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Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Week That Was, january 14, 2018

     Giles Morgan is still complaining about golf’s failure to keep up with changing times. In a post at Rive Gauche, his online newsletter, the former head of sponsorship for HSBC – he orchestrated the bank’s support of the Open Championship and other high-profile golf events – once again warns that the sport “is losing relevance with new audiences and looking increasingly out of touch with what society wants and expects.” Before it’s too late, he argues, our business must find its “epiphany moment,” or else it risks the possibility of “extinction.” Golf’s institutional leaders haven’t commented on the post, but one suspects that they have a cheerier assessment.

     While the Very Stable Genius was giving himself a nice, fat, juicy tax break, the Scottish government was taking away one he’s enjoyed for years. Trump Turnberry, the premier property in the Trump Organization’s portfolio, has lost roughly £110,000 ($151,000) in annual financial relief that it previously earned because it had been declared to be, in the words of Newsweek, one of the nation’s “struggling businesses.“ It’s worth noting that the U.S. President has few friends in Scotland (or, for that matter, anywhere else in the British Isles), mostly because of issues related to his golf resort in Aberdeenshire. The organization has broken many promises about what would eventually emerge at Trump International Golf Links Scotland, and it’s long been engaged in an ugly legal battle against a proposed off-shore wind farm that could be seen from the property. And, in an irony that’s hard to miss, the organization gripes incessantly about one alternative energy installation near its property but endorses the construction of who knows how many oil rigs along U.S. coastlines. Sad!

     If you believe the Very Stable Genius, Nigeria is a “shithole" country where everybody lives in huts. Nonetheless, a Chinese company recently staged a ceremonial groundbreaking on Virgin City, a large-scale spread outside Calabar, the capital of Cross River State. Mark Sino Construction Company has master-planned Virgin City to include all the suburban amenities you’d expect, including hotels, schools, a “water world fairground,” manufacturing facilities, a hospital, and a golf course. Our clueless president may not believe that anybody plays golf in Nigeria, but it’s time for him to wake up. The nation has 50 golf courses, according to Golf Digest, that serve as a leisure-time distraction for the people who are hard at work creating one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. According to Knight Frank’s most recent wealth report, in 2016 its capital city, Lagos, was home to 6,800 millionaires, 360 multi-millionaires (people worth $10 or more), and 110 ultrahigh-worth individuals (people worth $30 million or more). And if predictions come true, by the end of the 21st century it’ll be the world’s third most-populous nation, behind India and China. And here’s what should be really troubling to the White House: To build Virgin City, Mark Sino is doing the same thing that another big Chinese company did at Baha Mar, in the Bahamas, which is bring in thousands of countrymen-laborers who’ll eventually take most of their earnings home with them. China is laying economic claims (and with them, political influence) all over Africa while the United States sits on the sidelines, mistakenly believing it can win the future without playing in the game.

   At the groundbreaking for Virgin City, the mayor of Calabar delivered a discouraging message for America Firsters. He recalled a trip he’d made to Jilin Province, the home of Mark Sino, calling it “a fantastic place” that’s “far more civilized than America.” The Very Stable Genius may not wish to admit it, but Nigerians are laughing at us.

     Regarding the forthcoming 18-hole golf course at Cabot Links: The location of the hoped-for track has upset some residents of Inverness, Nova Scotia. Mike Keiser, Ben Cowan-Dewar, and the other investors who’ve already opened two destination-worthy layouts at their Canadian resort are angling to build their next regulation-length course on some supposedly protected provincial parkland. The developers are viewed by local elected officials as extremely good neighbors – heck, they’ve injected some substantial life into an economically moribund area – so there’s a better than even chance that their wish will come true. But it may happen later rather than sooner.

     A trio of investors, among them starchitect Tom Fazio, have purchased Forest Creek Golf Club, a fading venue in Pinehurst, North Carolina that just so happens to feature a pair of well-regarded, Fazio-designed golf courses. Fazio believes that Forest Creek’s 18-hole tracks offer “one of the truly elite golfing experiences in this country” and are “at the top of my accomplishments as a golf course architect.” Bobby McCann and his partners reportedly paid $9.6 million for Forest Creek, the centerpiece of a 1,265-acre spread that was originally developed by an entity affiliated with Barton Tuck’s GolfSouth. McCann’s group bought the club (as well as more than 100 residential lots in the community) from 189 members who reportedly shelled out $15 million for the property in 2013. The members thought they’d found a buyer roughly a year ago, when a California-based group raised hopes of “re-establishing Forest Creek as a premier golf course destination community.” Luckily for them, the new owners have made the same promise.

     Speaking of Barton Tuck and Tom Fazio, one of their top-rated courses in North Carolina was shuttered in the waning days of 2017. Bright’s Creek Golf Club, a bankrupt, 18-year-old venue outside Hendersonville, was developed by GolfSouth, and its featured attraction is a Fazio-designed, 18-hole track that Golf Digest views as the #18 course in the state. The club, part of a 4,600-acre community, failed to sell at a bankruptcy auction some months ago, and its receiver recently reported that lawsuits have prevented him from “receiving the necessary funding to continue club operations.”

     Desolation Row Extended – Despite a recent re-do by Tom Doak, one of our nation’s highest-profile nine-hole golf courses has bitten the dust. Aetna Springs Golf Course, in Pope Valley, California, ended its 125-year run a few days ago, as it failed to generate a following. It’s hard to believe, but the course attracted only 4,800 rounds last year. Here’s another fact that’s hard to believe: Aetna Springs appears to be the seventh Doak-designed course to go dark. Its owners are said to be negotiating a sale to a buyer who reportedly thinks the site is a good location for houses. . . . Barely two years after a promised “repositioning and revitalization,” the owners of the Meadows, in Sarasota, Florida, are thinking about pulling the plug on half of their 54-hole complex. Citing comments by the Meadows’ community association, WWSB-TV reports that “dwindling memberships has caused some financial difficulties for the country club,” which features two Frank Duane-designed tracks and one by Arthur Hills. No word on which holes are on the chopping block. . . . The lights have been turned out at Naples Golf & Country Club, which had operated in greater Portland, Maine for nearly a century. The club’s shareholders are looking to sell their property, which features an 18-hole course that opened in two phases, in 1921 and in 2000.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Week That Was, january 7, 2018

     Arnold Palmer’s heirs have figured out a way to capitalize on the impeccable brand they now control. A division of the King’s empire and a small Bahamian investment group aim to establish the Arnold Palmer Collection, a group of 20 “one-of-a-kind boutique resorts” to be located in “very special locations worldwide.” The resorts will feature golf courses, all of them part of “very unique and authentic clubs,” but the playing experiences that Palmer’s design wing intends to deliver appears to be an afterthought. Instead, Arnold Palmer Properties and SilkPort Capital Management promise “extraordinary experiences for a highly sought-after demographic” and “a compelling value proposition for investors and, ultimately, buyers.” Translation: The real estate is more important than the golf. Two of the first three resorts will take shape alongside courses that Palmer agreed to design before he died, at Castle Stuart in Scotland and at Club & Lodge at Ironwood on Grand Cayman Island. The third, with a 12-hole course, will emerge near the campus of Palmer’s alma mater, Wake Forest University in North Carolina. In a marketing pitch for this “remarkable, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” the partners tell potential investors that the collection is “destined to be one of the most successful boutique golf resort collections in history.” Just wondering: If the resorts fall short of the developers’ promise, do investors get their money back?

     The Trump Organization’s fast-eroding coastal golf resort in Doonbeg, Ireland continues to bleed red on its bottom line. In 2016, according to financial documents filed with the Irish government, Trump International Golf Links Ireland lost $2.3 million, an amount that’s concerning but actually an improvement over the losses posted by the property in 2014 and 2015. The resort’s general manager reportedly believes that another loss is likely in 2017, but the final financial figures won’t be known until late 2018.

     Regarding the erosion at Golf International Golf Links Ireland: Over the holidays, the Trump Organization secured permission to build a pair of sea walls to fend off the waves that constantly, relentlessly batterer its coastal property. One barrier will stretch for nearly 700 yards, the other for nearly 300, and local opponents of the plan have until mid-January to appeal the decision. And in yet another example of the hypocrisy that pervades all things Trump, the Organization reportedly cited “rising seas” caused by “global warming” as threats to the resort’s existence.

     Dick Nugent, who proudly designed golf courses for a fellow he called “Joe Six-Pack,” died on the first day of the new year. Nugent operated out of an office in Chicagoland and worked mostly in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, so he’s sometimes viewed dismissively as “a regional architect.” The term does him a great disservice, because he was versatile enough to create, either on his own or with collaborators such as Ken Killian, a course that hosted a PGA Championship (Kemper Lakes Golf Club), a longtime PGA Tour venue (Tuckaway Country Club), one of the Windy City’s most popular public complexes (Harborside International Golf Center), and, with Mike Keiser, one of the world’s few destination-worthy nine-hole layouts (Dunes Club). All in all, Nugent had a hand in designing, redesigning, or renovating dozens of affordably priced courses in Arizona, Hawaii, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and several other states. But no matter where he was working, according to a recollection by Jeff Brauer, he held firm to the belief that “we probably do more for golf by designing a good green for some rural course than building a big-budget course for high-dollar players.” Nugent apprenticed with Robert Bruce Harris and served as a mentor to Brauer, Bob Lohmann, Jim Engh, Bruce Borland, and Jim Blaukovitch, and he helped to train his son, Tim, to become a golf architect as well. Tim now runs the family business. His father had moved to Arizona several years ago, and he died there at the age of 86.

     Dick Nugent wasn’t the only golf designer who died on New Year’s Day. Jeff Hardin, who’s been described as both “an old-school cowboy” – he was known for the cowboy boots he habitually wore – and “a true pioneer in golf design,” passed away in Arizona at the age of 84. Hardin was a civil engineer and a road builder before he became the in-house course architect for Del Webb Company, and he’s probably best known for the courses he created, often with Greg Nash, at the company’s retirement communities in suburban Phoenix. Hardin eventually hung out his own shingle, designing affordable courses on his own in Nevada (Los Prados Golf Course), Utah (Sky Mountain Golf Course), and other western states, and he continued to collaborate not only with Nash but also with “the Desert Fox,” Red Lawrence (Dobson Ranch Golf Course in Arizona). Hardin spent his final years in Wickenburg, Arizona, content that he’d created a parade of playable courses that could be enjoyed by golfers of all abilities.

     To his dismay, Peter Nanula has been rebuffed. The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal reports that a group of Golden Valley Country Club’s members have offered to loan the club “a collective figure worth potentially more than $1 million” to prevent a sale to Nanula’s deep-pocketed investment group, Concert Golf Partners. Curiously, the members’ offer – it’s a loan, let’s not forget, and not a gift – pales in comparison to the $9.5 million that Concert was willing to pay for Golden Valley, an ancient venue that was already $7 million in debt, in need of substantive capital improvements, and at a competitive disadvantage in its market due to the negative publicity it’s received about its precarious financial condition. “We cannot help clubs who do not want to be helped,” Nanula glumly acknowledged to the Journal. So Golden Valley will for now remain owned by its members, at least some of whom believe a better offer might eventually come around. As things currently stand, though, it’s hard to see how Golden Valley digs itself out of the hole it’s in. A year from now, it’s entirely possible that Concert will be able to strike a better deal for itself.

     In a reflection of continuing tough times for golf development, a veritable who’s who of U.S. architects are vying to design a municipal golf course in Boca Raton, Florida. The 15-member group is led by firms that wouldn’t have been caught dead bidding on a municipal job back when “signature” golf was all the rage – among them, firms led by Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Rees Jones, Robert Trent Jones, and Nick Price – but it also includes designers with decades of experience (Arthur Hills, Tom Lehman, Mark McCumber) as well as, naturally, a few that the average golfer doesn’t know from Adam. They’re all hoping to win a contract for Boca National Golf Club, a supposedly “world-class,” 27-hole complex that will take shape on the site of the old Ocean Breeze Golf Club. If all goes as planned, the lucky winner will be named later this month.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Week That Was, december 17, 2017

     The founder of a well-known U.S. travel agency now owns a premier golf property in suburban Dublin, Ireland. John Mullen, acting through his recently created Belmullet Hospitality Group, has reportedly paid “about €57 million” (nearly $70 million) for Carton House Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort, a 668-acre spread in County Kildare that’s said to be “one of Ireland’s most popular and historically significant resorts.” Queen Victoria paid a visit to Carton House in the 1840s, and the estate served as a setting for Barry Lyndon, a Stanley Kubrick film from the 1970s. The resort features a 165-room hotel, several places to eat and drink, a spa, and two 18-hole golf courses, one of which (a Colin Montgomerie “signature” layout) has hosted the Irish Open three times. Mullen, who has familial ties to Ireland, made his reputation as a tour operator via Apple Leisure Group, a company that’s now owned by KKR and an affiliate of KSL Capital Partners. He bought Carton House from the family of Lee Mallaghan and other investors, who were financially over-extended and controlled by the Irish government’s National Asset Management Agency.

     Surplus Transactions – In what’s said to be “a perfect marriage,” some restaurateurs have agreed to buy Linwood Country Club, a venue that a local newspaper believes has been “one of the finest private country clubs in South Jersey for 97 years.” Frank and Joe Dougherty paid an undisclosed price for Linwood, which features an 18-hole, Herbert Strong-designed course. The sale is expected to close before the end of the year. . . . It’s all over but the shouting for Wiltwyck Golf Club, a venue in Kingston, New York that’s operated since the mid 1950s. As part of a last-minute rescue, a group of 11 investors, all but one of them club members, have pooled their money – probably about $2.5 million – to buy the financially challenged club and its 18-hole, Robert Trent Jones-designed golf course. The Daily Freeman reports that the transaction is expected to close “in the next several weeks,” pending approval by the club’s members. . . . Regarding the expected sale of Golden Valley Country Club to Concert Golf Partners: There’s a glitch. The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal reports that negotiations between the parties have “temporarily stopped” because “some members want to explore a way to keep the club member owned.” If the transaction gets back on track, Concert will retire Golden Valley’s $7 million in debt and invest $2.5 million in the 103-year-old property.

     The words golf and Pakistan don’t often appear in the same sentence, but that hasn’t prevented the nation’s biggest development group from building a golf community outside Karachi. The community is called Bahria Golf City, and it’ll feature two “PGA-standard” 18-hole golf courses that will, according to its marketing materials, “get your tense nerves addicted to relaxation.” The courses have been designed by Thomas J. Brown, an architect unknown to me, and they’ll be lit for night play. The complex’s initial nine is already open, and the next 27 are scheduled to debut next year. Bahria Golf City reportedly drew its inspiration from the Emirates Hills community in Dubai, and its developer, Bahria Town Karachi, promises that it’ll serve as Karachi’s “ultimate living experience” and take golf “to a next level in Pakistan.”

     The city of Boca Raton, Florida has begun negotiating the sale of Boca Raton Municipal Golf Course. The 27-hole complex is a dead man walking, as GL Homes is willing to pay $65 million for its 189 acres, a tract it views as an ideal site for a 480-house subdivision. Assuming that the parties can quickly cross the necessary ts and dot the required is, the curtains will be drawn on the 35-year-old complex in mid 2019. GL is making a habit of building on money-losing golf courses, as it’s also targeted Polo Trace Golf & Country Club in Delray Beach and Fountains Country Club in Lake Worth. All isn’t completely lost for Boca Raton’s bargain-seeking golfers, however, as the city aims to buy and revive the defunct Ocean Breeze Golf Course, a venue it intends to operate as Boca National Golf Club.

     Desolation Row Extended – The 178 acres currently occupied by the struggling Victoria Golf Course, an 18-hole municipal track in Carson, California, will soon be outfitted with soccer pitches, tennis courts, and other attractions that appeal to a larger audience. The Daily Breeze says that 51-year-old, William F. Bell-designed course is “vastly under-performing” the other golf properties owned by Los Angeles County, so Victoria will get the ax as soon as an alternative plan is in place. . . . For the second time in three years, Duckers Lake Golf Club faces a foreclosure sale. Whitaker Bank has turned out the lights at the 23-year-old club, in Frankfort, Kentucky, but hasn’t yet taken the 129-acre property off the market. Although the asking price is said to be $2 million, the bank appears to be the proverbial “highly motivated” seller. . . . The Plantation Inn, in Crystal City, Florida, has decided that its 27-hole, Mark Mahannah-designed golf complex is a wretched excess, so it’s seeking permission to turn its nine-hole Lagoons layout into an RV park.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Week That Was, december 10, 2017

     Some abalone farmers have won provisional approval for a destination-worthy golf complex that will occupy a stretch of oceanfront property outside Robe, South Australia. Damian and Justin Scanlon aim to build a pair of 18-hole, Bob Harrison-designed courses at their 600-acre Nora Creina Golf Resort, along with accommodations for overnight guests, a restaurant, and a vineyard. The Scanlons are shooting for the moon, because Robe is located roughly 175 miles south of Adelaide and 300 miles west of Melbourne. “We’re not going to build just an average golf course,” Justin Scanlon told the Sunday Mail in 2014, when the venture was announced. “This has got to be world class. This has to be somewhere where people from the States, someone from Japan or China, says, ‘It’s one of the courses I have to go and play.’” Nora Creina will debut with one course, and if it’s successful the Scanlons will build the second one.

     Some information in the preceding post first appeared in the September 2014 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.  

     Pipeline Overflow – Next summer, a nine-hole, par 3 course is expected to open at a former prisoner-of-war camp in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. The course, to be called the Ashford, will complement the 18-hole Snead track at the Greenbrier Sporting Club, a private community on the grounds of the historic Greenbrier resort. The Ashford will be a replica course, with holes that mimic the work of designers including Seth Raynor, C. B. Macdonald, A. W. Tillinghast, and Walter Travis. . . . The spirit of compromise is alive and well in Rancho Mirage, California. The owner of Rancho Mirage Country Club, a venue that’s been closed and slated for development since it was purchased in 2015, has agreed to give home owners in the accompanying community enough land for a “short” 18-hole golf course that could open by 2020. In exchange, the home owners will allow some houses and a hotel to be built next to the new course. . . . After sizing up what’s been described as “hundreds of options,” Lake Charles, Louisiana has settled on a site for its new golf course. The 18-hole track, a replacement for the city’s financially challenged Mallard Cove Golf Course, will take shape at an emerging community called MorganField that could use a nice recreational amenity. Construction could begin in early 2018.

     You think the sexual harassment that occurred at Bandon Dunes was an isolated incident? Think again. In Cottage Grove, Minnesota, William Doebler put his Mississippi Dunes Golf Links on the market just weeks after a court ruled that he oversaw a work environment that was hostile to women and made them fear that they’d lose their jobs if they complained about it. Doebler was ordered to pay $130,000 to some former female employees (plus a civil penalty of $20,000) because he allegedly made “sexually inappropriate comments,” including comments about “orgies,” and “sexual propositions” that included a suggestion about a “sleepover.” Doebler and his wife denied the allegations, but the judge in the case reportedly didn’t find their denials credible. Doebler designed the 18-hole course at Mississippi Dunes, which opened in 1995. During a trial last summer, it was revealed that in 2014 the course held an “ultimate guys night out” party that ended with a visit to a local strip club.

     Surplus Transactions – For an undisclosed price, Randall Anderson and a handful of investors have agreed to buy the Meadows, an 18-hole track in Litchfield, Maine. The sellers were Ron and Richard Foster, who built the Brad Booth-designed layout themselves in 1998. . . . Bud Evans has accepted $250,000 for his nine-hole golf course in Houston, Missouri. The new owner of Oakwood Golf Club, a venue that’s operated since 1985 and has reportedly “faced its demise multiple times,” is a group led by Doug and Michelle Moseley. The Houston Herald suggests that the town had a chance to buy the course but passed. . . . The city of Forsyth, Georgia now owns the entire Forsyth Golf Course. For $325,000, the city bought the track’s back nine, giving it possession of all 18 holes. The course, which opened in the mid 1930s, was designed and built by the Works Progress Administration.

     In a two-step transaction that’s expected to close later this month, Marin County, California will buy San Geronimo Golf Course, an 18-hole layout that’s operated in the town of San Geronimo since 1961. When all is said and done, the course’s current owner, the Lee Family Trust, get $8.85 million for the property and its Vernon Macan-designed golf course. The Lees will sell San Geronimo to the Trust for Public Land, a San Francisco-based preservation group, and then the trust will sell the course to the county, which intends to turn the 157-acre tract into a park. Most of the purchase price ($4.94 million) will come from the trust, while the county will contribute $3.91 million. The Marin Independent Journal reports that San Geronimo will likely go belly up soon after the sale is completed.

     Desolation Row Extended – The members of Vista Hills Country Club, in El Paso, Texas, are poised to sell their driving range to a residential developer. If the proposed sale goes through, the club can make some improvements to its 43-year-old golf course, an 18-hole track that was co-designed by Robert von Hagge and Bruce Devlin, and begin banking income from the 47 to 60 families that will buy the developer’s houses. . . . The city of West St. Paul, Minnesota is thinking about pulling the plug on Thompson Oaks Golf Course, a nine-hole track that’s reportedly been “on life support for a decade.” According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, “a well-known developer” is eager to build houses, including houses for seniors, on the 23-acre property, which is said to be worth $1.7 million. Thompson Oaks opened in 1996, and the newspaper says it’s “seen a budget shortfall nearly every year since.” . . . Voters in Canton, Ohio have approved a zoning change that will enable Chuck Bennell to unload Tam O’Shanter Golf Course. Tam O’Shanter features a pair of 18-hole, Leonard Macomber-designed golf courses that are expected to remain open until 2019 or 2020. In the meantime, though, Bennell plans to sell 62 of his acres to a developer and either sell or donate 225 acres to local parks authorities. For what it’s worth, the property hosted Richard Mandell’s “Symposium on Affordable Golf” in 2015.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Week That Was, december 3, 2017

     The Club Managers Association of America says that the general manager at a private club earns, on average, $155,000 a year, but some take home considerably more. To wit: The Palm Beach Post reports that in 2015, presumably the last year for which data is available, the general managers of three clubs in Boca Raton, Florida – Boca West Country Club, St. Andrews Country Club, and Broken Sound Club – took home, respectively, $977,145, $930,639, and $706,817. Makes you wonder how much total revenue the clubs were collecting, no?

     Two 18-hole golf courses were never going to be enough for Cabot Links, and now it’s clear that at least two more tracks will eventually emerge at Mike Keiser’s destination-worthy resort in Inverness, Nova Scotia. No time lines or architects have been announced, but a par-3 layout with probably 12 or 14 holes is “in the offing,” according to the resort’s co-founder, Ben Cowan-Dewar, and an 18-hole course will almost certainly follow. “The success of Cliffs has certainly made us think about it, and think very seriously,” Cowan-Dewar acknowledged to the Halifax Chronicle-Herald. For years, Keiser has famously maintained that one course is a mere curiosity and that two makes for a legitimate destination, but what he doesn’t always say publicly is that the real money begins to flow with courses three and four.

     Pipeline Overflow – David McLay Kidd may soon be returning to Gamble Sands, the scene of one of his greatest successes. The Mike Keiser-endorsed architect is said to be “the leading candidate” to design Gamble Sands’ second 18-hole course, and perhaps some sort of “short” course as well. Kidd’s initial effort at the resort in remote central Washington, Golf Digest’s the best new U.S. course for 2014, gave his career a second wind, and notably a contract for the much-coveted second course at Keiser’s Sand Valley complex in Wisconsin. . . . India’s ministry of environment has approved a proposal to build the first “international-standard” golf course in Goa, the state made famous by wandering hippies in the 1960s. Leading Hotels, Ltd. isn’t finished with the entitlement process yet, but it’s been trying to win approval for a Colin Montgomerie “signature” course and an accompanying eco-tourism resort for at least five years, and it can finally see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. . . . Nicklaus Design has agreed to produce an 18-hole course for a private vacation community on St. Lucia. The 209-acre Canelles Resort promises “a sense of exclusivity and privacy” and insists that it’ll be “the new benchmark for luxurious living on an island renowned for exclusive resorts and residences.”

     Pipeline Overflow Overflow – Tim Lobb reports that his long-overdue 18-hole course at New Giza, an upscale community in suburban Cairo, Egypt, will get its “soft” opening in the spring of 2018. The track is among the final ventures for Thomson Perret & Lobb, the now-defunct Australian “signature” design firm founded by golf legend Peter Thomson. Lobb, who’s been in the driver’s seat from the beginning, says that it’s been “the most complex project” he’s ever been involved with, mostly because the New Giza property is “all just rock.” . . . Golfweek says that construction has wrapped up at Ohoopee Match Club, which has taken shape on a former Vidalia onion farm – “one of the nicer pieces of property we’ve ever seen,” according to architect Gil Hanse – in Cobbtown, Georgia. Michael Walrath, the developer, directed Hanse to produce 22 holes, so the club’s members can choose to play either a regulation-length 18-hole track or a shorter 18-hole layout. Ohoopee, which is keeping an unexpectedly low profile, will presumably open next year. . . . Next week, Owen Perry will unveil the complete 18-hole track at Danzante Bay Golf Club, a layout that course architect Rees Jones promises will be “a complete journey that golfers will really enjoy taking again and again.” The course, which opened 11 holes in 2016, is the Open Doctor’s first in Mexico, and it’ll serve as the centerpiece of Villa del Palmar Resort at the Islands of Loreto, a resort community on Baja California Sur.

     For the second time in roughly two years, one of the world’s premier golf venues – and the first one in Continental Europe to host a Ryder Cup championship – has changed hands. For a reported €26 million (nearly $31 million), the members of Real Club Valderrama, in Cádiz, Spain, have purchased their historic club from a British affiliate of Grupo la Zagaleta Holding. For their money, the members acquired not just a world-famous Robert Trent Jones-designed golf course but the legacy of Jaime Ortiz-Patiño, the club’s founder. Ortiz-Patiño, who died in early 2013, was one of the best-known and best-liked people in Europe’s golf business – “the ‘soul’ of golf in Europe,” it was once said – and by staging the 1997 Ryder Cup at Valderrama he put the Costa del Sol on the world’s golf map. The golf course, which checks in at #71 on Golf Digest’s list of the World’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses, may be in line for an upgrade, however, because it was previously ranked #49.

     Surplus Transactions – For a price said to be “about $1 million,” David Buttross has acquired the struggling Pine Forest Golf Course in Bastrop, Texas. Though he doesn’t expect to turn a profit anytime soon – “There are just not enough people playing golf out there to get it to have a cash flow,” Bastrop told the Austin Statesman – he hopes that he can eventually break even by adding a campground, hiking trails, and other family-oriented attractions. . . . One of New Hampshire’s oldest golf properties rose from the dead earlier this year, and now it has a new owner. Monadnock Country Club, a nine-hole, executive-length track that had operated in Peterborough since 1901, was on life support and nearly closed in the fall of 2016. Some local residents reopened it in the spring, however, as Hilltop Golf Course, and in late October it was purchased, for an undisclosed price, by Annie Card. . . . An anonymous group of investors in Mesquite, Nevada has acquired the seven-year-old Coyote Willows Golf Club. Coyote Willows, which had been operated by volunteers, features a nine-hole course, and Mesquite Local News describes it as a “family-friendly” venue that’s “a great place to get those younger ones started.”