Integrity Golf shuts down

Integrity Golf Company, once the world’s 15th largest golf management group, has ceased operations. An official notice hasn’t been issued, but a number of courses have reported that the management company was not paying bills, or making needed improvements. 

The Kissimmee, Florida-based company owned, leased and managed mid-market and municipal golf properties, the vast majority of them in Florida, through numerous affiliated LLCs. In early 2016, in what appears to be the prime of its corporate life, its portfolio consisted of 41 venues in Florida, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee and other states. In pitches to prospective clients, the company offered “a complete range of golf-club management and consulting services” and touted its ability to avoid “common financial pitfalls that often plague unsuccessful businesses.”

Gene Garrote, Integrity’s CEO, apparently pulled the plug in June 2017. Garotte hasn’t explained why he did it. Integrity’s former chairman, William Jack Davis II, said he sold his entire interest in the company in February 2016, and that the company was fiscally sound at that time. 

Golf professionals contacted by Golf Inc. wouldn’t speak on the record about Integrity. One believes that Garrote and Davis “either split or bought each other out.” Another thinks the company “got too big too fast” and ran out of money. Earlier this year, a newspaper in North Carolina reported that the company’s lease with Tot Hill Farm Golf Club, in Asheboro, was abruptly terminated “due to health concerns of Integrity’s CEO.”

Integrity’s roots were in Celebration Golf Management, a firm created in 2007 to operate Davis’ Celebration Golf Club in Kissimmee. At one time or another, Celebration also operated several other properties in Florida, among them Golden Bear Golf Club in Windermere, Eagle Creek Golf Club in Orlando, Kings Ridge Golf Club in Clermont and Stoneybrook West Golf Club in Winter Garden.

With few exceptions, Integrity’s courses were open to the public, as its portfolio consisted primarily of privately owned daily-fee courses and municipal tracks. The Florida collection included Feather Sound Country Club in Clearwater, Mystic Dunes Golf Club in Celebration and Temple Terrace Golf & Country Club in Tampa.

Integrity marketed itself as an expert in revitalizing troubled properties, and as a result its portfolio included a number of courses that were struggling financially. Gulf Breeze, Fla., for example, hired Integrity to manage Tiger Point Golf Club because it believed the firm’s “track record of success” would enable it to “turn around our operation.” Capital City Country Club, in Tallahassee, Fla., had flirted with bankruptcy before Integrity helped to bring it back to life. Mount Vintage Plantation Golf Club, in North Augusta, S.C., had also filed for bankruptcy protection and was in the hands of a bank when Integrity signed a long-term lease on the property in late 2015.

In retrospect, it’s evident that something was amiss at Integrity. A board member at Mount Vintage Plantation, which cut ties with Integrity last year, complained to a newspaper that its golf course “was getting in very bad shape” because the operators “put no money into it.” The Town of Huntington, N.Y., which had turned over operations of two properties to Integrity, revoked its agreement in late 2016 after concluding that the company failed, in the words of Newsday, “to pay the town on time,” make promised capital improvements and respond to “requests for remedy.”

The Pensacola News-Journal reports that the city of Gulf Breeze began looking for a new operator for Tiger Point earlier this year, because officials were “picking up signals” that “vendors were not being paid.” Officials in Brevard County, Fla., which had hired Integrity to operate three courses, had reportedly received “ambiguous responses” and “mixed messages” about the company’s future.

However, Integrity’s demise clearly took at least one client by surprise. In May 2017, after learning that Integrity was backing out of its contract, the members of Frosty Valley Country Club, in Sunbury, Pa., were quickly obliged to sell their property.

Most, if not all, of Integrity’s properties are now in other hands. A few examples: Capital City Country Club is now managed by Honours Golf; Orange Lake Golf Resort in Orlando is now in the hands of Brown Golf Management; and both Forest Oaks Country Club in Greensboro, N.C., and Hunter’s Creek Golf Club in Orlando are operated by OB Sports. Gulf Breeze and Brevard County are now working with other private-sector management groups.

Integrity’s top officials appear to be going their separate ways. Ed Whalley, the company’s chief financial officer, has found a new job with a company that isn’t in the golf business. He also declined to talk about his time at Integrity.

Davis is the longtime chairman of Coeburn, Va.-based Davis Mining & Manufacturing, Inc., a company that manufactures explosives. Today, he and some family members reportedly own Thistle Golf Club in Sunset Beach, N.C., the International Club of Myrtle Beach in Murrells Inlet, S.C., and Crockett Ridge Golf Club in Kingsport, Tenn.

In 2015, a company spokesperson said that Integrity’s goal was “to become the largest golf-course management company in the country.” It was not to be, and we may never learn exactly why the dream died.

Comments

This is wonderful new to me as an Orlando resident. I knew this was going to happen because of their business model. They acquired about 20 courses in the Orlando area in a really short amount of time. They leased them from the owner and as soon as they took over cut the budget. Almost every course they ran was significantly damaged under them. They conditions were horrible for most of their properties. Then on top of that the employees were treated horrible. When you went to an Integrity property you didn't feel welcomed are wanted. It got so bad that I refused to play courses owned by them. Most of the properties are still trying to come back from their management disaster. The issue now as all the players have left these courses, so theire is no revenue generated to make the necessary changes. Most of the courses are still a shadow of their former self.

The Forest Oaks community found Integrity Golf to be dishonest, deceitful and disrespectful of the Forest Oaks Country Club and its members. Apparently, Integrity decided to leave Forest Oaks and failed to pay bills, ignored and did not provide adequate maintenance on the golf course and adversely impacted the property in ways that reflected poorly on the golf course in the community. Good riddance, we are far better off having OB Sports manage our golf course.

I worked at Tiger Point for 3 years. One year under Integrity. They came in with grand expectations only to realize they didn't live up to any promises. Terrible management from the top down. Tiger Point is now mananged by Honours Golf and is doing great.

Karma

This company obviously was a scam. They Skipped out on our in the middle of the night years prior to the lease being over. Leaving our community club high and dry.

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