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Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Week That Was, april 15, 2018

     Golfers in large numbers continue to vacation in Spain, particularly at its sunny, family-friendly coastal resorts, but the nation’s native golf business hasn’t yet shaken off the after-effects of the world economic collapse. According to a “country snapshot” freshly published by KPMG’s Golf Advisory Practice, the number of golfers in Spain, one of Europe’s long-established golf markets, fell by 18 percent between 2010 and 2017 (a loss of 61,070 players), while the number of courses added to the nation’s inventory was flat (actual increase: four courses). By any reasonable measure, these are disappointing figures. Nonetheless, KPMG’s Budapest-based analysts believe that stability – not growth, necessarily – may be just around the corner. They note, for example, that Spain lost only 1,400 golfers, year over year, in 2017, and therefore conclude that “the stabilization of the Spanish golf market has begun.” They may be right, but they may also be coming to a false conclusion based on an incredibly small sample size. For the record, as of year-end 2017 Spain had 349 courses and 270,463 card-carrying members of the Royal Spanish Golf Federation, numbers that translate to 5 percent of Europe’s courses and 6 percent of its registered golfers. And it you’re wondering, the vast majority (71 percent) of the tourists who prop up the nation’s golf operations arrive from England, France, and Germany, but Spain also draws significant traffic from Ireland and Scandinavia.

     It’s taken something like five years, but the owner of China’s Golf Channel has finally gotten a green light for his golf venture on Lindeman Island, in Queensland, Australia. If all goes according to plan, William Han expects to break ground next year on a 1,750-acre resort that will feature a variety of housing types, several hotels, places to eat, drink, and be merry, and a golf course. If Han’s name rings a bell, it’s probably because he once hired Tom Doak to design a pair of golf courses on Hainan Island, neither of which ever hosted a paid-for round. His venture on Lindeman Island has so far been a repeat performance, but state officials and the local business community clearly hope he delivers on his promises, as the economy in the Whitsundays could use a boost. Han’s resort will take shape on the island’s shuttered Club Med resort, his aim being to create a vacation destination for Chinese tourists. Nobody has to tell him that the tourists are still out there, in ever-larger numbers and with ever-deeper pockets.

     Some information in the preceding post first appeared in the August 2013 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.

     Pipeline Overflow – Speaking of Queensland, Graham Marsh has been hired to design an 18-hole course for a seniors-only community outside Gladstone. The track will be the centerpiece of Boyneglade, a 650-acre spread that’s been master-planned to include housing for both stay-at-homes and “grey nomads” who travel in RVs. . . . Bayelsa State, in Nigeria, has set out to create what the Vanguard believes will be a “new, ultra-modern” capital city that will be “compared to world-class cities in developed countries.” This new Yenagoa will feature, among other things, a “castle hotel,” a heliport, and a golf course. . . . Tbilisi Hills Golf Club may be the first 18-hole golf course in Georgia’s capital city, but it won’t be the only course. Tabori Hill Golf course, a nine-hole track designed by Kevin Ramsey, is expected to debut before the end of the year.

     A group led by Chip Smith, the owner of Atlantic Golf Management, has acquired Brunswick Plantation & Golf Resort, an under-performing 27-year-old property in Calabash, North Carolina. Brunswick Plantation, which occupies 1,750 acres, claims to embody “southern architecture, southern landscaping, and southern hospitality,” and it features a 27-hole golf complex that was designed by Willard Byrd. Smith thinks it has “a ton of potential,” and he told the Myrtle Beach Sun News that he and his partners expect to “turn it around and turn it into what it should be.” Atlantic Golf Management operates Whispering Pines Golf Club, a municipal track in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and it owns a minority stake in Wellington National Golf Club (the former Binks Forest Golf Club) in Wellington, Florida. It bought Brunswick Plantation from Caw Caw Land Corporation, the community’s original developer.

     Surplus TranactionsJoel Goldstrand’s first golf course has changed hands. Greg McKush has paid an undisclosed price for Montgomery National Golf Club, an 18-hole layout in metropolitan Minneapolis, Minnesota that opened, with nine holes, in 1970. Goldstrand, who rarely gets credit for helping to pioneer the design of “reversible” golf courses, reportedly added the second nine in 1993. . . . Jim Justice’s golf course in Beckley, West Virginia is going to get a second life. For an undisclosed price that can’t exceed $3.5 million, city officials have agreed to buy Black Knight Country Club, which has operated since 1929. Justice, who owns the Greenbrier and other golf properties in the state, bought Black Knight and its nine-hole golf course in 2011, reportedly for $1 million. He closed it late last year, a year after he was elected as West Virginia’s governor, because he no longer believes it’s financially sustainable. . . . Northridge Hills Golf Course, a 20-year-old track in Jacksonville, Illinois, has been sold to the couple who live in the house on hole #9. John and Rachel Rohn agreed to buy the nine-hole track because they feared that it might not open this year.

     Even More Surplus Transactions – Sussex Pines Country Club, a 51-year-old venue in Georgetown, Delaware, has new owners and a new name. Acting on what’s been described as “a whim,” Pete and Michele Townsend bought the financially troubled club from its members earlier this year, and it now operates as Mulligan’s Point Golf & Community Club. Whatever it’s called, though, the property features an 18-hole course with nine holes designed by Ed Ault and nine designed by Al Janis. . . . The nine-hole track in Greencastle, Indiana that serves as the home of DePauw University’s golf teams has been experiencing those dreaded “financial strains,” and it apparently has three years to reverse its fortunes. Lee Tenzer, a member of the university’s board of trustees, recently acquired the 63-year-old Windy Hill Country Club, but he’s only making a short-term commitment to golf operations. Maybe he thinks the property’s new name, Tiger Pointe Country Club, will be a key to success. . . . For a price that’s reportedly “just shy” of $1.3 million, Milton Talkuder has taken possession of Sherwood Golf Club, a 44-year-old facility in Titusville, Florida. Talkuder bought the club’s 100 acres from Andy Ali, a resident of the accompany community who’d purchased Sherwood out of bankruptcy in 2005.

     The city of Pittsburg, California has turned out the lights at Delta View Golf Course, at least for the time being. The reason for the closure isn’t clear (it may have something to do with personal-injury lawsuits that have been filed against the property), and the East Bay Times reports that the city “isn’t quite sure what will become of the golf course.” Delta View’s 18-hole course opened in 1947, and the newspaper says it was designed by Jack Fleming.

     Desolation Row Extended – Willow Springs Golf Course, a venue described as “a landmark” in Haslet, Texas “for nearly 60 years,” may soon bite the dust. Dacus Lindsey told a local television station that his 18-hole course “is no longer profitable,” and he’s negotiating to sell it to a residential developer. . . . The new owners of Walnut Hills Country Club, in East Lansing, Michigan, have put an end to nearly a century’s worth of golf. Summer Park Realty bought Walnut Hills, which opened in the 1920s, out of foreclosure in 2016, hoping to secure a quick approval for a subdivision. Sumner Park hasn’t made much headway on that front, so it’s pulled the plug on the club. . . . The clock is ticking on Olathea Golf Course, a nine-hole layout in Le Claire, Iowa. The family-owned venue has operated since 1984, but KWQC-TV reports that the owner wants to rezone the property, so as to better facilitate a sale to residential developers.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Week That Was, april 8, 2018

     The developers of Tbilisi Hills Golf Club, who in 2016 claimed to be “redefining the good life for affluent Georgians,” are making good on their promise. The first golf course in the capital city of the former Soviet satellite hasn’t officially opened yet, but it’s nonetheless become the 27th link in the chain of ostensible “world-class” golf venues endorsed by the European Tour’s real-estate arm. European Tour Properties has singled out Tbilisi Hills as “a magnificent new venue” and offered praise for its “superb layout,” “enviable panoramas,” and, perhaps more importantly, the “strong plans for its future development.” Credit for the layout goes to Lassi Pekki Tilander, an architect based in Espoo, Finland, while credit for the master plan goes to a group of Spanish and Georgian companies who aim to eventually surround the course with hundreds of high-priced houses, a hotel, and other attractions that will offer an escape from what’s been described as “the tribulations of Tbilisi.” Tilander has reportedly designed 20 courses in five European nations, and Tbilisi Hills, which will celebrate its grand opening this summer, is the second to be selected by European Tour Properties. The first is Estonian Golf & Country Club, in suburban Tallinn, Estonia.

     The businessman who’s said to be “in charge of golf development” in Vietnam is putting the finishing touches on his third golf property. Lê Văn Kiểm, the chairman of Hồ Chí Minh City-based KN Investment Group, created Long Thanh Golf Club, near Hồ Chi Minh City, and Long Vien Golf Club in Vientiane, Laos, and later this year he expects to debut the first 18 holes at KN Golf Links Cam Ranh, on the socialist republic’s South Central Coast. The course, designed by Greg “the Living Brand” Norman, will be the centerpiece of KN Paradise, a 2,000-acre resort community outside Nha Trang that’s been master-planned to include houses, hotels, places to eat and drink, entertainment venues, and, eventually, another nine holes. Kiểm has called the first 18 a “masterpiece,” which, if true, means that it’ll inevitably be compared to Norman’s other courses in Vietnam, Bluffs Ho Tram Strip and Đà Nẵng Golf Club (now BRG Đà Nẵng Golf Resort). Golf Digest ranks those courses as the nation’s #1 and #3 tracks.

     Pipeline Overflow – Elected officials in Fife, Scotland have green-lit Dumbarnie Links, an 18-hole layout to be co-designed by Paul Kimber and Clive Clark. The parties involved have set a high bar for themselves, as they aim to create a course that will be ranked among the world’s top 100. If all goes as planned, design critics will be able to write their reviews in the summer or fall of 2019. . . . A major roadblock to Coul Links has been removed. SEPA, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, has withdrawn its opposition to the proposed Bill Coore-designed course in the Scottish Highlands, acknowledging that its concerns “have been addressed” by the developers. The next step in the entitlement process will come in June, when Highland Council is scheduled to debate the development proposal submitted by Mike Keiser and Todd Warnock. . . . Jeff and Patricia Hoops plan to create the Grand Patrician, a resort that will feature, among other things, houses, a 100-room hotel, a conference center, an amphitheater, a wedding chapel, a medical center, baseball and soccer fields, indoor and outdoor pools, and a nine-hole, par-3 golf course. The resort will be built in Milton, West Virginia, a town of about 2,400 that’s located roughly midway between Charleston and Huntington.

     Turkey is certainly no longer a hot spot for many vacationers, but golfers continue to patronize the nation’s tourist-friendly tracks in Belek. According to statistics cited by Tim Lobb, who’s helped to design at least two courses in the region, the number of rounds played has grown from 15,130 in 1995 to 232,886 in 2005 to 463,045 in 2015.

     With an offer of $645,000, Andy Myers and Philip Kless are expected to become the new owners of a 20-year-old golf venue in Marcellus, New York. Presuming the transaction closed as scheduled, the purchase will be the first ownership venture for Myers and Kless, both PGA professionals who made the offer on Marcellus Golf Club at a foreclosure auction in early January. The duo plans to give the track, originally known as Links at Sunset Ridge, a new name – Sunset Ridge Golf Club – but their biggest challenge will be to shore up its bottom line, as memberships have reportedly fallen by 40 percent in recent years. Myers and Kless are the principals of Kless Myers Golf Management, which leases Lyndon Golf Course in Fayetteville, New York.

     Surplus Transactions – An entity led by Brian Quinn has acquired Plymouth Country Club, one of Pennsylvania’s oldest golf venues. Quinn, the golf coach at Temple University, paid an undisclosed price for Plymouth, which was established in 1912 and features an 18-hole, William Flynn-designed course that dates from the mid 1920s. Plymouth, a member-owned property that’s struggled in recent years, will henceforth operate as the 1912 Club. . . . Wild Quail Golf & Country Club, a 28-year-old venue in Wyoming, Delaware, has been sold, but Larry Hirsh’s Golf Property Analysts, which facilitated the transaction, is keeping a lid on the details. As best I can determine, the sellers were Constantine Malmberg III, Mike Zimmerman and Ron Schafer, the trio who bought the 190-acre property roughly a decade ago. The club says that Ed Ault designed Wild Quail’s “difficult but friendly” 18-hole course, but other sources give credit to one of Ault’s former associates, Bill Love. . . . Asian Pacific Group has reportedly accepted $550,000 for Sunridge Golf Club, a 20-year-old venue that promises to “challenge you while providing a relaxing, picturesque backdrop.” The 18-hole, Bill Wellman-designed track in Carson City, Nevada now belongs to Dan Oster, who aims to make it the centerpiece of what a local newspaper says will be “a community outdoor activity center, with entertainment for all.”

     In what passes for creativity in the golf industry these days, Arcis Golf has given TPC Valencia a new name: The Oaks Club. Arcis calls the moniker a reflection of “the club’s individuality and character,” but to the rest of the world it appears to reflect a lack of imagination.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Week That Was, march 25, 2018

     The American Society of Golf Course Architects apparently has no credible candidate for its most prestigious honor, so it’s giving the 2018 Donald Ross Award to George Bush, who served as our nation’s 41st president. The award is made annually, to an individual who’s made “a significant contribution to the game of golf and the profession of golf course architecture.” John Sanford, the ASGCA’s president, believes that Bush “exemplifies the highest traditions of golf, from displaying the values of good sportsmanship to respecting pace of play and everything in between.” He’s also been accused of groping a half-dozen women, including a 16-year-old.

     Regarding the preceding item: The ASGCA officials who made this bewildering and socially odious decision need to defend it or resign.

     The defunct Highland Park Country Club, a municipal property in suburban Chicago, Illinois, may get a second life as a Golf Mecca. The money-losing club closed in December and is booked for a sale to a local park district, but a trio of investors believe its 100 acres could be repurposed as a golf practice center. Specifically, David Fairman, Keith Bank, and Dave Esler (yes, the course designer) want to establish a six-hole layout on the property, along with nine “short” holes, a putting course, and other attractions. This is an 11th-hour bid that may not succeed, and at least one of the investors doesn’t think the Mecca (you know, mecca is a Muslim word) has much chance of being especially profitable. The alternative, however, is the park district’s plan: A nature preserve with walking trails.

     Pipeline Overflow – Coalville, Utah, which is said to be a “passionately rural town” with a “working-class feel” and not even one stoplight, may soon sprout 500 houses and a golf course. Wohali Partners LLC has identified a 1,500-acre spread west of town for its to-be-named community, and it’s seeking an annexation that’s currently being debated. . . . Tim Lobb has been hired to design what he says will be “the first full 18-hole course” in Ankara, Turkey. The track at Regnum Ankara Golf Estate will be Lobb’s fourth in the nation and his third for developer Fikret Ozturk, who’s master-planned his 500 acres to include houses, a sports club, and a retail/commercial area. . . . Millbrook Resort, on New Zealand’s South Island, is moving ahead with plans to add nine holes to its 27-hole golf complex. The resort is taking its time with the project, which was announced in 2014, but by 2021 or 2022 it expects to have 18-hole tracks designed by Sir Bob Charles and Greg Turner. Eiichi Ishii bought Millbrook in the late 1980s and has set out to create “the best golf and lifestyle resort in the world.”

     Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club, ranked by Golf Digest as the #2 golf venue in New Mexico, has changed hands. Roger Cox & Associates has sold the club and its 27-hole, Finger Dye Spann-designed golf complex to Tony Alvarez and Bryan Marsal, a pair of New Yorkers who claim to be experts in turning around under-performing properties. Paa-Ko Ridge’s original 18 opened in 2000, and its third nine was added in 2006. The club, in Sandia Park, has experienced an erosion in play, however, as it attracted as many as 30,000 rounds annually in the early 2000s but has only rung up about 23,000 annually over the past decade. The new owners believe they can “make something special” at the club, though, with special being defined as 18 guest cottages and a lodge with 62 rooms for overnight guests.

     Surplus Transactions – A homeowners’ group in metropolitan Richmond, Virginia has paid $2 million for Brickshire Golf Club, the amenity that anchors their community. The 229-acre venue features an 18-hole course, co-designed by Curtis Strange and Tom Clark, that reportedly imitates holes from famous courses around the world. The seller, Traditional Golf Properties, owns two other nearby golf properties, Tradition Golf Club at Royal New Kent and Tradition Golf Club at Stonehouse, both of which are said to be for sale. . . . One of the oldest golf venues in Wisconsin is about to change hands. Come next month, Prestwick Group expects to acquire La Belle Golf Club, which opened in 1896 (with nine holes) as the Country Club of Oconomowoc and later operated as Rolling Hills Country Club. Prestwick hasn’t publicly outlined its plans for the property, but John Meunier, the current owner, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he expects La Belle to be “a fantastic golf property once they’re finished.” The club, which is located in Oconomowoc, now has 18 holes and is open to the public. . . . Just weeks after declaring for bankruptcy protection, a group led by Ryan Voorhees has found a buyer for La Contenta Golf Club, a 45-year-old venue in Valley Springs, California. Gentium Golf has agreed to pay an as-yet undisclosed price for La Contenta, which features an 18-hole, Richard Bigler-designed layout.

     The venue that describes itself as “the birthplace of organized golf in the State of Tennessee” has mercifully gone belly up. Country Club of Bristol, originally established in 1894, has been in deep financial trouble for more than a decade, and its fate was all but sealed when Integrity Golf Company walked away from its management contract roughly a year ago. The club closed briefly in 2005 but was rescued by the principals of Interstate Realty Company, but then a bank took it over in 2013 and sold it in 2015 to Bristol Preservation, which now promises to “share any future plans for the club at a later date.” Bristol, which moved to its present location in 1958, once had an A. G. McKay-designed golf course, but the 18-hole track was redesigned by Mark McCumber in 1999.

     Desolation Row Extended – Sometime in 2019, as part of a plan that was hatched several years ago, the city of Plano, Texas expects to close Club at Los Rios and turn its 194 acres into a park. The 18-hole layout was designed by Don January and opened in 1971. The city bought it in 2014, reportedly for $3.5 million. . . . The city of Lindsay, California has pulled the plug on its municipal golf course, a 55-year-old venue that nowadays reportedly gets “very little use.” The nine-hole, Bob Baldock-designed track is slated to become a soccer complex. . . . William Doebler, who was recently found to operate a work environment that was hostile to women, has drawn the curtains on Mississippi Dunes Golf Links, his 18-hole golf course in Cottage Grove, Minnesota. The track is still for sale, as it’s been for months, but now there’s little hope of the property being anything but a subdivision.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Week That Was, march 18, 2018

     Ric Kayne is starting to act like the proverbial Ugly American. The California-based billionaire, the owner of the sublime Tara Iti Golf Club – Golf Digest ranks it #6 in the world, after three royals (County Down, Dornoch, and Melbourne), Muirfield, and the Old Course – has begun complaining publicly about proposed legislation that would prevent foreigners like him from owning property in New Zealand and creating their own personal Mar-a-Lago-like enclaves. In fact, Kayne is leveling the same threat that Donald “David Dennison” Trump leveled at Scotland when an ungrateful nation wasn’t bending to his will: If the law passes, Kayne warns, he won’t build a second golf course at Tara Iti or an expensive new house for himself or who knows how many cabins for other wealthy Americans or make any other vitally important investments in New Zealand. It’s hard to figure why Kayne decided to put himself in the middle of such a controversial issue – rich people usually hire lawyers to do their dirty work – but he should learn a lesson from Trump’s experience. If he thinks New Zealand needs him more than he needs it, he’s wrong.

     Nick Faldo has been hired to design his third golf venue in Vietnam. This one will be a 27-hole complex in Long An Province, somewhere roughly 40 miles north of Hồ Chí Minh City, that will take shape on what appears to be lackluster farmland. The developer, Hoàn Cầu Group – the company that staged the Miss Universe pageant in Vietnam in 2008 – aims to build “the best golf course in the greater Hồ Chí Minh area,” and to ensure that it succeeds, Faldo and his team intend to create “our own features,” including “lots of water and landscape.” Faldo’s first golf course in the socialist republic, Ocean Dunes Golf Club in Bình Thuận Province, closed in 2014, but his Laguna Lăng Cô Golf Club, outside Hue, is still operating. Hoàn Cầu reportedly owns two golf properties in Vietnam, one of them being Diamond Bay Golf & Villas in Khánh Hòa Province.

     Pipeline Overflow – Desert Mountain’s next golf course will be an 18-hole, par-3 track that aims to be “user-friendly, inclusive, and fun but challenging.” The tony private community in Scottsdale, Arizona already has six Jack Nicklaus “signature” tracks,” but its seventh will be designed by Bill Brownlee, one of the developers, and Wendell Pickett, a club member. The track will be accompanied by as many as 190 houses that will cost $1 million or more. . . . Rees Jones has been directed to turn Asiad County Club, in Busan, South Korea, into a venue suitable for LPGA events. Come next summer, after the Open Doctor enhances “the strategy and character of each hole” at Asiad’s 27-hole complex, the property will be re-branded as LPGA International Busan. The mayor of Busan expects the club to become “the heart of golf in Asia.” . . . John Picerne, a Providence, Rhode Island-based developer, has set out to build a golf course on an ancient estate in the southern Midlands of Ireland. The founder of Corvias Group believes that his recently purchased Capard House, which occupies 100 acres in County Laois, is an ideal site for what’s been described as a “private” track.

     Our industry’s institutional powers in Australia have unveiled a “wide-ranging” plan to boost participation among girls and women. Golf Australia has launched “Vision 2025” to address what’s said to be “a record low” in participation, as females now account for just 20 percent of the players Down Under. “I think we’ve got some important challenges as a sport, and we need to recognize them,” the group’s CEO said in a press release. Golf Australia aims to increase the level of participation to 30 percent over the next seven years, a goal that it understands will be difficult to achieve. “It’s a massive task,” a board member acknowledged. “That’s why we’ve made it 2025.”

     A pair of management companies have teamed up to buy Fox Hollow Golf Club, an under-performing venue in Branchburg, New Jersey that celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. Billy Casper Golf and Morningstar Golf & Hospitality are the principal partners in the investment group that now owns Fox Hollow, which claims to have “an award-winning restaurant with an ‘anything you can think of’ menu.” Matt Galvin, the president of Morningstar, believes that the club is a “gem” that will benefit from his company’s “local presence and hands-on involvement” and GCG’s “marketing prowess and infrastructure.” The club originally had a Hal Purdy-designed course, but in 2000 the track was reportedly “completely redesigned” to make it “more challenging while at the same time improving its playability.”

     Surplus Transactions – Last fall, a private equity firm bid $16.1 million at auction for the financially troubled Salilshan Resort, a 250-acre spread in Gleneden Beach, Oregon that features a 53-year-old, Fred Federspiel-designed golf course. The 18-hole track has seen better days – the Portland Business Journal reports that it “averages just six foursomes a day” – but Alpha Wave Investors thinks it’s found a jewel that just needs a little polish. . . . Time appears to be ticking for Emerald Greens Golf Course, an 18-hole track in St. Louis, Missouri. The non-profit group that raises money for the St. Louis Zoo has agreed to buy 425 acres for zoo expansion, and Emerald Greens, which opened in 1994, will be part of the purchase. St. Louis Today reports that the course will remain open “for now.” . . . Terry Sjostrom is about to give up his job as a truck driver, as he’s acquired Birchwood Golf Course in Pelican Rapids, Minnesota. The nine-hole layout opened in 1930, and it had been owned and operated by Brian Evenson and members of his family since the late 1970s.

     ClubLink has given up on its plans to engineer a turnaround at Woodlands Golf & Country Club, the centerpiece of a community that was envisioned to be the Palm Springs of Florida. The largest owner/operator of golf properties in Canada bought Woodlands from its members in 2011, promising to put the property in Tamarac back on its financial feet, but a home builder has persuaded it to get out while the getting is still good. Pending approval by local elected officials, 13th Floor Homes – the same company that hopes to redevelop Carolina Club in metropolitan Miami – will build 525 houses on Woodlands’ 36-hole, Devlin/Von Hagge-designed golf complex. Canadian snowbirds will have fewer choices to play upon if the transaction is completed, but ClubLink will still own six golf venues in the Sunshine State, among them Heron Bay Golf Club in Coral Springs and Palm Aire Country Club in Pompano Beach.

     Desolation Row Extended – A marijuana producer has ensured that there will be no future sightings of Bigfoot Golf & Country Club. Patrick Murphy closed the nine-hole layout outside Eureka, California earlier this year, citing financial difficulties, but he doesn’t plan to weed-farm it. Instead, he’s going to open a disc golf course on the property, and then maybe a restaurant and some cabins. . . . Sixty years after it opened, Larkhaven Golf Course is on its way to becoming Charlotte, North Carolina’s next subdivision. A home builder believes that Larkhaven’s 140 acres can comfortably accommodate 350 houses. . . . The final rounds at Glenbrook Golf Course, an 18-hole municipal track in Houston, Texas, will be played on April Fools’ Day. Glenbrook, which has operated since 1935, will become a “marquee” botanical garden.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Week That Was, march 11, 2018

     The rumor mill is working overtime in Charlotte, North Carolina, as presumed insiders believe that McConnell Golf has its eyes on Ballantyne Country Club. John McConnell told the Triangle Business Journal that he has “no money,” but nobody takes such comments seriously. Heck, less than a year ago he put in an offer on Southern Pines Golf Club, in Southern Pines, North Carolina.

     Despite all the sweet talk from the hype-meisters at the National Golf Foundation, evidence continues to indicate that the golf industry is nowhere near firing on all cylinders. The latest underwhelming data comes from the recent Golf Industry Show, which managed to lure just 11,700 attendees – a 14 percent decline from the number counted in 2017 and, according to Turfnet, nearly 1,200 fewer than average number that the show has welcomed over the past five years (12,900). Attendance at the GIS hit its high-water mark in 2008, when more than 25,700 people passed through its turnstiles, but it’s been on a slow decrease ever since. There are lots of reasons to be optimistic about golf’s near-term future, but there are also lots of reasons to remain wary.

     Amazon hasn’t yet committed to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, but the PGA of America has. In a move that’s reportedly been percolating for five years, the West Palm Beach, Florida-based institutional power intends to relocate its headquarters to the Panther Creek master-planned community in Frisco, where it would enjoy a 45-hole golf complex and facilities worthy of hosting events such as the Ryder Cup and the PGA Championship. Although the move hasn’t been officially confirmed, Golf magazine indicates that the PGA has already tabbed Gil Hanse to design the facility’s championship course and Beau Welling to deliver the complementary 18-hole track and the obligatory nine-hole “short” course. The golf complex will eventually be flanked by a resort-style hotel, meeting space, and a PGA-branded golf academy. Again, the PGA hasn’t yet corroborated any of Golf’s reporting, but Hanse’s course is expected to open in 2020.

     Pipeline Overflow – An agency of the Croatian government is looking for investors who might be willing to build a resort community on “neglected land” along Prukljan Lake, near the town of Skradin, The 350-acre site can accommodate a hotel, a water park, a marina, and a 27-hole golf complex, and Total Croatia News says that “several European and U.S. investors” have expressed an interest in the development opportunity. Perhaps more importantly, the news service reports that “all explosive devices have been removed” from the property. . . . By the end of this year, Duros Land Properties expects to wrap up construction on an 18-hole golf course at Northside Beacon, a 500-acre planned community in Cebu Province, Philippines. Duros’ president, Rafaelito Barino, has designed the golf course, which will be accompanied by several thousand houses and condos, the usual commercial and community amenities, and attractions designed to appeal to Japanese vacationers. . . . Some Qatari money is going to help build the slow-developing Mandalika Resort on Lombok Island in Indonesia. Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim al Thani, who’s been described as “Qatar’s top business personality,” hopes to establish a hotel at the 3,000-acre waterfront spread, which has been master-planned to include luxury villas, theme and amusement parks, entertainment venues, conference facilities, shopping areas, a “world-class” marina, and at least one 18-hole golf course.

     David Preisler’s golf company has acquired a flood-prone golf club in Conroe, Texas. On the first day of the new year, Preisler Golf Properties took possession, for an undisclosed amount, of River Plantation Country Club, a nearly 50-year-old venue that features a 27-hole, Jay Riviere-designed golf complex. The seller was an entity called River Plantation Properties, with a reported ownership stake by Arcis Golf. Preisler is probably best known in the Lone Star State as one of Kevin Costner’s playing partners in Tin Cup, but his company also owns Oakhurst Golf Club in Porter, another northern suburb of Houston. News of Preisler’s purchase likely comes as a relief to River Plantation’s home owners, who feared that the golf course would be sold for more residential development.

     Surplus Transactions – The Tom Fazio-designed golf course in Bradenton, Florida, the golf amenity for the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota, is about to change hands. Dallas, Texas-based Ashford Hospitality Prime has agreed to put on the Ritz for $171 million, a price that will deliver a 266-room hotel, meeting space, a beach club, several eateries, and various other attractions, including the Ritz-Carlton Members Club and its 12-year-old, 18-hole track. . . . Can’t say exactly when it happened, but Badin Inn Golf Club has a new owner. The century-old venue outside Albemarle, North Carolina now belongs to Bert Seale, a former professional golfer who aims to redesign its 18-hole, Ed Seay-designed layout and open “a top-level academy that will be recognized worldwide.” Seale is now calling his property the Historic Badin Golf Resort & Inn. . . . Molly Reese has brought Ironwood Golf Course, an 18-hole track in Cookeville, Tennessee, back into her family. Reese’s grandfather, John Stites, designed and built Ironwood in the early 1970s but sold it in the early 1980s. Reese and her husband bought it from its fourth owner, Elaine Garrison, for an undisclosed price.

     A home builder has laid a claim on Carolina Club, the financially challenged, 47-year-old centerpiece of a seniors-only community in metropolitan Miami, Florida. “Even in an age-restricted community,” the president of 13th Floor Homes told the South Florida Business Journal, “it’s not an amenity many buyers are seeking.” A price hasn’t been disclosed. 13th Floor believes that Carolina’s 140 acres, now occupied by an 18-hole, Devlin/Von Hagge golf course, can comfortably accommodate 350 houses and, believe it or not, 80 acres of open space. Pending approvals for its plans, the company will buy the club from J&D Golf Properties, which has owned it since 2002. And it’s worth noting that 13th Floor is looking to buy other golf properties in South Florida as well, as it’s proposed to build houses on two golf courses at the Woodlands community in Tamarac.

     Desolation Row Extended – The homeowners’ group that’s operated Shamrock Golf Club and its 18-hole golf course since 2013 has surrendered. The group won’t extend its lease on Shamrock, and the club, in Burlington, North Carolina, is slated to be sold to a home builder. Shamrock, which opened in 1956, closed in 2011 but was revived when the homeowners decided that they couldn’t live without it. Now, apparently, they can. . . . Art Braswell has pulled the plug on his Robert Trent Jones-designed golf course. The centerpiece of Calimesa Country Club had operated since 1950, but it closed last fall, a victim of a sour golf market in Calimesa, California. Braswell has claimed that the club was losing hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, and he told the Calimesa News Mirror that he “should have closed it years ago.” . . . Time has run out on St. Helens Golf Course, a struggling nine-hole track in suburban Portland, Oregon. The course has been in business since 1959, but Suki Chung, its owner, thinks his 77 acres would be more valuable as an RV park.