Refundable Club Initiation Fees, Read the Fine Print

Refundable member deposits are not always what you think. In today’s market, they may not be refundable at all.

Palm Coast, Florida – October 29, 2008 – Ginn Resorts and LandMar are two developers with golf courses in the Palm Coast, Florida area. Members of courses run by each pay a refundable deposit or initiation fee upon joining. Because the fees are marketed as "refundable deposits," members should have a reasonable expectation of getting them back when they move or decide to relinquish their memberships. Today, members are finding that getting out with your deposit intact is not a likely reality.
Ginn’s Hammock Beach Club is made up of The Ocean Course (formerly Ocean Hammock) and The Conservatory Course. Both courses are private. LandMar has two separate clubs. Grand Haven is private. The Grand Club comprised of Cypress, Pines, and Matanzas is semi-private. Semi-private courses offer memberships but allow outside play. None of the local clubs have achieved full membership.
Members pay a "refundable" deposit when they join. Current deposit fees for full golf memberships are:
  • Hammock Beach Club – $60,000
  • Grand Haven – $35,000
  • Grand Club – $9,000
When a member resigns, they’re placed on a waiting list. If the club membership is not full (none are locally) one member on the waiting list will receive their deposit money for each four new memberships sold. Once the membership is full, the deposit returns are on a one-to-one ratio. The catch is that members are typically responsible for their dues while on the waiting list. There is at best only a trickle of new memberships being sold. A member of The Grand Club recently estimated that they would be on the long waiting list for years before their deposit was returned. They had paid a promotional deposit of only $2,500 when they joined the club three years ago. Rather than protect their deposit by continuing to pay dues, they walked away, forfeiting their deposit.
Both developers increased their membership deposits as property values escalated a few years ago. The subsequent drop in property values was not met with corresponding reductions of initiation fees. They remain at all-time highs. The result; members are forced to walk away from their deposits rather than pay dues for an indeterminate time. Many think this is extortion. Developers should reduce the membership fee to current market levels. More new memberships would be sold, giving resigning members a realistic alternative.
The Ginn Club compounds the dilemma facing members. Most Ginn memberships are tied to specific properties. Under Ginn’s membership plan a relinquished membership (where the member walks away from their deposit) terminates any future membership for the property, either by the resigned member or a subsequent owner of the property. The property becomes an amenity orphan, difficult or impossible to sell.
Another strategy used by Ginn is to tie rental management to the membership. Many Ginn condominium owners bought their units for rental use. If the property has a club membership, renters may use the club facilities only if the unit is rented through Ginn’s rental management company. If an outside property management firm rents the unit, the membership is not available to renters.
These issues are becoming more apparent with the decline in both the housing and financial markets. LandMar recently suspended plans to refurbish the closed Matanzas course. Members who were promised three courses have only two. Both initiation fees and dues have steadily increased. Meanwhile members who wish to get out have no good options.
8 replies
  1. charles denise
    charles denise says:


    I’ve heard of this happening at other clubs, in other states. Its too bad…I feel sorry for those who are stuck…it appears to me that their "deposits" should be returned when they relinquish their membership.Extortion???…Keep up the great work Toby! CPD

  2. George Meegan
    George Meegan says:

    Everyone should stop paying

    If all members stopped paying dues the courses would have to close. Then the City can come in an take them over, if no one else wants to buy them. The city is already in the golf business so handling more won’t be a problem, maybe a even more economical. One central reservation system, one maintenance staff, one manager. If they are opened to the public at reasonable fees just think of how much property values would be increased for everyone. Hope they jump in before the courses go to weeds.

  3. msb
    msb says:

    They lie through their teeth

    When I joined and paid my $5000 to Hampton Golf for membership in the GRAND CLUB,I expressly asked and was directly told by Kristi Brown that upon resignation, you did not have to continue paying. I have moved and they will not honor the agreement made between me and their membership director I was enrolled by. I hope Hampton goes bankrupt. They deserve it.

  4. GENE
    GENE says:


    Toby: For benefit of your readers,please be a bit more specific. At the Club, in order for a member to get back 80% of their initiation fee, four new membewrships must be purchased. About 6 or 7 months I put myu name on the list to get out. At that time, there were 32 pople on the list ahead of me. Last week , right before I surrendered my membership, there were 32 ahead of me.
    This means that 128 new members must join before I become eligible for a return of my deposit.

    At $9,000 per membership, I will not live long enough to see 132 new members join.

    As a matter of fact, I would be interested to know how many members have thus far surrendered their membershjip and how many are on the waiting list.

  5. Andy Carbone
    Andy Carbone says:

    Former Grand Club Member

    I saw friends wait two years, while paying dues. I quit when It was evident Matansas would not reopen any time soon. Other amenities pools waterfountains clubs w/fitness rooms etc have gone by the board not mentioned with the non opening of Grand Landings the fly in tie in on the Cypress Course end of town. Live and learn.

  6. Hilton Wiener
    Hilton Wiener says:

    Stop Drinking the Ginn Kool-Aid

    This is all just so much nonsense. At some point you have to realize that there is much more here than what is on the surface (I’m carefully stating this diplomatically). As I understand it, Ginn is not even paying dues on their own lots. I have attempted to obtain escrow documents that are supposed to be available and I am led to believe that they do not even exist. I could go on and on. Several of us have commenced a group lawsuit, which is the only alternative.

  7. jen
    jen says:


    No wonder everyone is praying for bobby ginn to go under so that someone else will buy out his communities and hopefully run it the right way without extorting people.

  8. Madeleine de Cubas
    Madeleine de Cubas says:

    Refund of Club Initiation Deposit

    We joined the Grand Bay Club of Key Biscayne in January 2001. Paid a refundable deposit of $15,000. Had two options to get the 100% deposit back: a)30 years after the initiation deposit was paid in full or b) upon resignation and reissuance of the membership by the Club. We understood this was our option. The formula of 4 x 1 refund was not explicit in the Application for Membership. We were not given the By Laws and the Membership Plan that supposedly we had received and read were given to us only after they had the full payment. We resigned in 2003 and were placed in the Waiting List and have been there for 16 years waiting the reissuance of our membership.

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