By Tim Pallesen
The owner of the Seagate Hotel and Spa has offered $7 million to buy the struggling Hamlet Golf and Country Club.
“We feel it’s a win-win for both sides,” said E. Anthony Wilson, chairman of the Seagate Hospitality Group, after making the offer to country club members on April 16.
The purchase already has been approved by the country club’s board of directors. Members will vote this month on whether to accept it.
Seagate would get golf and tennis opportunities for both its hotel guests and members of its private Seagate Beach Club at the closest private country club to downtown Delray Beach.
Wilson told club members their 300-acre country club on Atlantic Avenue west of Interstate 95 would be renamed Seagate Golf and Tennis at the Hamlet if the sale is approved.
He envisions corporate business meetings and special events such as weddings at the 38,000-square-foot clubhouse, which has a ballroom capable of seating 350.
Club members spent $10 million in 2007 to renovate the clubhouse and make improvements to their 18-hole golf course and eight tennis courts.
Memberships in the country club have been mandatory for owners of single-family homes at the Hamlet since 2003.
Homeowners must pay a $30,000 initiation fee, plus $15,300 in annual dues. An additional $3,500 annual fee was added in 2007 to pay for the $10 million in renovations.
Hamlet residents still will be able to purchase memberships to play golf and tennis if the sale is approved.
The club has 206 resident members and 65 non-resident members now.
But country club president Bill Redman said Seagate’s offer is attractive to Hamlet residents because memberships would no longer be required for homeowners.
“Mandatory memberships made sense years ago particularly for the smaller clubs to get members,” Redman said. “But nobody foresaw the economic downturn.”
Golf communities built decades ago have struggled across South Florida since the downturn in the economy and collapse of the housing market that began five years ago.
Residents at the Hamlet and other such communities also have grown older.
“It wasn’t considered that people would age and their needs and desires would change,” Redman said. “A lot of people now in their 80s are not able to enjoy golf and tennis as they used to.”
The weak housing market combined with the mandatory golf memberships made it particularly difficult for homeowners to sell their houses in the Hamlet. The club offered discounted memberships to homebuyers under age 62, but got little response.
Hamlet homeowners objecting to the mandatory memberships have filed a series of lawsuits against the country club.
“If the country club is sold, the litigation is likely to go away,” Redman said. “The sale would open us to everybody who wants to live in our beautiful community.”
Under the terms of the sale, existing club members would each be required to pay $20,000 to retire the club’s $11 million debt to Wells Fargo Bank.
Seagate is offering a number of incentives to encourage country club members to vote in favor of the sale.
“There’s no charge to be a social member at our beach club,” Wilson said.
The opportunity to dine overlooking the ocean at the British Colonial private club, at 401 S. Ocean Blvd., usually costs a $5,000 initiation fee plus $1,500 in annual dues.
Hamlet club members would also get discounted room rates, use of the 6,000-square-foot fitness facility and charging privileges at the 162-room Seagate Hotel and Spa, located at 1000 E. Atlantic Ave.