Then and Now: Alaqua Country Club

Today, the Alaqua Country Club is one of Central Florida’s most refined members-only golf communities. Designed with intuition, elegance, and artistry, the club’s facilities offer a safe, private, and high-class experience for members. However, this well-known community hasn’t always flaunted such status. Like most other golf-course communities, the Alaqua Country Club has had its share of ups, downs, and turnarounds. Let’s take a look at where the club started and how it became the iconic location of today.

The Former Glory

Built-in 1988, the Alaqua Country Club and its history are founded on esteem. Famed golfer Gary Player originally designed the private, 18-hole course with intuitive, challenging, and attractive features, which elevated the value of properties in the community and membership to the club. Along with his own home adjacent to the course and a 28,000 sq. ft. clubhouse, Player built the club with big dreams in mind. Unfortunately, the national real estate and financial situation in the decades following would make the club’s grandeur nearly impossible to maintain. After selling land to compensate for such financial upsets, the club wasn’t able to support as large a membership base. In turn, the club couldn’t bring in enough equity to maintain its large-scale clubhouse, facilities, and amenities.

The Turning Point

From slight downturns to foreclosure, the club suffered extraordinary losses before it would experience its highest peaks. After gaining principle ownership of the club in 2003, John Ritenour, Insurance Office of America (IOA) co-founder — along with other country club members — started to rearrange the community from the inside. They first worked on keeping the course open and establishing a new nearby residential area. Then, in 2009, the Alaqua Country Club experienced the biggest upgrades to date. Ritenour and the other principle owners took it upon themselves to finally return the course and the clubhouse to its former glory and establish a new precedent for excellence. Reconfiguring the course’s drainage system, growing lush greenery, and elevating tees, they would spend over $2 million restoring and revamping the club. In tandem with physical changes, Ritenour wanted to update the club’s membership structure — capping it at 200.

The New Alaqua

Down to the tiniest details, John Ritenour and his team put incredible effort into turning the club into something better than ever before. A remodeled clubhouse — enhanced with a fitness center, corporate meeting room, and patio overlooking the course — sets the tone for a private, exclusive golfing community. Also featuring an on-site restaurant, The Restaurant at Alaqua, the Alaqua Country Club now serves lunch and dinner and can even support weddings and other events. Although such glorious amenities are a perk that reels in many members, it’s the mindfully designed course that really draws in avid golfers from around the community.

The Big Difference  

According to the former chairman and CEO of IOA, John Ritenour, the Alaqua Country Club is special because it’s different, adaptable. Even in the early stages of the global COVID-19 crisis, the club was still able to service its members with takeout dining options from The Restaurant at Alaqua. Now, the club welcomes members to return for socially distant golfing, safe and clean clubhouse amenities, and top-of-the-line sanitization practices. This dedication to members and the community is what makes this members-only venue feel like home for so many locals — and it’s what will help the club continue to provide the ultimate golfing experience for years to come.