Once-troubled Florida resort has a new strategy: Go more expensive, more exclusive

The once-troubled Banyan Cay Resort & Golf in West Palm Beach, Florida, is being recast into an exclusive golf club for wealthy Palm Beach and West Palm Beach residents who want to hit the greens near their pricey coastal homes —and are willing to pay big money to do it.
Once-troubled Florida resort has a new strategy: Go more expensive, more exclusive

Banyan Cay golf is now known as Dutchman’s Pipe Golf Club. The name is derived from a flowering vine that is favored by swallowtail butterflies.

“If you live in Palm Beach island or West Palm Beach, minutes from your home you have a brand-new golf experience,” said Alex Witkoff, co-chief executive of the Witkoff Group of New York, one of the property’s new owners.

The golf course is just east of Interstate 95, off Congress Avenue and north of Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard, near the Tanger Outlets shopping mall.

Witkoff touts Dutchman’s Pipe as the only new golf course east of I-95 in West Palm Beach in 25 years, a location just minutes from well-heeled residents in Palm Beach or West Palm Beach.

Convenience and luxury have their price. Initiation fees for Dutchman’s Pipe will range from $300,000 to $350,000, Witkoff said.

To attract these upscale club members, Dutchman’s Pipe’s existing Jack Nicklaus Signature Course, built only seven years ago, is being redone to make it more attractive and better to play.

There are also plans to transform Dutchman’s Pipe into a “holistic retreat” in the heart of the city, with a globally-recognized chef helming three restaurants. Fitness and wellness amenities will be built at the club and resort, which also will be completed by the site’s new owners.

As for former members of the Banyan Cay club, they are out of luck. Their memberships and fees were wiped away in the bankruptcy filing.

Former club member Rick Cerone said some members have joined Eastpointe Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens or play at The Park, West Palm Beach’s new public course.

Palm Beach West, the new playground for the rich

Witkoff’s plans for the former Banyan Cay reflect the continued transformation of West Palm Beach into an extension of Palm Beach, a trend that first earned the city the nickname “Palm Beach West” during the COVID pandemic.

Since the Banyan Cay resort hotel and club first was announced in 2015, the demand for upscale hotels has dramatically increased, especially with the wealth migration to Palm Beach County during the pandemic.

But plans by Witkoff and its partners elevate the hotel and adjoining golf course to a different, rarified level of luxury, akin to the exclusive Breakers Palm Beach resort and club, where club initiation fees reportedly also cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Dutchman’s Pipe’s owners are experienced operators of luxury hotels, residences and clubs.

Dutchman’s Pipe is owned by Witkoff Group, Access Industries of New York and London; and PPG Development of Hallandale Beach.

Witkoff and PPG are behind South Florida’s newest luxury golf club, the Shell Bay Club in Hallandale Beach, formerly the Diplomat Golf Resort & Spa. Access Industries is a global investment firm led by Len Blavatnik, who has previously invested in major projects in Miami Beach.

Witkoff said West Palm Beach is entering a new level of affluence.

During the past three years, parts of the downtown have become crowded with upscale restaurants, many of them from New York; luxurious new condominiums built or planned; and steel-and-glass office towers stuffed with perks typically seen in boutique hotels.

These developments, in turn, have attracted hospitality operators to West Palm Beach who have opened or plan to open private membership social clubs typically built in major cities such as New York, London and Miami. One new club already is open in West Palm Beach, and two more clubs are planned for downtown.

In addition, old West Palm Beach neighborhoods wedged between Flagler Drive and Dixie Highway are sought after by homebuyers who want an in-town location. The demand has supercharged home sales to seven and even eight-figure sales.

Witkoff also pointed to the surge of super-wealthy residents who have snapped up homes in Palm Beach.

The trend continues. During the first quarter of 2024, the median sales price of a single-family home in Palm Beach was $12.5 million, up 54 percentage points from the same period last year, according to Corcoran, a real estate brokerage.

Alexandra Clough, Palm Beach Post 

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