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February 2019

Boca Raton Revival

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New owner infusing fresh style into South Florida club

By Scott Kauffman

In the heyday of the bourgeois Boca Raton private club era, Boca Lago Country Club was considered by some as one of the top clubs in this swanky South Florida market. In the last decade, however, Boca Lago struggled to retain and attract new members — like many aging clubs across the country — and closed one of its 9-hole layouts.

When the Boca Lago homeowners association sold 40 acres of the community two years ago for $8.3 million to PulteGroup for a new, active-adult subdivision, including portions of the closed 9-hole loop, resident members wondered what was next for the club as it remained for sale.

As it turned out, what was next is a second act that promises to be every bit as entertaining as the first one in the late 1970s — thanks to new club owner Steven Danza. Danza, a family-oriented, food- and music-loving native New Yorker, officially closed on the Boca Lago acquisition in mid-December 2018 after working on the deal for a year.

Though Danza did not disclose the price of his prime 240-acre, 27-hole property with 50 acres of lakes in the heart of Boca Raton, he’s not shy about discussing the $3.6 million round of club enhancements being completed early this year.

Among the club renovation highlights: a revitalized clubhouse with updated ballroom, restaurant and bar area space; two new, outdoor tiki bars with soft seating and outdoor overhangs for dining and entertainment; upgraded pool complex with new furnishings and firepits; and plans for a future hair/nail salon and “very high-end spa and masseuse.”

 “The enhancement of the entire property diversifies areas for current and new members and their guests to enjoy the club,” Danza says. “The renovations are integral to our vision of promoting a healthy lifestyle, including walking privileges for golfers, enhanced fitness programs and contemporary menu choices. This positions the club favorably to a wide demographic age range for years to come. … Everything has been touched.”

Indeed, the aforementioned new-look amenities are on top of a multi-million dollar investment members already made to completely renovate the club’s 27 holes of golf originally designed by Bruce Devlin and Robert von Hagge. The course currently has 18 holes open for play, following a renovation under the direction of architect Jan Bel Jan and course superintendent George Redshaw, GCSAA. The remaining nine were scheduled to open in January. 

The redevelopment of the south, east and west nines includes redesigned greens, repositioned and re-contoured fairway and green bunkers, as well as reshaped and rearranged teeing grounds. Meanwhile, the practice facilities have been expanded to include more full-swing space, three practice putting areas and a dedicated short-game area, as well as two practice holes that can be played in multiple ways.

According to Danza, these are just some of the reasons marketing and membership director John Stampfl recently signed up 70 new golf members. For court-loving members, Danza was negotiating with a couple “high-name tennis pros” to take over the rejuvenated tennis center that features 20 courts (16 Har-Tru; four hard), swimming pool and hot tub.

“There’s a lot of buzz in Boca Raton about us,” says Danza, who commutes to Boca Raton between his hospitality-related business interests in New York City. “I’m bringing a New York attitude down there. We want all of the members to feel like family. We’re bringing in a ton of entertainment. When they’re having dinner we’ll have a piano player. We’ll have murder mystery nights.

“Everything for the members and guests, so once you come for the day, you stay. There’s no reason to go home. Again, we want to make all of this for the family and want everybody to come in and just have a good time. And the more people like what we’re doing, we’re going to keep bringing it in.”

In another major move for Boca Lago, Danza announced in mid-December he was hiring ClubLife Management, ClubCorp’s newly launched third-party management division, to oversee the club. Though Danza, 54, is new to the golf business, he knows the hospitality world well as an owner of a busy sports bar near LaGuardia Airport and a laundry business that services many New York City hotels.

“I’ve always been around hospitality people so I now what works,” Danza says. “You go around and you meet your customers. You ask them what they like. It’s not brain surgery.

“Give ‘em what they want; Give ‘em value for their dollar. Serve them a good drink and good food, and they come. It works. And I believe the same thing in Boca Lago is going to happen.”

Scott Kauffman is a golf business writer and the managing director of Aloha Media Group.

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