New developments in the area are shifting away from requiring residents to have golf club memberships, amid waning participation and an excess of golf course properties. However, well-known golf communities like Admirals Cove and Frenchman’s Creek are still popular places to live, with few homes available on the market.
At its new Alton development in Palm Beach, Fla., Kolter Homes touts walking trails, parks and proximity to shopping and restaurants, but one feature that’s conspicuously absent from the community is a golf course, My Palm Beach (Fla.) Post reported.
For decades, links were a surefire way to sell homes in northern Palm Beach County, a world capital of golf. But amid waning participation in the sport and a glut of courses, developers have begun to shun golf, Post reported.
“A lot of buyers want to be in a community where they don’t have to be part of a golf club,” said Rick Covell, president of Kolter Homes.
The shift away from golf courses began even before the Great Recession. Evergrene, a community just east of Alton on Donald Ross Road that was completed a decade ago, includes an expansive clubhouse and large pool but no greens, bunkers or links, Post reported.
In Palm Beach County, many high-end communities require a golf membership as part of a home purchase, a sum that can total $150,000 or more. Homeowners also must pay dues for the upkeep of the club. Avid golfers with deep pockets are willing to pay, but the steep fees have caused developers such as Kolter to rethink their old calculus about which amenities sell homes in Palm Beach County, Post reported.
“What’s happened in golf in the last 10 years? More golf courses have closed than opened. Players under the age of 35 are leaving,” Covell said. “Golf is declining, and we’re just overwhelmed with golf courses based on the declining demand.”
At Alton, Kolter is targeting affluent homebuyers. Houses will be priced from $600,000 to more than $1 million, Covell said—a buyer demographic that in decades past proved willing to pony up for golf, Post reported.
Lesley Deutch, senior vice president at John Burns Real Estate Consulting in Boca Raton, calls the shift “an end of an era. Generally, I would say there’s a trend away from golf courses,” Deutch said. “They’re expensive to build and expensive to maintain.”
Some say the demise of the golf course is overstated. Only a tiny percentage of homes are on the market in golf course communities such as Admirals Cove and Frenchman’s Creek in Jupiter and Mirasol in Palm Beach Gardens, said Rob Thomson, owner of Waterfront Properties in Jupiter.
“If there were a trend away from it, we’d have an abundance of inventory,” Thomson said. The occasional homeowner leaves a golf community for a waterfront condo, Thomson said, but he sees no exodus. “Some of them have decided they’re golfing less and traveling more. But those spots that they’re vacating are quickly taken by buyers.”
Golf courses became a staple of Florida communities when developers realized links were a way to create desirable views on otherwise unremarkable property. The strategy worked so well that builders overreached, said David Hueber, former head of the National Golf Foundation in Jupiter and author of the forthcoming book, “In the Rough: The Business Game of Golf.”
“We got into a bubble,” Hueber said. “We built too many golf courses in the 1990s, and often the wrong kind of golf courses. They were too long, too difficult and took too long to play.”
For the wealthy retirees of the 1980s and 1990s, golf was a symbol of the good life. But societal shifts have led many Americans away from golf, a time-consuming pursuit, Post reported.
“The baby boomers were working parents, and they were helicoptering their kids, and they didn’t have the time for golf,” Deutch said. “Now they are looking for walking trails and fitness centers.”
Jonathan Postma, a real estate agent at Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate in Boca Raton, said developers could strike a balance by dropping mandatory golf memberships and opening their courses to outsiders, Post reported.
“That would encourage 100 percent of buyers to look at the community, rather than just golfers,” Postma said. “Instead, they shoot themselves in the foot.”