How many people living in private residential communities that are affiliated with a private country club are actually members of that Club?
I live in a homeowners’ association in western Broward County. Inside that community is a well-known private country club that boasts an 18-hole golf course, tennis facilities, a pool and a clubhouse with wonderful dining. You would think that most people living in the community would partake of some or all of these activities especially given the proximity and the quality. However, several years ago our board discovered that the vast majority of the owners living in the community did not belong to the Club.
Not surprisingly, many private clubs, especially golf clubs, are suffering these days. Older equity members are dying or leaving the area. It has become much harder to entice new people to buy into an equity membership to support the private nature of these clubs. Some previously private clubs have gone public in order to stay alive and in some instances clubs have gone bankrupt and the golf course property was sold off to developers.
What do many clubs do in these circumstances. They look first to the people living in the community for support. It makes sense as there is a symbiotic relationship between a thriving club and the neighborhood surrounding it. In my own community, the membership decided to amend our governing documents to require a minimum social club membership to support our Club. Such a membership is less than $500.00 per year and the hope was that once owners got a taste of the Club they would consider becoming even more involved as either golf or tennis members but the ultimate decision would be left up to them.
Other communities have taken things a step further and amended their documents to require mandatory golf club memberships, some costing as much as $25,000 and up for buy-in. The question at that point is does such an amendment change the overall scheme of the community and does it constitute an unreasonable restraint on alienation. At least three trial court decisions have held that such amendments are improper and those cases are being appealed.
How far should a community go to support the private club nestled within its walls?