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August 2021

Peninsula Golf & Racquet Club Growing Fiscally Sustainable

By Scott Kauffman

Bob Barrett’s illustrious career began in 1973 as an assistant PGA Professional at hometown Augusta National, and spans multi-course ownership and vice chairman status with Troon after selling his Honours Golf management firm to the same private equity group that took over Troon in 2014. The Alabama business icon mastered creative golf course financing as well as anybody.

The acquisition of the 27-hole Peninsula Golf & Racquet Club, and its surrounding real estate in November 1999 after starting Honours Golf earlier in the year with partner Rob Shults proved to be one of Barrett’s more prescient purchases. Situated on the Fort Morgan Peninsula in the vacation hotspot of Gulf Shores, Alabama, the residential resort-style golf development had just opened its third nine to the public and probably had 60 homes in the community, Barrett recalls.

Today, the development is nearly built out with approximately 450 units and Barrett says he recently sold one of the final parcels of land to a developer. Meanwhile, the award-winning course continues to operate as a profitable 27-hole facility and remains one of a handful of golf properties Barrett still owns in the Southeast.

One of Barrett’s savvier fiscal moves early in his Peninsula Golf ownership tenure was revising the homeowner association rules to require future residents to pay for a private racquet club membership as part of their annual HOA fees. When Honours Golf made this contrarian non-golf compulsory dues-related decision and priced it at “reasonable levels” to ensure homeowner support/sustainability, the membership included eight tennis courts as well as access to a new 8,000-square-foot clubhouse, top dining, pool and fitness amenities.

This racquet club fiscal planning foresight was well ahead of the curve, of course, as so many owners today are focused on growing non-golf elements of the business to meet changing membership trends.

“That’s been the great success at Peninsula because everybody is having to be a part of (the Racquet Club),” notes Barrett, who was inducted into Alabama-NW Florida Section PGA Hall of Fame in 2020. “That allows us to keep their dues at a reasonable level and they have an incredible private club in return. The positive of all this is when you have 380 to 390 out of 450 (residents) paying in, it just allows you to have good long-term success.

“And that goes into perpetuity assuming the association does. It’s a great business model for the homeowners. They’re in almost a five-star facility paying less than $200 a month.”

The assessment is $165 per month with plans to slightly increase in the near future, according to Barrett. For the resident owners at Peninsula Golf, the private racquet club membership is a business model that keeps on giving considering Honours Golf just completed a multi-million-dollar renovation of the entire development after Hurricane Sally clobbered the 27-hole facility and clubhouse last September, knocking down some 2,500 trees and causing water intrusion to the clubhouses.

During the six-month course renovation project, Peninsula Golf’s three nine-hole courses (Marsh, Lakes and Cypress) underwent extensive bunker renovations with bunkers being removed, reshaped and relocated to provide new strategic design features. Additionally, cart paths were repaired or replaced throughout the 27-hole layout. Trees were removed/trimmed to increase air circulation and improve agronomic conditions, while the forest floor was cleared of undergrowth.

According to Barrett, the ongoing greens renovations that started two years ago with the Marsh layout will resume with the Cypress 9 getting a complete regressing later this summer after being delayed last year due to increased course demand during the pandemic. Honours Golf plans to finish regrassing the final nine next summer.

Meanwhile, the growing Racquet Club membership is enjoying a newly renovated 8,000-square-foot clubhouse, including a new roof, air conditioning system, flooring, fresh paint, new fitness equipment, laser-graded resurfaced tennis courts, and a salt-water indoor pool. A new food truck was added to the lifestyle mix and the club’s signature pier and boardwalk have been renewed as well as overall landscaping.

“After a tough year filled with the pandemic and hurricanes, we’re really encouraged by what the future holds in 2021 and beyond,” adds Barrett, who was inducted into the Alabama-NW Florida Section PGA Hall of Fame in 2020. “Gulf Shores has always been a special place to us, the enhancements and upgrades made to the courses and clubhouse create a golf experience that is truly exceptional.”

The private Racquet Club, thanks to Barrett’s fiscal foresight 20 years ago, continues to drive the overall financial success of the golf course development as much as ever.

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