One of the issues we are often called upon to address is the membership refund and refund liability.  According to an article on CBS this could become a prominent issue.  Members at Trump National Jupiter (FL) are seeking relief and refunds after club owner and presidential candidate Donald Trump reportedly declined their privileges at the club as long as they remained on the resignation list and did not refund their entrance deposit.  Another case, also in Florida was decided in the member's favor, which may shed some light on how courts see membership refunds.
While there are often disputes relating to membership deposit liability, few involve presidential candidates mid-campaign and thus this issue is likely to come to the forefront.
Many private golf and country clubs require deposits upon joining.  Most provide for a refund fo the deposit upon the replacement of the membership, sometimes on a formula with 4 or 5 members joining before the refund is paid.  There is also typically a provision that if the member remains in good standing for a period (usually 30 years) a refund is also made.  As a result, many clubs have a refund liability that often impacts transactions where private clubs are bought and sold.  
This structure (of which there are numerous variations) was quite popular with developers who promised new members that they would get their money back and benefitted from long term use of capital with no tax impact since the deposits represented a liability on the balance sheet.  Over time, these memberships lost favor as potential buyers of these clubs avoided properties with this liability, which in many cases amounted to many millions, if not tens of millions of dollars.  Depending on the interest being valued, this liability represents a bargaining chip for buyers willing to accept it.  Many buyers simply avoid clubs with such a liability.  The valuation can be done using a present value schedule, listing the amount deposited, date deposited and maturity date of each membership along with turnover and consideration of “replacement” memberships and discounting the payout into a present value.  This represents a conceptual, mathematical analysis of an issue that is realistically more accurately analyzed based on an evaluation of the portion of the prospective buyer pool that may not be willing to consider clubs with such liabilities.
In many instances, the present value of the liability is far less than the "face" value, which buyers see staring them in the face down the road.  This is a prominent issue in the sale of many private clubs and often both parties are not always comfortable with how to evaluate this element.
Some of our recent assignments have included:
VT - Appraisal of Ski Resort Condotel Development Property
NJ - Market Value Appraisal of Daily Fee course for Possible acquisition
Mid-Atlantic - Consultation and advisory for member group pursuing club purchase
NJ - Appraisal of private club for eminent domain 
NJ - Appraisal of Private Club for ad-valorem tax assessment appeal
FL - Appraisal of private club land for possible sale to developers and Consulting with club
Planned Unit Developments (PUD's) with golf courses are complex animals.
Recently, we were awarded an assignment from a private, multi-course residential community club to estimate the value of some of their property which has been proposed for alternative (non-golf) development.  As part of the assignment, we are also advising the club on their "reinvention" as a smaller, updated club with proper market positioning.  
As the golf industry and markets have evolved, many clubs have repositioned themselves to better respond to demand.  In many cases, private clubs have either opened to outside play or converted to daily-fee facilities.  In other cases, clubs have repositioned themselves on the basis of price in order to find a market niche in competitive markets.  There are numerous examples of clubs that have embarked on major or minor renovation projects in order to compete more effectively and provide better value.  There are also clubs that have focused on expense reduction to the point where dues and fee levels were maintained, but membership declined due to perceived diminishing value.
Some clubs, like our client, are part of an older community with both aging membership and aging homes, built in the 1970's.  These clubs (and communities) where the majority of the residents are either part time (snowbirds) or retired often have a short economic life due to the age of most of the buyers and members.  This creates a club (and community) that ages quickly because older residents/members quit playing golf and the club goes into decline, often requiring outside members and home values can also be impacted.
The domino effect is that capital improvements are neglected, membership declines and then the cost of membership increases, sometimes dramatically.  This can be the death sprial for clubs.  Not only do revenues decline, but capital needs increase.  
The reinvention of any club, along with the consideration of generating cash through the possible sale of excess land should be well-planned with market positioning, facilities and economics carefully analyzed in concert with each other.
FOR SALE - Carnegie Abbey Club (RI)
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