By Cheri F Rosen
As the weather turns nasty and blustery, and snow starts to cover courses in the northern part of the country, golf enthusiasts from Minnesota to Maine look south to find a slice (pardon the pun) of golf paradise. The Sunshine State is known for its ideal environment and climate for golf, and the courses on offer in the southeastern section in particular further enhance its appeal. With more than 1,000 golf courses in Florida, and well over 100 courses from West Palm Beach to Miami, there’s always a place for you to tee up in Miami Dade, Broward, or Palm Beach counties.
More and more of my buyers, especially from the demographic of 5TJT readers, are questioning me about “golf properties.” That can mean many things, but among my clientele it usually means one of three things: Country club properties; homes with golf course views; or residences in close proximity to public “pay to play” courses.
I suppose the strong desire to be within easy reach of a round of golf should be expected among many of the retiring professionals looking to relocate to my neck of the woods. We all know never to try to schedule a medical appointment for a Wednesday, and of the numerous financial deals struck between swings on the links. However, it is just as common to find my millennial buyers craving that patch of green as well. And certainly, those pursuing easy golf course access are not just limited to the weekday white collar worker. As Yossi Lowy of Deerfield Century Village quipped, “The same guy wearing a shtreimel in the shtiebel on Shabbos is in shorts on the fairway on Sunday.”
So, with such a bevy of buyers beseeching golf course proximity, I set out to investigate that particular scene around the most popular Orthodox communities that I service. Full disclosure: although for most of their adult lives my brothers have all been devotees of the sport, each living within the confines of highly regarded Palm Beach County golf country clubs, I know next to nothing about the game (sport?) and so I am well out of my league (group? foursome?).
My first hurdle arose as I tried to decipher what is meant by a private versus public course. From my years of selling homes that include a mandatory membership fee, I understand that a residence in a country club often includes golf privileges, which are only available to those purchasing a similar membership and their guests. Therefore, a private golf course is one that is available for play only to those who have paid (often quite dearly) for that opportunity.
A public course, to my understanding, is one that is owned and operated by a municipality, be it the city or the county. At such a facility, any person may make an appointment for a “tee time,” pay the comparatively reasonable fee, and enjoy a round or two. Osprey Point in Boca Raton is an example of an exquisitely formulated course, as well-managed by Palm Beach County as it is beautiful and challenging. An award-winning 27-hole facility that backs up to a National Wildlife Refuge, Osprey Point was named the “No. 1 place to play in Palm Beach” by Golf Digest. A round of 18 holes will cost you about $70 including parking. All quite logical, simple, and understandable.
However, there apparently exists a whole other level of “public” as it pertains to golf courses. The Trump Doral’s Blue Monster, for example, often rated the number-one course in South Florida, is one of four courses located on the property of the Trump Doral Hotel. Using this property as just a sample of the numerous similar “public courses”—i.e., The Boca Raton, The Breakers, etc.—these courses (often some of the very best to be had) offer a “Chinese menu” of choices ranging from your basic schedule-a-tee-tim to a full-blown golf membership. One round of 18 holes, with parking, may be available this week—still off season—for approximately $500. Just to be clear, I am not comparing the magnificence and challenge (particularly of the infamous 18th hole) of the Blue Monster with the understated beauty and challenging simplicity of Osprey Point; rather; I am contrasting two meanings of the term “public course.” It just seems apparent that another separate category might be required to distinguish a course that offers both private and public luxurious playing opportunities from a course provided by a local municipality.
In my research, I noticed that there is a great deal of worry about the “decline of interest in golf,” particularly in the state of Florida. In fact, nothing seems further from the truth. Continuing a trend that began in 2020, golf course closures have continued to decline, according to figures from the National Golf Foundation (NGF). Through June 2022, not quite 50 18-hole-equivalent courses closed across the country, a drop of 25% from the same time last year. More than 90% of the total courses that closed were public daily-fee courses, which is another continuing trend, and over half of them were 9-hole courses; 75% had peak greens fees under $40. The NGF predicts that by year’s end, 95 18-HEQ will have closed, which would be a reduction of 66% since 2019, when closures were at their height. Some 40% of the courses that closed had already been scheduled to become residential or commercial properties. So yes, there have been closures in recent years, pre-COVID, but most of those were the result of poorly managed, underutilized municipal courses that were sold at tremendous profit to builders, often in response to significant housing shortages. Boca Raton, for example, sold several city courses to the GL Homes Corporation but has also received a new golf course from the Dell purchase of the Boca Resort, which it is purportedly revamping to rival many a private course.
While golf has had a long period of decline when it comes to the number of players and revenue since the turn of the century, there has recently been more interest in playing golf. Since 2020, there’s been a huge jump in the number of golf players.
Additionally, the golf industry has grown a whopping 22% in the past ten years. Today, it is worth $84 billion, and in 2011 it was worth $68.8 billion.
As an added point of interest, Palm Beach County has more golf courses than any other county in America! No wonder Florida is also ranked number one for the sport of golf in the U.S. (golf.com/news/).
Next week: Part 2—Which golf course is right for you? n
Cheri F Rosen, of Lang Realty, has been a realtor in South Florida since moving to Boca Raton over a decade ago. You can learn more about real estate in South Florida by calling Cheri at 561-221-2233 or visiting Cheri’s website: southfloridacondosandhouses.com or just Google the words Orthodox Boca. Cheri’s website is the top search result.