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PALM COAST, FL – May 18, 2019 – A local developer has purchased the long-dormant Matanzas Golf Course for a reported $600,000. The seller was Group Golf of Palm Coast LLC. Newly formed Matanzas GC Palm Coast LLC is the buyer. The transaction closed April 22, 2019, and was recorded May 13. The property is zoned Master Planned Development (MPD). Future development is anticipated. A reopened golf course is not.
Hammock resident, Alexander Ustilovsky, heads Matanzas GC Palm Coast LLC. Ustilovsky also heads Hammock Real Estate Development LLC, which is developing American Village (off Pritchard Dr). American Village is a 55+ community approved for 45 single-family homes and 96 one- and two-bedroom condominiums. As BIA Development LLC, he is in the early stages of developing 49.45 acres on SR 100, west of Colbert Lane.
MATANZAS EIGHTEENTH GREEN AND CLUBHOUSE 2005
MATANZAS EIGHTEENTH GREEN AND CLUBHOUSE 2019
The Matanzas Golf Course has a rich but checkered past. Many feel that Matanzas was the very best of Palm Coast’s original four courses. Designed by Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay, Matanzas Woods has been described as a "beautiful monster" and was once named one of Golf Digest's "Best New Resort Courses". It featured a fair amount of water with the Jefferson Davis Waterway cutting through the course, running parallel to some fairways on the back nine.
In July 2004, when the local real estate market was firing on all cylinders, The Grand Club LLC, a subsidiary of developer Crescent Resources, purchased Matanzas, along with the Pine Lakes and Cypress Knoll courses for $10,750,000. (Crescent already owned the Grand Haven Golf Club.) The plan was to close one of the three courses per year for rehabilitation. Cypress was the first on the list because it was closest to the Grand Landings community being developed by Crescent. Pine Lakes was completed next.
Matanzas closed for its major overhaul in 2007. The renovation was to include some rerouting of the course including some new holes plus a large new clubhouse. But the housing bubble had burst. Crescent Resources went through bankruptcy. The three courses, including the still closed Matanzas course, were bought by The Golf Group of Palm Coast LLC in 2011 for $2,000,000. Their plans to reopen Matanzas were never fulfilled.
The Great Depression continued to devastate the golf industry. When the thinly financed Golf Group was ultimately unable to resurrect the by now deteriorated Matanzas course, it was put up for sale. Local developer, Jim Cullis put the course under contract in 2013 with plans to convert the property into a combination residential development and linear park. At the time, Cullis knew he would need buy-in from nearby residents. Instead, he met stiff resistance and pulled out of the sale.
Matanzas was purchased in October 2014 by Group Golf of Palm Coast LLC for $266,750, with $100,000 cash plus a balloon purchase money mortgage from the seller (Golf Group) payable December 10, 2014. [Matanzas Golf Course in Palm Coast Sold]. The balloon payment was never made. [The names are confusing. Group Golf of Palm Coast bought the course from Golf Group of Palm Coast.]
Reenter Cullis, who purchased the past-due mortgage and note from Golf Group at a discounted amount. Facing an impending foreclosure, Group Golf managed to pay off the note to Cullis. But Group Golf’s financial problems persisted. By now, the deteriorated golf course had roused residents and attracted the attention of Palm Coast Code Enforcement. Ongoing violations brought about tens of thousands of dollars in fines. Palm Coast initiated foreclosure proceedings in order to collect. Group Golf of Palm Coast filed for bankruptcy.
The recent sale to Matanzas GC Palm Coast LLC closes the latest chapter. The city settled for $168,873.73 in satisfaction of all code enforcement and utility liens against Group Golf. The buyer agreed to bring all code enforcement violations into compliance within 45 days.
While the economy has returned to pre-Great Depression levels, the golf industry has not. Stronger yes, but course closings still greatly outnumber the number of new courses opened. A rejuvenated economy has not been enough. Changing demographics are at the heart of golf’s problems. One can buy an operating golf course for a fraction of the cost of bringing the Matanzas Golf Course back to life.
Realistically, there are only two choices going forward. Either the course continues to deteriorate, changing ownership occasionally, or it is redeveloped, likely as a residential project. Success will require the developer, the city, and residents to work in consort.
Ustilovsky is experienced, but a relative newcomer to the area. His execution of American Village to date sends a positive impression. Jim Landon is gone. Palm Coast, revitalized with new City Council and staff blood, is becoming nimbler and more innovative. Hopefully, residents have come to realize that their dreams of a returning golf course are perpetually unrealizable and will work cooperatively toward a solution to ultimately improve their neighborhood and raise property values.
Toby Tobin: REALTOR®, SRES®
I'm a Florida licensed REALTOR®, SRES®, affiliated with Grand Living Realty in Palm Coast, Fla. As a real estate consultant and journalist, I have years of experience and a treasure trove of relevant data. I help developers, builders, homebuyers, and sellers achieve improved outcomes with reduced stress, knowing that their real estate decisions are sound and fact-based.
Call me at (386) 931-7124 or email me at Toby@GoToby.com.
Listen to my radio show, Real Estate Matters, every Saturday morning right after the 11:00 A.M. news break on WNZF News Radio 1550 AM or 94.9 FM. Download the Flagler Radio App from the App Store so you can hear Real Estate Matters anywhere in the world.