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Former members of Trump's Doral golf club may wait the rest of their lives for refunds from the president

Taylor Dolven, Miami Herald on

Published in Business News

MIAMI -- Golfers who quit their memberships at Trump National Doral after the property's namesake became president were aiming to lose their link to a man they do not support. Turns out they could be waiting for Trump to pay them back for the rest of their lives.

Two longtime golf members who resigned weeks after Trump won the 2016 presidential election said they were no longer willing to write him checks. Another quit last December after he said the club became too political. They spoke to the Miami Herald on the condition of anonymity, saying they fear retaliation. These former members are now on a waiting list to get their deposits back -- ranging from $10,500 to $19,000 -- that has more than 265 people on it.

To move up the list by one spot, four new golf members need to join the club, according to the membership terms. Deposit amounts vary depending on when members joined.

The Trump Organization did not respond to requests for comment via call, email and in-person visit to the club about the number of members who have joined and left the club each year under Trump's ownership, nor how the total number of members has changed over time. The director of membership at Trump Doral, Willy Ruiz, said he could not comment on the membership program.

The sluggish movement of the resigned members' waiting list shows that fewer new golf members are joining each year.

In December 2017, Trump Organization lawyer Jill Martin told a lawyer for five former golf members -- three of whom left after the election -- that the club had refunded 24 memberships since Trump bought the property out of bankruptcy in 2012. That means around 96 people joined the club in those six years, or an average of 16 per year.

 

But in the period from December 2017 to January 2019, one of those former members said he only advanced by one spot, another said he advanced by two, meaning at most eight new members joined in that time period, far fewer than the years prior, suggesting Trump's new job may be hurting membership. Former members don't have access to the list in its entirety, but can ask the membership office for an update on their spot in line.

In 2017 The Wall Street Journal reported Trump Doral was offering a 20% discount on its $50,000 joining fee. Monthly membership dues now exceed $1,000. Golf members get discounts on food and spa services and advanced reserved tee times with no green fees. A round of golf at Trump Doral is available to the public for as low as $75 on the website GolfNow.com.

"Sales are better than last year but still pretty slow," said then-membership director Linda Wasserman in a November 2018 email response to an inquiry from longtime former member Larry Herscher about his spot in line. Herscher, 64, left the club nearly a decade ago, before Trump took over. From November 2017 to November 2018, he moved just three spots.

"Hopefully, we'll see progress soon," Wasserman said.

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