What the bankruptcy filing at the Sawgrass Marriott, and other golf resorts, really means
I’m not surprised when a major golf resort files for bankruptcy anymore.
In fact, I’m amazed more of them haven’t done it in this Great Recession. The race to get bigger and better meant spending millions of dollars to keep up with other resorts that were doing the same thing. Eventually, somebody had to lose, somebody had to run out of money.
Even PGA Tour stops are feeling the pinch. The Sawgrass Marriott became the latest victim, filing for bankruptcy March 1. The resort-style hotel offers exclusive access to the TPC Sawgrass, home of The Players Championship. In January, lenders filed to foreclose on the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas in Irving. The TPC Las Colinas is the home of the Byron Nelson Championship.
Before that, Amelia Island Plantation filed for bankruptcy last November, although a group of investors stepped in to help with its financial struggles. Going on down the list, The Greenbriar in West Virginia (March 2009) and WCI Communities, a partner in the 36-hole Tiburon Golf Club in Naples (in 2008), suffered similar fates before emerging essentially unscathed.
What does a bankruptcy filing mean to vacationers? In my experiences, essentially nothing. Bankruptcy never means the resort will close. Essentially, it’s a way to dump dept while restructuring budgets and debts behind closed doors.
True, some little things are usually lost in the transition. Bunkers might not get raked twice daily anymore. The fitness center and business center might have limited hours. Restaurants might close certain nights of the week. Even courses close. Oak Marsh, one of four fine courses at Amelia Island Plantation, shut down for eight months last year to save expenses, although it was still maintained. It recently reopened.
I’m usually skeptical of press release statements, but when a golf resort announces it will be “business as usual” during bankruptcy proceedings – as Sawgrass did earlier this week – I tend to believe it. The resort has already taken a hit publicly with the bankruptcy filing. Unless things are truly falling apart, you can bet the staff will be extra friendly to guests knowing their future truly depends on it.
When I visited Tiburon last December, WCI had just emerged from bankruptcy and everything was in order. The courses were in fine shape. Staff members were everywhere, ready to help.
I’ve been to Amelia Island Plantation once and Sawgrass twice. I’d go back to either in a heartbeat … bankruptcy or otherwise. Their financial situations don’t reflect on the quality of their products. It’s a mere reflection of a sour economy that’s still in dire distress, no matter what the government says.
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