The new Lifestyle & Racquet Center at Boca West is the exclamation point of member amenities.

By Mark Pazdur, Publisher

BOCA RATON, FLORIDA: Although Florida attained statehood in 1845, it wasn’t until a pair of railroad barons built lines down the Atlantic and Gulf coasts in the late 1800s did the state take off, spurring the phenomenal growth of what’s now the third-most populous state with a gross domestic product exceeding $1.1 trillion.

A little more than a century ago, the town of Boca Raton, with a “bursting at the seams” population of 723, was a tiny agricultural community. After WWII, the region was best known for its winter vegetable crops that shipped to the Northeast for a sizable premium. As an interesting side note, the Army Air Corps established its only wartime radar training school at the nearby Florida Atlantic University. The wealth of military technology and brainpower led to the first IBM personal computer developed in Boca back in 1981.

“Florida certainly has a colorful past,” expressed Matthew Linderman, GM/COO at Boca West Country Club. “Most don’t know that the state was named in honor of Spain’s Easter celebration known as ‘Pascua Florida’ or ‘Feast of Flowers.’ Considering Florida has more than 3,600 native and naturalized flowering species, the name seems appropriate.”

Awards That Fill a Trophy Case

Recognized as one of the largest private equity owned clubs in the United States, Boca West Country Club spans 1,400 acres of lush tropical landscaping. Its 55 residential villages are bordered by waterways and four golf courses designed by Pete Dye, Jim Fazio, and Arnold Palmer.

For the sixth year in a row, Club Leaders Forum ranked Boca West among the “Top-15 Clubs in the World.”

“Florida has more golf courses than any other state, and Palm Beach County has more golf courses [160] than any other county in the country,” said Linderman. “I am so gratified to receive this designation again this year by our peers, maintaining our ranking of No. 4 in America and one of the best in the world.”

Boca West offers residents more than 400,000 square feet of indoor amenities under air conditioning. “That’s not a typo,” continued Linderman. “We have more than triple the space than our closest neighboring communities. Our brand new Lifestyle & Racquet Center is a robust 130,000 square feet of luxury. Best of all, in more than 40 years of sustainable growth, we haven’t had to assess the members once!”

Hits and Misses

Management has established a proper “checks and balances” protocol to analyze future growth. “Our demographics vary vastly, and everyone has suggestions,” explained Linderman. “Lots of work is put into researching endeavors before presenting them to the membership for a vote.

“First, we start with a risk assessment by evaluating critical concerns, and items that we are watching that will need to be addressed in the near future. Second, we have a special projects committee that discusses ‘wants and wishes’ for the future. After the list is shortened, we establish budgets, architectural concepts, and feedback from contractors. Once all answers to questions are in place, it is sent to the membership for a vote.”

That’s not to say there aren’t misses along the way. “We offer over 800 activities each year. Whatever your interest, we have you covered,” smiled Linderman. “Everything from a culinary journey to South America to theater road trips proves popular, and we are always willing to experiment with new ideas.

“Based on feedback, my culinary team created a series of afternoon cooking classes. From the outset, we thought it would be a home run addition. At first, participation was lower than usual, and we realized starting the class at 3 p.m. was too early. When we moved the sessions to 6 p.m., participation doubled. Demand is now so strong that we are creating a stand-alone multi-purpose art and culinary studio.”

Buying the Lifestyle

The typical Boca West resident relocates two or three times within the club community during their lifetime. “Often, we will see a couple purchase a two-bedroom condo, then upgrade to a more spacious house for when children arrive or visit. Finally, when they become empty nesters, they downsize to a smaller, more manageable dwelling,” detailed Linderman. “We have a robust Renovator Program which has really provided momentum behind our home sales. That program along with opening a new Boca West Realty Welcome Center has been helpful in the tripling of our real estate sales volume.

“You buy here for the amenities and lifestyle. Yes, we have the golf and Mahjong tournaments found elsewhere, but where else can you enjoy an on-site carnival?” asked Linderman. “What started as a small event has blossomed into an entire week-long street fair. You will find all the usual rides, but we go way beyond carnie fun foods like funnel cakes. Last year, we brought in a smoker capable of cooking 100 briskets at a time. The smoker almost became a side-show in itself with so many members taking a picture and sharing it with friends with the caption, ‘Don’t you wish you were here?’”

An Ear to the Ground

“I believe membership is the future of hospitality,” relayed Linderman. “A look outside the golf world demonstrates the trend. For example, Equinox started as a membership health club and has branched out into hotels. People yearn to belong to something.

“My primary job is to have conversations with our members; surveys only go so far. For too long, the golf industry has been a follower, not a leader. That needs to change by heeding burgeoning trends, and Boca West is doing just that.”

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