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Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Week That Was, june 25, 2017

     Last week, the golf industry lost one of its living legends. Sandy Tatum, who contributed mightily to a sport that he grew up with and loved deeply, died at the age of 96. Mike Davis, the executive director of the U.S. Golf Association, called him “one of the great individuals ever involved with golf,” and he wasn’t exaggerating. Tatum was what people used to call “a Renaissance man.” He was a Rhodes Scholar, an amateur golf champion, a lawyer, a golf-course designer, a president of the U.S. Golf Association, and the chairman of the First Tee of San Francisco. He co-designed Links at Spanish Bay, one of the courses at Pebble Beach, but he was probably best known for turning a neglected municipal course in San Francisco’s Harding Park into a tournament-quality venue. TPC Harding Park hosted a Presidents Cup competition in 2009, and in 2020 it’ll host the PGA Championship. For all his accomplishments, though, Tatum was arguably not as well-known as he should’ve been, especially to younger golfers. That being said, few in our business have been held in higher regard. He was everything that most of golf’s institutional leaders aspire to be.

     ClubCorp has remembered an important lesson from business school: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. The world leader in private clubs, to use the company’s trademarked phrase, has made some sort of alliance with Topgolf as part of its continuing effort to provide value to its 430,000 members. The exact nature of the relationship hasn’t been spelled out, but a press release suggests that Topgolf will establish “the connections that bring people together for unforgettable good times” by installing its ball-tracking technology at ClubCorp’s driving ranges, so as to provide “a more interactive, gamified experience.” In addition, it appears that some ClubCorp properties will begin using Topgolf’s Topgolf Swing Suite, which is described as “a social experience” that involves golf simulators, big-screen TVs, and other necessities vital to an unforgettable golf experience, notably “comfortable lounge seating” and timely “food and beverage service.” These and other fun ideas will no doubt be popular when it’s too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, too early, or too late to play actual golf.

    ClubCorp is probably going to install a Topgolf-branded golf simulator at Medina Golf & Country Club, in suburban Minneapolis. Last week, the operations goliath announced that it has paid an undisclosed price for Medina, a nearly 50-year-old venue that claims to be “thriving” but nonetheless requires more than $2.5 million in capital improvements. Medina, which has described the transaction as “a win-win,” features an 18-hole Charles Maddox-designed golf course and a nine-hole, par-3 track. It’s ClubCorp’s first property in Minnesota and the company’s fifth acquisition of 2017. According to a press release, ClubCorp now has a presence in 28 U.S. states.

     The partnership created last year between professional golfer Louis Oosthuizen and golf-course architect Peter Matkovich is beginning to pay dividends. The collaborators have been hired to design the second 18-hole golf course at Heritage Golf Club, the centerpiece of a 6,250-acre resort on the island of Mauritius. The new course is scheduled to open in late 2019. In a press release, Oosthuizen promised a track that “perfectly balances the challenge of a championship layout with the element of fun that needs to be incorporated into any golf course.” Heritage, which markets itself as “an idyllic destination within a utopian island,” features two hotels, a dozen restaurants, a nature reserve, a beach club, and other attractions. Its existing course, a Matkovich design, will host this year’s AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open.

     Pipeline Overflow – The biggest hotel company in Cuba, Grupo Hotelero Gaviota, intends to build an 18-hole golf course near one of its properties in Varadero. A timetable hasn’t been announced, but the track is expected to take shape on 175 acres near the Meliá Marina Varadero, a 423-room waterfront venue. Gaviota, an entity controlled by Cuba’s military, owns several dozen hotels (at least 25,000 total rooms), a large number of them in and around Varadero, where tourists can find Cuba’s one and only 18-hole golf course. . . . A “traditional” golf club in Oxfordshire, England is having its “back-to-the-future” moment. Huntercombe Golf Club has commissioned Tim Lobb to prepare a master plan for improvements to its Willie Park, Jr.-designed course, a track that Lobb believes is “unique” and “historically significant.” The course has operated since 1901. Lobb will modernize the track while maintaining its classic look and feel, a job that’s expected to take several years to complete. . . . The owner of a tourist attraction in South Africa’s Limpopo Province wants to build a golf course. Tiveka Mathumbu hasn’t said how many holes the course will have, but it’ll take shape at her Tiveka Lodge, an 830-acre spread that caters to vacationers seeking to view big-game animals in their native habitats. Mathumbu hopes to open the course within five years.

     Pat Barber has doubled down on a golf investment he made well over a decade ago. Barber, the owner of Links at Stono Ferry in Hollywood, South Carolina, has reportedly paid $900,000 for the Plantation Course at Edisto, the only course on the state’s Edisto Island. With two golf courses, Barber figures he’ll be able to sell dual memberships, offer stay-and-play packages, and attract more events. “It made great sense,” he told the Charleston Post & Courier. Barber bought the Planation, a 206-acre spread, from a group operating as Edisto Golf LLC. Its course, designed by Tom Jackson, opened in 1974, as Oristo Golf Course.

     Surplus Transactions – Promising to give the residents of Godfrey, Illinois “a great place to play golf at a very fair rate,” Heinz Peter and his son, Heinz Peter, Jr., have acquired a financially troubled property that now operates as Golf at Lockhaven. The property, which was formerly known as Lockhaven Golf Club and, before that, as Lockhaven Country Club, has been around since the mid 1950s. Its golf course was designed by Robert B. Harris. . . . The town of West Bridgewater, Massachusetts has purchased River Bend Country Club. Gerry Cosby accepted $4.5 million for the 167-acre property, which features an 18-hole golf course that was co-designed by Phil Wogan and George Sargent. The town, which is looking to preserve open space, has turned over course operations to a third-party manager. . . . Chuck and Joni Klein have purchased Wildhorse Golf Club, an 18-year-old venue in Davis, California. Wildhorse’s practice facilities are said to be “among the best in Northern California,” and readers of the Davis Enterprise say the club’s 18-hole, Jeff Brauer-designed layout is the “Best Golf Course in Yolo County.”

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Week That Was, june 18, 2017

     Can the Chinese government count? According to an official report, the People’s Republic currently has 496 golf properties with 569 18-hole courses, although roughly 50 of them are still either under construction or in planning. However, the National Golf Foundation is disputing China’s numbers. Although the Jupiter, Florida-based trade group hasn’t yet accused China of being a currency manipulator or a cheater on the trade front, it sees “inconsistencies” in the nation’s golf data and suggests that some of its courses are being counted “multiple times.” The nerve! By its “official count,” which is the one red-blooded Americans are supposed to believe, the NGF says that China has 383 golf venues and 565 courses that are “open and operating.” But the NGF’s math is always in doubt. So which untrustworthy actor do you believe?

     Thanks to the U.S. Department of Commerce, we’ve learning a little more about the alliance that Jack Nicklaus’ design firm has made with one of Vietnam’s top golf developers. Late last year, North Palm Beach, Florida-based Nicklaus Design signed an exclusivity contract that binds it to create golf courses initiated by BRG Group in 22 of Vietnam’s 58 provinces. The provinces haven’t been identified and the number of courses hasn’t been specified, but a press release says that the parties have inked a 10-course, $260 million deal. The idea for the partnership was hatched by BRG’s CEO, Nguyen Thi Nga, who believes Nicklaus’ designers are “the best in the world” and can help her “refresh the Vietnamese golf industry and bring new vitality to the game countrywide.” The parties already know each other well, for Jack Nicklaus II, the golf legend’s son, designed the third 18-hole layout at BRG’s Kings Island Golf Resort (the track is currently under construction) and redesigned the course that became Legend Hill Golf Resort. Both courses are in metropolitan Hà Nội, where BRG also operates a Nicklaus-branded training center. It’s possible, of course, that Nicklaus and BRG will sign contracts for another wave of work in the future, and it’s worth noting that Nicklaus is free to work with other developers in 36 other Vietnamese provinces.

     Some information in the preceding post first appeared in the November 2016 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.

     Pipeline Overflow – Colonial Country Club, the host of last month’s Dean & DeLuca Invitational, has hired Gil Hanse to give its golf course the back-to-the-future treatment. Plans haven’t yet been firmed up – “We’re just talking,” a club official insists – but Hanse has reportedly been directed to create a master plan for improvements to Colonial’s 18-hole layout, which dates from the mid 1930s. The club, in Fort Worth, Texas, apparently wants to restore the look and feel that the track had in 1941, when it hosted the U.S. Open. . . . Details are scarce, but a forthcoming vacation spot on St. Lucia will feature an 18-hole golf course. The track will be the main attraction at Honeymoon Bay Resort, which will also have two hotels (330 total rooms) and a museum of some sort. A developer hasn’t been identified, but the island nation’s tourism minister recently said that the groundbreaking is expected to take place “very soon.” . . . A spa that considers itself to be among “the most beautiful places you can visit in Slovakia” plans to build a nine-hole golf course. Spa Bardejovské Kúpele, near Bardejov in the northeastern part of the nation, has been luring health-minded vacationers for five centuries or more, and last year it reportedly drew them in record numbers. The spa hasn’t announced a construction schedule, but the track will occupy 60 acres.

     As part of what he called “a long-term commitment,” an investment group led by Bruce Thomas has acquired Piper Glen Golf Club, a 21-year-old venue in Springfield, Illinois. Piper Glen’s operator thinks the club’s 18-hole, Bob Lohmann-designed golf course is “one of the best in Springfield,” and he expects the new owners “to return it to its former glory.” Thomas and his partners paid an undisclosed price for Piper Glen. The seller, Illinois National Bank, bought the property at a foreclosure sale in early 2016, reportedly for $1.7 million. Thomas, who owns a local trucking company, lives in the community surrounding the club.

     Surplus Transactions – The owners of Pine Lakes Golf Club, in Palm Coast, Florida, have purchased a golf property in Vermont. Doreen Holl and Chris McLaren, operating via an entity called Firinn Golf Group, have reportedly paid $850,000 for St. Johnsbury Country Club, a venue that they believe has “a nice pedigree and a nice history.” St. Johnsbury opened in 1923, with a nine-hole track that was designed by Willie Park, Jr. Geoffrey Cornish created the club’s second nine in 1992. . . . Pulaski Country Club, a venue in Pulaski, Virginia that’s reportedly been suffering from “years of financial struggle and declining memberships,” has changed hands in a foreclosure auction. David Sale, the owner of Radford Auto Auction, reportedly paid $900,000 for the club, which is said to have $1 million in outstanding loans. Pulaski features an 18-hole golf course. Sale hasn’t announced what he plans to do with the 146-acre property. . . . In what it described as a “strategic” purchase for its “long-term benefit,” Nichols College has agreed to pay $200,000 for Dudley Hill Golf Club and its nine-hole golf course. The 62-acre club, in Dudley, Massachusetts, is the home of the college’s golf teams. It’s operated since 1926.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Week That Was, june 11, 2017

     During its second year of operation, beginning in April 2016, the Trump Golf-operated municipal track in New York City was a loser. Read ’em and weep: The number of rounds played at Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point fell to 26,127, down from 28,291 during the course’s first 12 months of operation (that’s a 7.6 percent decline), and the facility’s gross revenues fell by 12.7 percent, from $8.07 million to $7.04 million. A spokesperson for the Trump Organization called these numbers “misleading” and attributed the decline in play to “inclement weather forecasts” – a point well taken, because a year’s performance is a small sample size. What’s more, a sweetheart deal with the city relieves the operator of considerable financial pressure in the short term. That being said, however, here’s a number that should trouble Trump Golf’s accountants: The course’s income from banquets has dropped precipitously, decreasing by 47 percent, from $837,000 to $444,000. Such deterioration suggests that people looking to host meetings and throw parties aren’t inclined to line the president’s pockets, a mindset that could conceivably affect Trump-branded hotels as well. You know what they say: All that glitters is not gold.

     Though it remains the top revenue producer among New York’s courses, in 2016 Trump Golf Links at Ferry Park almost single-handedly dragged the city’s municipal golf operation into negative territory. As a group, the city’s 13 golf properties rang up $41.5 million in gross receipts last year, down by $1 million from the tally posted in 2015 – an exact match of the $1 million decrease registered at the Trump-branded course. The total number of rounds played at the city’s courses dropped by 3,800, from 620,009 in 2015 to 616,212 in 2016, which means that the fall-off at Trump’s course – 2,164 rounds – accounted for more than half of the network’s overall losses. The city’s fiscal year may not correspond precisely to the one at Trump’s course, but these numbers ought to make us pause and reflect.

     If the third time really is the charm, the golf industry has lucked out: It’s going to get a third chance to strike gold at the Olympics, as the International Olympic Committee has voted to stage men’s and women’s golf events not just in Tokyo in 2020 but also at the 2024 Games, wherever they may be held. Golf’s popularity doesn’t appear to have experienced a significant boost from last year’s competition in Rio de Janeiro, but it sure wouldn’t hurt to have what may eventually become a permanent place on the world’s greatest sports stage.

     A year after making their third golf purchase, some wealthy, Nebraska-based investors have acquired a fourth. An entity linked to the Peed family, which made its money in ranching and publishing, has purchased Briggs Ranch Golf Club, a venue in suburban San Antonio, Texas that features an 18-hole, Tom Fazio-designed golf course. Zach Peed, who manages the family’s golf properties, believes Briggs Ranch has “phenomenal golf,” and he expects the 16-year-old club to complement his growing chain of “pristine private destination courses” that serves “the needs of executives and corporate entities for retreats and other events.” Last year, the Peeds bought Ballyhack Golf Club in Roanoke, Virginia, and their other holdings include Sutton Bay Golf Club in Agar, South Dakota and ArborLinks in Nebraska City, Nebraska. Briggs Ranch will be operated by a division of Landscapes Unlimited, which has also been engaged to develop lodging on the 260-acre property.

     Surplus Transactions – George Cascino has accepted $1.8 million for Oak Harbor Golf Club, a 25-year-old venue in Slidell, Louisiana that calls itself “the most talked-about layout in the Deep South.” Justin Lotz, the new owner, has worked in various capacities at Oak Harbor for 18 years, currently as its pro. The club features an 18-hole, Lee Schmidt-designed course. . . . Hillcrest Golf & Country Club, in Lubbock, Texas, has been sold to a group of its members. J. D. Dickerson and others paid an undisclosed price for Hillcrest, which has an 18-hole Ralph Plummer-designed course that’s operated since the mid 1950s. The seller, Glen Robertson, had owned Hillcrest for more than a decade. . . . A former commercial airline pilot has purchased Sunset Hills Golf Course, a nine-hole, par-3 track in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin. “I’ve been retired for about a year and was going crazy,” Mike Trowbridge told the Sheboygan Press. “I cannot not work. I can’t sit still.” Trowbridge bought Sunset Hills from Ed Kirchenwitz and Ron Krueger, for an undisclosed price. The course was designed by Kirchenwitz, a former superintendent of the Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits courses in nearby Kohler.

     The end is near for one of Greg Norman’s most notable achievements. GolfAsian reports that Norman’s 18-hole layout at Nirwana Bali Golf Club, an Indonesian track ranked by Golf Digest as #84 in the world, is counting down its final weeks. Nirwana Bali is the centerpiece of a resort owned by Hary Tanoesoedibjo, who’s decided to give his property the full Trump treatment. As part of the re-branding, says GolfAsian, Phil Mickelson has been enlisted to “rethink, redesign, and lengthen the course,” a job that ultimately carries little in the way of upside potential. Mickelson’s overhaul, which will forever be compared to Norman’s original, is expected to begin before the year’s end.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Week That Was, june 4, 2017

   Not long ago, Greg “the Living Brand” Norman announced a partnership with a division of Verizon Communications and promised to soon unveil an initiative that would use “innovative and disruptive technology” to “change the way people play and view” the game of golf. Last week, we learned what he was talking about. The LB and some partners plan to invest $11 million into Playsight, a U.S. company with an array of high-tech equipment that “transforms every sports field, court, and gym into a smart, connected space and helps athletes of all levels train smarter.” Geez, is this the game-changer that the LB suggested he’d deliver? Obviously, he believes that Playsight’s technologies – “cutting-edge,” he calls them – can spark renewed interest in golf and, ultimately, revive a moribund sport. But that’s asking a lot of a training system.

     Canada’s golf industry has lost what may be its final link to Stanley Thompson, its most renowned architect. Robert Moote, who apprenticed with Thompson for several years, died in late May. He was 92. After Thompson’s death, in 1953, Moote established his own firm, Brampton, Ontario-based Moote Golf Architects, and went on to produce venues including Silver Lakes Golf Club in Newmarket, Ontario; North Halton Golf & Country Club in Georgetown, Ontario; Dundee Resort Golf Course in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia; and Ironshore Golf & Country Club in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Moote is the last of the well-known architects who worked with Thompson. Robert Trent Jones, C. E. “Robbie” Robinson, Howard Watson, and Geoffrey Cornish all died years ago. Moote’s son, David, is also a course designer, and he’ll presumably continue to run the firm his father established.

     Robert Trent Jones, Jr., arguably the grandest of the grand old men in U.S. golf architecture, has been hired to design an 18-hole golf course for Hoiana, a waterfront community that will take shape on 650 acres roughly 25 miles south of Đà Nẵng, on Vietnam’s Central Coast. Hoiana has been master-planned to set “a new benchmark for high-end tourism in Vietnam” and become one of “Asia’s most renowned resort destinations.” VinaCapital, a Hồ Chí Minh City-based developer, expects to build Jones’ course in the first phase of Hoiana’s construction, along with a casino, a 445-room hotel complex, 200 condos, a “spa resort” with 100 houses and villas, a beach club, entertainment venues, a waterfront promenade, shopping areas, and places to eat and drink. The course will be Jones’ first in Vietnam, but his Palo Alto, California-based firm has worked all over Asia and Southeast Asia. It’s produced about 20 courses in Japan, eight in Philippines, seven in China, five in Thailand, four in Malaysia, and others in Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Singapore, and Taiwan. If all goes as planned, the course at Hoiana will debut in early 2019.

     The original version of the preceding post first appeared in the January 2017 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.  

     Pipeline Overflow – Speaking of Vietnam, later this year or possibly early next year Jim Engh expects to open his first golf course in the golf-mad socialist republic. Engh has designed an 18-hole layout for Harmonie Golf Park, which is taking shape outside Hồ Chí Minh City, in Bình Dương Province. IMG, which will manage the course, expects the track to be “one of the best in Vietnam,” while Golfasian believes it’ll merely be “a nice addition” to the area’s golf scene. . . . In September, Muriya Tourism Development Company expects to open the “unforgettable” first nine holes of a planned 18-hole layout at Jebel Sifah, a waterfront community in metropolitan Muscat, Oman. Troon Golf, which has been retained to manage the property, says the Peter Harradine-designed track will be “a must-play course in the Middle East” and “rival the very best exclusive golf destinations.” Harradine, a Swiss architect, thinks the course will be “fun for average players” and notes that it’ll serve to collect “torrential water during the few but violent rain-falls” that affect the area. . . . Jordan’s first 18-hole golf course, a Greg Norman design, is the centerpiece of a resort community in Aqaba, the nation’s only port city. In 2012, during his first site visit to the property, “the Living Brand” said Ayla Golf Club had “the potential to put Jordan on the world’s golf map.” Within a year or so, we’ll know if he delivered on the property’s promise.

     Cuba attracted 2 million international travelers through the first four months of 2017, which means it’s comfortably on pace to shatter the record it set last year, when 4 million international travelers visited the island nation. U.S. travelers already make up a significant share of Cuba’s inbound traffic – 614,433 people last year – and Boston Consulting Group estimates that as many as 2 million U.S. travelers could be heading to Fidel Castro’s socialist paradise by 2025, even if the U.S. travel ban remains in place. Cuba has some infrastructure issues to address, of course, because BCG says that the nation has “an insufficient supply of [hotel] accommodations” and its main international airport, in Havana, is “bursting at the seams.” And while it’s difficult to predict how big an impact golf resorts will have on the tourism industry, groups from China, England, Spain, and Germany are betting on Cuba’s golf development potential.

     Marriott International, which currently operates 550 hotels in the Asia-Pacific, expects to open at least 500 more by the end of 2021 – basically, 100 a year. None of new properties are likely to have golf courses, but Marriott’s expansion in the region is noteworthy because big hotel companies always reveal where growth is occurring in the travel industry. Marriott will never open the first hotel in a market, but its presence indicates that a market’s time has come.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Week That Was, may 28, 2017

     A truce has been declared in the war between ClubCorp and one of its minority shareholders. The embattled Dallas, Texas-based owner/operator – “the world leader in private clubs,” it calls itself – has come to terms with FrontFour Capital Group, which seeks a better return on its investment and last year demanded that ClubCorp pursue “any and all strategic alternatives” that would enable it to boost the price of its under-performing stock, including “an outright sale of the company.” Under the terms of the treaty, FrontFour has agreed to stop complaining publicly, at least for a while, and to withdraw its nominations to ClubCorp’s board, while ClubCorp has agreed to give two board seats to FrontFour-favored directors. Making the best of a bad situation, ClubCorp has called the settlement “a constructive outcome” and has promised to “consider additional opportunities to drive growth.”

     A second Chinese group has won the right to build a golf community in Cuba. Details are a little fuzzy, but it appears that Yantai Golden Mountain Resort Development Company, Ltd. has signed a letter of intent to build Loma Linda Estates (Estancias de Golf Loma Linda), a 510-acre resort community in Holguin Province. Loma Linda, which has been kicking around since 2011 (and probably earlier), was initiated by a Canadian group, Standing Feather International, which had based its interest on the belief that Cuba’s tourism officials “want to move forward and bring golfers to their country.” The jury is still out on that idea. Yantai Golden Mountain, which is based in Shandong Province, hasn’t said what it plans to build at Loma Linda, but Standing Feather’s master plan included 1,200 villas, bungalows, and apartments, a 170-room waterfront hotel, a shopping area, and a pair of 18-hole, Graham Cooke-designed golf courses. U.S. politics being what they are, golf development in Cuba is currently in the hands of entities from Great Britain, Spain, Germany, and China. The first Chinese company to secure a development deal, Hong Kong-based Beijing Enterprises Holdings, Ltd., is at work on Bellomonte Golf & Country Club, which may someday emerge in a fishing village located a half-hour’s drive east of Havana.

     Some information in the preceding post first appeared in the June 2011 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.

     Pipeline Overflow – When he isn’t thinking about missile technology, Kim Jong-un thinks about tourism development. North Korea’s short-fingered dictator has set in motion a plan to build “a sports and ecological resort” in the Mubong International Tourism Special Zone, a nearly 5,000-acre spread near Lake Mubong, in the northern part of the impoverished nation. The resort will reportedly feature a ski area, hotels, duty-free shops, a shooting range, and a golf course. . . . The Delhi Development Authority, the major planning agency in India’s capital city, has re-committed to building its third 18-hole golf course. The “international-standard” track, in Dwarka, has long been on the DDA’s radar, and Phil Ryan, an Australian architect, was awarded the commission several years ago. I don’t know if Ryan is still in the picture, but the DDA hopes to open the course in 2019. It’ll complement the agency’s Qutab and Bhalswa layouts. . . . Greg Norman’s third golf course in Vietnam is scheduled to open before the end of the year, according to a report by GolfAsian. The 18-hole, links-style track will be the centerpiece of Cam Ranh Links Golf Resort, a 2,000-acre oceanfront resort community outside Nha Trang, along the socialist republic’s South Central Coast. Norman has set a high bar for himself, as Golf Digest ranks his two previous courses – Bluffs Ho Tram Strip and Đà Nẵng Golf Club – as the #1 and #2 tracks in Vietnam.

     An affiliate of a San Francisco-based development and management company has agreed to buy the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows, a well-known waterfront resort on Hawaii’s Big Island. For an undisclosed price, ProspectHill Group will acquire Mauna Lani’s hotel, restaurants, meeting space, undeveloped land, and recreational amenities, including two 18-hole golf courses. The seller is an affiliate of a Japanese company, Tokyu Corporation, which considers Mauna Lani to be “one of the world’s best resorts” and “a model of innovative planning and thoughtful land stewardship.” ProspectHill appears to have confidence in Hawaii’s future as a vacation destination, for not long ago it bought the Queen Kapiolani Hotel on Waikiki Beach. It expects to close on its purchase of Mauna Lani this summer.

     Surplus Transactions – If you listen closely, you can probably hear a gaggle of lawyers tapping on their keyboards. That’s because Tim Martin has purchased Desert Island Golf & Country Club, a 46-year-old venue in Rancho Mirage, California, and he’s given it a new name: Sinatra Resort & Country Club. But before you start thinking that Martin is just trying to cash in on the singer’s good name, you need to hear Martin’s side of the story. He argues that the property, which includes a Desmond Muirhead-designed golf course, is actually named for the street it’s on, Frank Sinatra Drive, and not for the internationally known music giant. Of course, if you don’t buy what Martin is selling, well, hardly anyone will blame you. . . . Late last year, for an undisclosed price, Fang Cheng Morrow and Nianping Wang bought Prospect Hill Golf Course, which had operated in Auburn, Maine since 1950. The seller was Don Sheldon, who’d owned the 18-hole track since 2008. . . . After serving for nearly 30 years in various capacities in the golf business, Cathy Harbin has purchased Pine Ridge Golf Course, an 18-hole, 5,855-yard track in Paris, Texas. She aims to make the 31-year-old venue “a welcoming environment that has its doors open to families, newcomers, and people who have played for years on in.” Harbin, who began her career as a golf pro, has worked for the PGA Tour, the World Golf Foundation, and Golf 20/20, and she learned golf management during stints with ClubCorp, American Golf Corporation, and Honours Golf. These days, she’s the president of her own management company, Dallas, Texas-based OnCourse Operations.