BOCA RATON — The city of Boca Raton officially became the new landlord of the Boca Country Club last week — but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to play there just yet.
The club was donated to Boca a year ago, and had still been operating as a private club until about a month ago. Now that the golf course will become public, many more people will be able to use it. But not right away.
City officials have said they have a tentative opening date for the golf course of early November, according to a city spokeswoman. They closed the facilities on Oct. 1 to finalize some renovations — meanwhile, city staff is working to get the golf course up and running. When it does open, it will be renamed the Boca Raton Golf and Racquet Club.
The priority at the site is golf, City Manager Leif Ahnell has previously said; a poll of city residents showed the sport as a top recreational priority. Even after the golf course reopens, other facilities, such as the tennis courts and clubhouse, will remain closed for additional renovations.
When finished, the club will have a meeting and banquet space, restaurant, 18-hole public golf course and a racquet center with tennis and pickleball courts, according to a city spokeswoman.
Currently, city staff is doing weed control on the golf course, renovating the golf course maintenance building, tree trimming and other beautification. In the near future, the golf cart barn will get a new roof.
But what does this all mean for the public? Among the renovations are a new website, where guests can schedule tee times. Some details need further fleshing out, but the fees, as currently approved, are as follows:
In the winter, nine holes will cost $50 and 18 holes will cost $75 for city residents; $70 and $105, respectively, for non-residents.
Summer games will be cheaper: $40 for nine holes and $60 to play 18 holes for residents; $55 and $85, respectively, for non-residents.
Frequent players will later be eligible for discounts. The club will no longer have a membership system, as the course will now be open to everyone.
The clubhouse will eventually include a restaurant, meeting rooms and a banquet hall where people can hold weddings, Bar Mitzvahs and other events.
There will also be a new entrance on Congress Avenue, south of the existing community entrance.
All in all, the city says it’s investing about $7 million in these upgrades.
But members of the country club, who have long paid steep fees for exclusive membership, have been angry that now the public will have just as much access to the facilities as they once had.
They’ve voiced their anger, frustration and concerns in city council meetings, in letters to city officials, in news interviews and in opinion pieces and letters to the editor at the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
“They’re taking away my lifestyle,” resident Sue Greenberg, 65, previously said. “I’m really distraught.”
“They’ve converted a private community into a public entity,” said another resident, Bob Trinchetto. “These issues could have been rectified had they just sat with us and tried to negotiate and carve out a little niche to protect these homes.”
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At the time of the donation last year, City Councilman Andy Thomson said that once the city takes over, country club members will have preferential tee times.
Other city leaders have tried to quell concerns through public meetings, town halls and through their investing in the facility. Security will be boosted by increased park rangers, new cameras and repairs to perimeter fencing, the city says.
“The city has been working with the [Boca Golf and Tennis] Homeowners Association over the past year to understand the community’s concerns and prioritize the renovations, and we’ll continue that dialogue throughout the process,” city spokeswoman Anne Marie Connolly said in an emailed statement.
“We feel confident that the end result — the Boca Raton Golf & Racquet Club — a premier, public facility with a clubhouse, restaurant, 18-hole golf course, and racquet center, will add tremendous value to the BGT neighborhood, and will provide additional new amenities for the Boca Raton residents,” she said.