Cayman golfers can enjoy a round again after the North Sound Club opened for the first time Saturday.
Formerly called Links at SafeHaven, the recently sold course closed down temporarily for renovation by its new owner, Ritz-Carlton developer Michael Ryan.
He bought it in September for US$80 million.
Members were worried that they would no longer have access to the only public 18-hole course on Grand Cayman and they were afraid they wouldn’t be able to afford the fees. Members have access to the course for at least the next year.
The course will be redesigned by golf legend Greg Norman in about a year’s time.
From 7am on Saturday the keenest golfers were streaming on to the greens from a smarter clubhouse that includes a raft of flat screen TVs.
Brooke Clark is marketing director for Ryan Developers Ltd.
‘We wanted to have one grand opening day. We’ve invited people out to see all the sprucing up that we’ve done and offer a little food and drink,’ she said. ‘We have all our teams out here ready and willing to answer any questions people may have.
‘Our membership package is now finally available. There was a lot of back and forth with lawyers and everything else trying to put it all together. I think there was an impression that we were trying to keep things secret when actually that wasn’t the case. We were just finalising all the details so that we could put it out to the public.
‘We only closed for three weeks and felt the pressure. We had a lot of amazing people working very hard and for long hours to make this happen.
Clark said the new membership fees are reasonable. They are roughly the same as before.
‘We worked very closely with Davey Ebanks, the manager of the club here. He was also the manager of SafeHaven. We also kept the golf pro here, Sean Wilson. They were both heavily involved in creating the membership programmes. We really valued their input and their golf expertise.
‘Another thing we did was that we went all over the Caribbean, the States and Mexico to look at other golf programmes to make sure we were in line. We’re actually extremely reasonable. I’ve worked at quite a few golf courses and our fees are not excessive.’
Individual membership is $3,000 initiation fee and $3,000 annual dues, which can be paid in two parts. The club is also getting luxurious carts next month, which haven’t been available since Hurricane Ivan hit three years ago. The guest fee is $100 per round, inclusive of cart and green fees. Membership is only valid until 16 November, 2008, before Norman starts the redesign. Membership is also available on a corporate, junior, student and non-resident rate. Anyone joining in the New Year will be given a pro rate.
‘As we get nearer to that date we’ll know better how ready we are in working on the course. Norman’s Great White Shark Enterprises have signed on officially to redesign. When the course is shut down for the redesign we will refund 80 per cent of a member’s initiation fee.’
There is a founder membership fee of $100,000 which is part of the community development concept. When the real estate goes up in the future, all of the founder members’ fees will be transferred toward the purchase. Prices of the cheapest condos are expected to start at around $750,000.
All the properties will be around a series of connecting canals and waterways so residents will literally be able to arrive for a round by boat. The only proviso is that if a founder member hasn’t bought any real estate within five years then the North Sound Club reserves the right to cancel membership.
Two golfers pleased to have access to their favourite sport are Judi and husband Barney Fortunato. Judi said: ‘I always enjoy playing here but I don’t know whether we’ve got our golf course back. We became members but for how long? We don’t know. There are still a lot of questions about that. At least we’ve got it for the time being and it’s a beautiful course.’
Barney is more upbeat. ‘Am I glad to have the course back? Are you kidding? This is fantastic. We’ve been members here for many years and were disappointed when we couldn’t play. But the course is in beautiful shape and we hope to continue playing here for ever.’