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Sunday, September 1, 2019

The Week That Was, september 1, 2019

     Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that whenever a new course in Nebraska is announced, a golf writer’s immediate reaction is to start drawing comparisons to Sand Hills, Dismal River, and Prairie Club, the destination-worthy courses in the state’s Sand Hills. It happened again last week, when word came that Tad King and Rob Collins, the golf industry’s latest design darlings, have agreed to build their first original 18-hole course in Homer, a small town (estimated population: 528) located just south of Sioux City, Iowa. The course, dubbed Landmand Golf Club, is expected to open in 2021.
     For the record, Homer isn’t part of the Sand Hills. According to Google, it’s 293 miles from Mullen and 236 from Valentine. While Collins has described Landmand’s setting as “absolutely amazing,” eastern Nebraska may not be as magical as the Sand Hills. Only those familiar with both can say.
     King and Collins, for those who aren’t familiar, became a sensation in 2015, when they unveiled Sweetens Cove, a much-admired re-do of an unremarkable layout in metropolitan Chattanooga, Tennessee. (Despite having just nine holes, Sweetens Cove checks in at #50 on Golfweek’s ranking of America’s top modern courses.) Later this year, they expect to debut their second re-do, this one of the 18-hole, George Cobb-designed track at the Sea Palms resort in Georgia, and, if the stars and lenders someday align, they’ll create new courses in Utah and New York.
     In Homer, King and Collins are working for Will Andersen, a member of a family of corn farmers who own a nine-hole course in nearly Dakota City, Nebraska. Collins recently told Tony Dear that the 580-acre site he and King have been given is “bold” and “wild at times,” with “100-foot dunes everywhere you look,” and that they’ve been directed to design “a great course that’s accessible to all.” What he didn’t say, notably, is that the finished product would rank with the state’s best courses.
     The anticipation for Landmand is testimony to the promise that King and Collins have shown. But the weight of great expectations is a heavy burden for even the most experienced designers to carry. 

     Pipeline Overflow – Brian Curley has been hired to redesign and revitalize Plantation Country Club, a more than century-old venue in Boise, Idaho. The club’s course, originally a Chandler Egan creation, is being impacted by road construction and the desire of its new owner to build housing and some stores. . . . The developers behind the long-overdue Park Junction resort, a venue that’s been master-planned to include, among other things, condos and other housing, a hotel, and an 18-hole golf course, are reportedly “close to finally breaking ground on the project.” The resort, which will occupy 420 acres in Ashford, Washington, just outside Mount Rainier National Park, was first proposed in 1994 and secured a now-expired approval in 2001. . . . The fate of Pontoosuc Lake Country Club, a financially troubled, nearly century-old venue in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, has been decided. Jeff Moxon plans to reopen nine of the club’s 18 holes and operate as Black Rose Golf Club.

     Pipeline Overflow Overflow – Just five years after it announced plans to relocate, Royal Norwich Golf Club is ready to move into its new digs in suburban Norwich, England. The new Royal Norwich, on property that was formerly the home of Weston Park Golf Club, aims to be “the region’s most prestigious and talked about golf facility.” It features a Ross McMurray-designed 18-hole layout as well as a now-obligatory “short” course. . . . Ron Garl’s second course in Nigeria, an 18-hole track at Castle Rock Golf Club in Yenagoa, is scheduled to debut next year. The 18-hole track, the centerpiece of what’s been called “an American-influenced golf residential community,” follows the Lakeland, Florida-based designer’s first course, at Elizade Smokin Hills Golf Resort in Ilara-Mokin. It opened in 2012. . . . It’s also the second time around for Rod Whitman, as his 10-hole “short” course at the Cabot resort in Nova Scotia is scheduled to be unveiled in the spring of 2020. The Cape Breton Post reports that the two existing 18-hole tracks at the Mike Keiser-owned property ring up about 40,000 rounds annually, which means that they’re playing to what’s said to be “near capacity.” No word yet on when Cabot’s next venue will take shape.

     In compliance with recently issued European laws regarding data collection, I’ve been asked to provide a statement about my use of the data that’s collected about those of you who read the World Golf Report. So here’s what I have to say on the subject: I don’t collect any data, and I don’t put any cookies into your computer. That being said, here’s some language that Google, the company that maintains this slice of cyberspace, would probably approve of: “We and our partners use cookies on this site to improve our service, perform analytics, personalize advertising, measure advertising performance, and remember website preferences. By using the site, you consent to these cookies.”

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Week That Was, august 25, 2019

     Concert Golf Partners is once again flush with cash.
     The Newport Beach, California-based owner/operator has secured a $100 million financial commitment that secures its place at the top of the club-acquisition food chain. Peter Nanula, Concert’s chairman, figures that the money will enable his firm to add eight to 10 private clubs to its portfolio and make capital improvements to both new and existing properties.
     “For a lot of clubs, it all comes down to capital,” Nanula notes. “Because we have capital, we can solve problems and take on risks that clubs can’t.”
     The new funding ensures that Concert, which owns 20 clubs, will be able to compete for properties with ClubCorp, its much larger and most significant rival. Both companies are among a very small group of owner/operators that have money for acquisitions, and both are on the prowl for the same type of property: Mid- to upper-tier “lifestyle” clubs in metropolitan areas that have lost members or become burdened with debt and now find themselves in need of money that will allow them to make the facility improvements they need to remain competitive in their markets. Generally speaking, Concert and ClubCorp target member-owned clubs that generate revenues of $5 million to $10 million annually.
     Although the companies are always seeking to increase their holdings, 2019 has been a quiet year for them. Concert has acquired just one property, Plantation Golf & Country Club in Venice, Florida, while ClubCorp, as best I can determine, hasn’t made a purchase since late 2018, when it bought Ridge Club, a venue in Sandwich, Massachusetts that’s changed hands at least five times since 2003.
     In fact, the companies’ portfolios are so similar that ClubCorp tried to buy 16 of Concert’s clubs in the spring of 2018. The prospective sale collapsed in the late stages of the negotiations, due to what Nanula described at the time as disagreements related to price, terms, and “softer issues” concerning “commitments we have made to our members.”
     Concert has twice previously amassed investment funds that provided it with a total of $150 million, money that it used to acquire seven golf properties in Florida and 13 in Indiana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and seven other states. The money in the first two funds came from 60 to 80 high-net-worth individuals and families. The third fund has commitments from some of those same individuals and families as well as from a pair of New York City-based entities, Fireside Investments and Blackstone Tactical Opportunities.
     Nanula says that Fireside and Blackstone have expertise in hospitality, and he believes that their counsel will be valuable to Concert in the future. “As we grow,” he explains, “it’ll be useful to have professional investors with experience in hospitality.”
     Concert’s next acquisitions aren’t right around the corner. Nanula reports that he has “a number of possibilities in the pipeline,” but no purchases are imminent. He hopes to acquire one or two clubs before the end of the year, but he acknowledges that it’ll take “a few years” to spend the $100 million he now has to spend.
     “We’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” he says. “All 20 of our clubs are successful and thriving, and each one has exceeded the business plan we set for them. We have a model that works.”
     Concert was scheduled to finalize the transaction for the third fund last week.

     Duly Noted – The owners of Congaree Golf Club, who’ve convinced the golf media that they “aren’t interested in attention,” are bidding to host the Presidents Cup competition in 2025. The event, one of the biggest and brightest in golf, features the world’s greatest golfers, gets international media coverage, and attracts thousands of fans from all over the planet. . . . While promoting his “re-imagining” of the defunct Desert Inn Golf Course in Las Vegas, Tom Fazio seized an opportunity to articulate a bit of his design philosophy. “There are no rules in course design, and there are endless possibilities,” he told the Las Vegas Review Journal. “That flexibility is what makes it fun.” . . . Thailand has downgraded its tourism expectations for 2019, and Golfasian reports that hotels in the nation’s top golf destinations – among them Pattaya and Hua Hin – are offering “great deals with price rollbacks to levels of what they were 3-4 years ago.” This news ought to serve as a warning to developers in Vietnam and other emerging golf nations: Just when you start thinking that the sky’s the limit, along comes an economic downturn.

     In compliance with recently issued European laws regarding data collection, I’ve been asked to provide a statement about my use of the data that’s collected about those of you who read the World Golf Report. So here’s what I have to say on the subject: I don’t collect any data, and I don’t put any cookies into your computer. That being said, here’s some language that Google, the company that maintains this slice of cyberspace, would probably approve of: “We and our partners use cookies on this site to improve our service, perform analytics, personalize advertising, measure advertising performance, and remember website preferences. By using the site, you consent to these cookies.”

Sunday, August 18, 2019

The Week That Was, august 18, 2019

     South Korea is to David Dale and Kevin Ramsey, the principals of Golfplan, what China once was to Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley. Golfplan, a Santa Rosa, California-based design firm originally founded by Ron Fream, says it’s responsible for more than two dozen golf venues in the Land of the Morning Calm, and today it has three others in the pipeline. Set to open this fall is the firm’s second 18-hole track at Keun Wi O’Phel Golf Club, outside Daegu, the nation’s fourth-largest city, while two other venues – Sehyeon Golf Club in suburban Seoul and Solseado Golf Club, near Haenam – are under construction. All of these courses will offer public play, and Dale, who’s responsible for both courses at Keun Wi O’Phel, says in a press release that his firm is producing “attractive, strategic designs” that “will be embraced by South Korea’s ever-more sophisticated public golfer.” Clearly, there’s a market for public golf in the nation, as Golfplan reports that the first course at Keun Wi O’Phel rang up 120,000 rounds last year.

     Pipeline Overflow – Believe it or not, the development team behind the ridiculously overdue Arm End golf project in Tasmania is reportedly “confident” that “work will begin at the site within three months,” with a course debut expected in 2022. When we last heard from Greg Ramsay and his partners, in 2013, they were working with course designers from three continents: Mike Nuzzo from of Texas, Line Mortensen from Scotland, and the team of Neil Crafter and Paul Mogford from Australia. . . . Construction will soon begin on Rees Jones’s re-do of St. George’s Golf Course, a long-abandoned layout that his father designed on Bermuda. The forthcoming 18-hole course, an executive-length track, is expected to open in late 2020 and promises to be “environmentally friendly, socially responsible, and economically sustainable.” . . . This fall, Caspar Grauballe, a Danish designer who apprenticed with Martin Hawtree’s firm, expects to break ground on an 18-hole course in Poznan, Poland. Grauballe told Golf Course Architecture that the track, Black Water Links, “will take inspiration from classical links and heathland courses, but with a modern twist.”

     Pipeline Overflow Overflow – Royal Creek Golf Club, the centerpiece of a resort in northeastern Thailand, will officially open in late 2019 or early 2020, according to Golfasian. The travel company says that the course is the first international-standard layout in Udon Thani Province and advises that “anyone living, visiting, or wanting to travel to Udon Thani must have Royal Creek on their playlist.” Caution: Golfasian notes that “extra balls are a must.” . . . Two down, eight to go: Brian Curley has unveiled his second 18-hole track, the Ocean Dunes layout, at FLC Đồng Hới Golf Links, a 7,500-acre resort community in Vietnam’s Quảng Bình Province. FLC Group, the property’s developer and one of Curley’s most precious clients, could build as many as 10 courses at Đồng Hới. . . . Nicklaus Design has wrapped up construction of the Gimme, a family-friendly short course for Concession Golf Club, a high-end venue in Bradenton, Florida. The nine-hole, par-3 layout, which will be accompanied by a putting course and numerous references to Jack Nicklaus’s famous “concession” in the 1969 Ryder Cup competition, is scheduled to open in November.

     In compliance with recently issued European laws regarding data collection, I’ve been asked to provide a statement about my use of the data that’s collected about those of you who read the World Golf Report. So here’s what I have to say on the subject: I don’t collect any data, and I don’t put any cookies into your computer. That being said, here’s some language that Google, the company that maintains this slice of cyberspace, would probably approve of: “We and our partners use cookies on this site to improve our service, perform analytics, personalize advertising, measure advertising performance, and remember website preferences. By using the site, you consent to these cookies.”

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Week That Was, august 11, 2019

     Last year, golf participation in the United States showed a welcome increase. According to the National Golf Foundation, 24.2 million people aged six and up played at least one round of golf in 2018, a bump of 400,000 from the 23.8 that the Jupiter, Florida-based trade group counted in 2017. Although the increase falls within the survey’s margin of error, the NGF is certainly happy to report that its calculation is “the first measured increase in 14 years.” Probe a little deeper, however, and our industry has reason to be concerned about the NGF’s findings, because the number of golfers aged 18 to 34 – described by the NGF as “one of the most coveted demographics for the industry’s future growth” – didn’t increase. It was flat, at 6.1 million. The boost in participation came from golfers aged 65 and over, who increased their numbers from 3.6 million in 2017 to 4.2 million in 2018. The upshot: Last year’s increase in participation came from 600,000 aging and aged golfers, whose numbers will eventually and inevitably erode. Still, after more than a decade of declines in participation, U.S. golf owners and operators will no doubt take what they can get.

     Earlier this year, it seemed that the pace of closings was slowing. Today, courses are dropping like flies. Here are a few that have recently departed.
      – The Wizard, a 23-year-old golf venue in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is on track to be sold to a residential developer. The 18-hole, Dan Maples-designed course was built to complement another Maples creation, the nearby Man O’ War Golf Club, whose future is said to be secure, at least until someone makes an offer that can’t be refused.
     – Hunter’s Creek Golf Club is for sale, and the smart money says that its next owner will convert its 186 acres into housing. The club, which has been in business in Orlando since 1986, offers an 18-hole, Lloyd Clifton-designed course that’s said to be Florida’s longest.
     – Henderson Municipal Golf Course, a venue in Henderson, Kentucky WEHT-TV says is “one of the oldest courses east of the Mississippi,” has reached the end of the line. The nine-hole, executive-length track, described by a local player as “the best around for training young golfers,” made its debut in 1909.
     – Dumas Memorial Golf Course, one of six tracks owned by the park and recreation agency in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, will almost certainly close at the end of the 2019 golf season. Few complaints have been heard, as the 18-hole layout is a major financial drain. It reportedly rang up just 12,134 rounds last year and required nearly $500,000 in subsidies to remain afloat.
     – Wanaki Golf Course, an 18-hole municipal layout in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, will definitely close at the end of the 2019 golf season. The nearly 50-year-old layout, a co-design by Larry Packard and Bob Lohmann, has reportedly operated at a loss for a decade.
     – Blue Fox Run, a 27-hole complex in suburban Hartford, Connecticut, may soon lose nine of its holes to residential development. If local government officials approve the plan, the property’s owner intends to place the surviving holes in what’s been described as “a permanent conservation easement.”
     – FDR Golf Club, which has operated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania since 1940, will end its run at dusk on Halloween. The city’s parks and recreation department has concluded that the 18-hole track is “no longer sustainable due to frequent flooding and unprofitable operations.”
     – Pine Grove Golf Course, an 18-hole venue that’s operated in Northampton, Massachusetts since 1970, will go dark by the end of the year. Its owner, Gil Verrillo, has concluded that golf is “a dead sport,” and he hopes that 100 acres of his property is worth $650,000 to the city.
     – Gene Torres Golf Course, self-described as “a touch of Scotland in the heart of Las Vegas” – that would be Las Vegas, New Mexico – has been put on a strict budget and isn’t likely to operate in 2020. The nine-hole, Jeff Brauer-designed layout has reportedly lost roughly $190,000 annually in recent years, and its owner, New Mexico Highlands University, would rather invest such monies in academics.  

     Duly Noted – To generate funding for their continued operations, the British armed forces (146,500 active personnel) are being pressured to sell at least a few of their 19 golf courses. If you’re wondering, the National Golf Foundation reports that the branches of the U.S. military (1,359,450 active personnel) own 124 golf courses in 39 states, two territories, and seven foreign countries. . . . Peter Harradine, a third-generation architect with offices in Switzerland and Dubai, thinks that golf venues in the United Arab Emirates are missing an important market opportunity. “Golf is in a good shape here,” he advised in an interview with Sport Industry Insider, “but they really need to reduce the green fees to make it more affordable. Green fees are crazy at the moment.” Needless to say, Harradine has long advocated for making golf more accessible. . . . Greg “the Living Brand” Norman has become a pitchman for Garmin International, a company that manufactures range-finders, watches, and other golf products. Although the Great & Powerful LB declares that Garmin’s technology has “truly helped me improve my game,” he’s previously admitted that he plays only five or six rounds a year.

     Are you wondering how much of a week’s golf news I cover in this blog? The answer, unfortunately, is just a fraction of what passes my way. The golf business, particularly the development side of the golf business, has unquestionably perked up over the past year or two, and there’s no way for me to address all of it. So if your business requires a more comprehensive news digest – a weekly compendium of stories collected from newspapers, magazines, and other sources – contact me via e-mail at golfcoursereport@aol.com. I’ll send you a sample issue of either U.S. or International Construction Clips, depending on your needs.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

The Week That Was, august 4, 2019

     Later this year, Dolphin Capital Investors reportedly expects to start building what it once described as “probably the most exclusive development in Greece.” Kilada Hills, a long-overdue, 585-acre spread, will take shape on a Peloponnesian island, and it’s been master-planned to include roughly 500 villas, a high-end hotel, a marina, a winery, an olive-oil processing facility, an equestrian center, a beach club, the obligatory spa, and an 18-hole, Jack Nicklaus “signature” golf course. The course will be the Nicklaus empire’s first in a nation that’s desperate to generate income from tourism. Dolphin was founded in 2004 by two executives from Soros Real Estate Partners, Miltos Kambourides and Pierre Charalambides. It owns the Playa Grande golf resort in the Dominican Republic and the Venus Rock golf resort in Cyprus, and it has a handful of other golf ventures on its to-do list. It had hoped to open Kilada Hills in 2011.

     Some information in the preceding post first appeared in the November 2008, September 2012, and January 2014 issues of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.

     Pipeline Overflow – In the summer of 2020, Forest Dunes Golf Club expects to climb aboard the short-course bandwagon. Riley Johns and Keith Rhebb, graduates of the Coore & Crenshaw School of Design, are putting the finishing touches on a 10-hole, par-3 course at the 17-year-old resort in northern Michigan, which built its reputation with a Tom Weiskopf-designed layout and cemented it with Tom Doak’s much-discussed reversible track. . . . The revitalized North and South tracks at Peninsula Kingswood Country Golf Club, a venue in suburban Melbourne, Australia that dates from the 1960s, have been compared to “Sandbelt gems like Royal Melbourne and Kingston Heath” and praised as “a gift to the game of golf.” In large part, the credit reportedly goes to Michael Cocking of Ogilvy Clayton Cocking Mead, the firm that oversaw the re-do. . . . Greg Norman’s well-regarded layout at BRG Đà Nẵng Golf Resort, on Vietnam’s tourist-friendly Central Coast, will soon have a companion. Nicklaus Design is wrapping up construction of the second nine at its forthcoming 18-hole course, a track that Golfasian believes is “not as unique as the Norman course” but nonetheless “a good test of golf.”

     GreatLife Golf & Fitness, a recreation-focused company that owns, manages, or leases roughly 70 golf properties in the Midwest, has agreed to buy Woody Austin’s private golf club in Wichita, Kansas. For an undisclosed price, Austin, a four-time winner on the PGA Tour, is selling Willowbend Golf Club, a 32-year-old venue that features an 18-hole course that was co-designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish. Austin, who bought Willowbend in 2013, describes the course as “a formidable test for any golfer.” A GreatLife executive views Willowbend as “just an incredible golf product” and the acquisition as a step in making Wichita one of his company’s key golf markets. Assuming the transaction closes, Willowbend will be GreatLife’s second facility with a Wichita address (Tallgrass Country Club was the first), and one of four that the company owns in the area. Another purchase is on the horizon, as the Wichita Eagle reports that the company “is acquiring” Prairie Trails Golf Course in El Dorado, a property that it currently manages.

     Surplus Transactions – Art and Suzanne Langlais have become the sole owners of Montcalm Golf Club, a 16-year-old venue in Enfield, New Hampshire that’s been described as “financially challenged.” The couple had previously owned a 50 percent interest in Montcalm, which features an 18-hole course that was co-designed by Phil Wogan and George Sargent. . . . Jodi Elsing and Molly Demaske are the new owners of Castle Rock Golf Course, a 45-year-old, Art Johnson-designed track in New Lisbon, Wisconsin. Elsing and Demaske are the daughters of, respectively, Gary Van Pee and Jim Van Pee, the brothers who’ve owned the 18-hole course since 1979. . . . Scott Smith and Chad Kreidermacher, the owners of a bar in Lewiston, Minnesota, have purchased Lewiston Country Club. The club, which features a nine-hole course that dates from 1970, now operates as Heartland Country Club.

     Duly Noted – Nick Faldo has begun to sell a “premium” design service, just as Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Greg “the Living Brand” Norman, and other “signature” designers have long done. Clients who pay the higher fee will receive more from Faldo, especially on the marketing side, but I’m wondering what this portends for his firm’s standard products. They’ve been devalued, right? . . . The British PGA has added Modry Las Golf Resort, which it regards as “Poland’s foremost golf venue,” to its fast-growing collection of branded properties. The collection features properties that offer, in the PGA’s words, “the very best golf, leisure, and accommodation possible.” Golf Digest regards the resort’s 10-year-old, Gary Player-designed layout as the nation’s third best. . . . According to the National Golf Foundation, the average U.S. golfer is a 46-year-old male who comes from a household that earns more than $100,000 annually. Don’t know why the NGF didn’t mention it, but that average U.S. golfer is also white.

     In compliance with recently issued European laws regarding data collection, I’ve been asked to provide a statement about my use of the data that’s collected about those of you who read the World Golf Report. So here’s what I have to say on the subject: I don’t collect any data, and I don’t put any cookies into your computer. That being said, here’s some language that Google, the company that maintains this slice of cyberspace, would probably approve of: “We and our partners use cookies on this site to improve our service, perform analytics, personalize advertising, measure advertising performance, and remember website preferences. By using the site, you consent to these cookies.”