Mike Fountoulakis, 54 and already retired, hoped into his car and
drove from his home in Plano, north of Dallas, to join me at The Owners
Club at Barton Creek in Austin. I flew in from Los Angeles the night
before, and we met the following morning in a comfortably furnished
dining room in one of 36 Owners Club homes in Barton Creek.
Perhaps I should first explain the intriguing concept of The Owners
Club. It provides you with a hassle-free alternative to second-home
ownership. Members receive a deed and a title to one-thirteenth
interest of a luxury home with at least 27 days of residency annually.
The home is elegantly furnished and ranges from 2,000 to 2,600 square
feet, depending on the Owners Club location. It features three bedrooms,
three bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, laundry room, media center,
television, VCRs in each bedroom, whirlpool baths in two master
suits, and an outdoor deck.
Owners Club locations currently include Barton Creek (Austin, Texas);
Hilton Head Island (South Carolina); The Homestead (Hot Springs,
Virginia); Telluride(Colorado); and Marina Vallarta in Puerto Vallarta
on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. Members enjoy privileges at all
locations, each with up to 40 homes, plus additional privileges
at over 230 private clubs and resorts across the United States.
My initial introduction to the Owners Club was stimulating and
a bit bewildering. Deeded ownership? 27 days per year? Thirteen
partners in one house? A house in all five locations? Will I have
ownership in one specific location, or what?
TO THE RESCUE
I was looking for answers and wanted to talk to an Owners Club member
who had no vested interest in the project's ownership. I wanted
to interview an intelligent and bluntly outspoken businessman because
I had some hard questions that needed answers.
Fountoulakis filled the bill beautifully. He turned out to be lively,
well-informed, intellectual, and articulate. Mike is a retired flooring
sales manager who makes his primary home in Plano and purchased
an Owners Club membership in Barton creek. Golf has always been
a big part of his life and he plays 100 rounds of golf annually
with a 7 handicap.
Mike was easy to talk with as we relaxed in one of 36 luxury homes
at Barton Creek. I thought we were in Mike's home until I learned
about the uniqueness of Owners Club membership. This title and deed
entitles him to one-thirteenth interest (27 days of residency) in
a Barton Creek luxury home plus affiliate privileges at all other
Owners Clubs. The beautiful home, in which we met, was chosen at
random from 36, all 2,600 square feet and elegantly furnished.
He enlivened our meeting with the wit and wisdom culled from years
of experience in supervising people. I asked, quite frankly, why
on earth would he want a membership with a one-thirteenth interest
in one of 36 homes instead of full ownership of a second home including
I THINK HE THOUGHT
I WAS NAIVE
Mike laughed and wondered if I was serious. "Because,"
he said, "why should I invest a lot of money for a second luxury
home when I can have five truly magnificent second homes for much
" (Mike stops me).
"It's perfection all wrapped up in a neat little package."
"Well, for instance, the flexibility I have in selecting vacation
locations. I've got the equivalent of a $750,000 home in Virginia
at The Homestead; a $1,000,000 home at Telluride, Colorado, surrounded
by spectacular 14,000-foot peaks; a casita overlooking the blue
Pacific and breathtaking views of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Hilton
Head Island with miles of beaches in South Carolina; and a luxury
home here at Barton Creek.
"My goodness, it seems I ought to have a corporate jet parked
in my driveway. Did I fail to mention the incredible golf courses
to take advantage of at all these fabulous vacation Homes?"
MASTERS IN THE
ART OF HOSPITALITY
Mike was still not sure he sold me and pressed on. "Better
yet," he reveled, "there's a concierge
to spoil you!"
"Spoil you in which way?"
"It starts the moment you arrive at the airport," said
Mike."They pick you up, get your luggage, and drive you to
the Club. When you get into your residence, you'll find your kitchen
prestocked with groceries; climate controls set to your personal
liking; tee times; spa and dining room reservations made and confirmed.
Every effort is made to ensure you are pampered."
"What does it cost you a month?"
"Works out to about $300 a month, after an initiation fee which
is now around $116,000."
I got skeptical.
"That's less than an average country club dues structure,"
said Mike. "If you could consider the return on an alternative
conservative investment equal to the membership cost plus the annual
maintenance fee, it works out to about $450 a day for 27 days. That
would be the daily cost at a luxury resort wherein you get a single
room. Compare that to 2,600 square feet of entertainment, lodging
for guests, a large kitchen to prepare great meals, a whirlpool
bath, and an outdoor deck - there's really no comparison, and the
golf is either cart fee only or reduced greens fees for members!
"A membership is a real bargain, and let's not forget I have
five homes to choose from, all fabulous destinations," he rationalized.
He smiled after one look at my face, happy with the thought I was
being convinced. However, just to make sure, he took me on a personal
tour of the golf courses.
TWO OTHER POINTS
The Owners Club is owned and operated by a subsidiary of ClubCorp
Inc. It was time to get the management's point of view and I talked
to Craig Robbins, vice president of memberships at Barton Creek;
and John Maloney, senior vice president of sales and marketing for
The Owners Club overall. I asked Robbins how they settled on 27
days of residency annually. Why not ten days
For him, it was an easy question and he came up with a logical
answer. "Through research," he said. "Our members
are generally professional people.They are unable to justify the
cost of owning a homesite, building a house, furnishing it, and
maintaining it for only a few weeks of use.
"People vacation for two or three weeks a year," said
Robbins. "The beauty of an Owners Club membership is you can
vacation in warm climates during winter, and cooler climates during
OWNERS CLUB MEMBERSHIP
I saved the most important question for Maloney. "How is Owners
Club membership any better than time-share?"
better in many ways," replied Maloney. "I'd start with
the fact a typical time-share is a seven day interval in a given
location that gives you the ability to do some exchanges. Ours is
a deeded club membership. That's really the difference. A typical
time-share product is a mid-rise product where you have someone
staying above you, below you and on either side of you, each owning
a one week interval.
"Well, look at The Owners Club. It's a single family detached
home, a true second home. You saw Barton Creek. It's a 2,600-square-foot
home elegantly furnished with a very convenient concierge service.
There's no one above you, below you or alongside of you!
important difference," continued Maloney, "It's a 27 day
interest-not seven days. Instead of about 18,000 owners of a time-share
plan, you're one of about 520 Owners Club members; and, you don't
have to use seven-day bites, you can use three days, seven days,
14 days etc. You can also get three homes for three nights and have
an outstanding family reunion. I would say that's a very substantial
difference. Wouldn't you agree?"
I certainly agree.