account annual dues, trail fees, and the costs of dining and other social activities.

Other items to consider are the number of golf holes since multiple courses offer you more variety, the number and variety of other events and attractions such as game nights, lectures, tennis tournaments and summer camps, especially if you have a big family and whether the club requires you to maintain your golf membership and dues even if you become physically unable to play.

“Demand for homes in these luxury country clubs decreased in 2008 and is growing again now.  These clubs aren’t struggling like they were,” says Michael Robinson, a financial advisor at The Lyman Group -
HighTower Advisors and a former area golf professional.  “That will place upward pressure on home prices and, eventually, club revenues.”

However, an aging population has slowed the growth of golf-oriented country clubs and will likely lead to consolidations and even potential failures among these communities in South Palm Beach and Broward counties.

“As residents age and they can no longer play golf, that has a great impact on the stability of the club,” Robinson says.  “If your rounds are down the courses are not generating as much money.”

Buying a home, or a second home, in a beautiful Southeast Florida retirement community can be a spectacular reward for your hard-earned success.  As with any high-end purchase, look at it from a retirement planning and wealth management perspective before making your final choice.

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