Tuesday, May 24, 2022

From the Magazine: Hole in One

When it was announced that the owners of The Boca Raton were donating Boca Country Club to the city, the news was met with excitement from some and trepidation from others. Nearly two years after that announcement and seven months since the city officially took over, the golf course is open to the public, and there’s more on the way from Boca Raton’s newest amenity.

Jason Hayes, a veteran of South Florida golf hospitality, was selected to be general manager of the new club when the City of Boca took over late last year. He brings with him a decades-long history with the game of golf; at one point in his career he managed three courses at the same time. Earlier this year, Hayes spoke to Boca about how things are going at the newly acquired property—and what’s to come.

ON THE CLUB’S AMENITIES:

Since the city took over the property on Oct. 1, the only amenities that we are currently offering are golf-related. The golf course opened on Nov. 1, and the driving range opened at the end of December. We’ve approached this with a golf-first mentality. A lot of the facilities need to be renovated—some of them need to be renovated before they’re even safe to use. For example, the tennis courts had to be secured and shut down. We intend to develop a racquet center, which will involve tennis and pickleball. … There is an existing swimming pool, which the city intends to eliminate and use the space for a restaurant concept when we renovate the interior of the clubhouse. We feel that it’ll tie in a nice social aspect with some outdoor seating, which the facility is currently lacking.

ON THE RESPONSE SO FAR FROM CITY RESIDENTS:

We’ve had a very good response. We went with a soft opening due to some of the operational issues we had from such a quick transition. The resort was still operating [the property] through the end of September. So we had basically a 31-day turnaround to open on Nov. 1 as a city operation. Meanwhile, we still were operating the municipal course out west until Oct. 17. So we really had a two-week turnaround to shut down the old municipal course. So with that being said, we had many operational challenges. We had also implemented, at the same time, a brand-new software for tee time reservations and for point of sale. So we really had a lot thrown our way in the beginning, and we learned a lot quickly.

We had to do some repairs to the cart fleet, but since we got that up and running and were able to get up to full speed in December, we’ve had a great response from the community. Tee times, on several of our busier days, are completely full. We’re getting a lot of good comments about the condition of the golf course. We have a long way to go with what we want to do, but we’re pretty proud of what we’ve done thus far.

ON THE QUALITY OF THE COURSE:

This golf course was designed to be a sister course for the resort. So it’s aimed to have a private country-club feel to it as you play the golf course. It’s quite a bit different in its design than you would find for a typical municipal property.

ON DISCONTENT WITHIN THE COMMUNITY:

Overall, my opinion is that the relationship [with neighboring residents] has been good. There’s a small contingency within that neighborhood who were members when the club was private, who were not pleased with the fact that the resort donated it to the city to become a public facility, which is understandable. But overwhelmingly, the majority of that community is excited that the city has come in and taken on all the renovations. So when you look at that community as a whole, I think they’re very supportive.

ON THE FUTURE:

The city is, in the very near future, going to be able to present renderings of some of the exciting projects that are going to happen here at the club. I think the city residents, as well as the community next door, are going to be very pleased with what the city does here at the property, but it’s going to require some patience. The city will do it right, but it’ll take a little bit of time.

This story is from the April 2022 issue of Boca magazine. For more like this, click here to subscribe to the magazine.

James Biagiotti
James Biagiotti is a native of Boca Raton, a marketing professional in South Florida, and the former Web Editor of Boca Raton magazine. He is an avid music fan who spends far too much time listening to, dissecting, and traveling to see his favorite bands. He is also, unfortunately, a devoted Miami Dolphins fan.

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