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Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Week That Was, november 19, 2017

     The stain of sexual harassment charges has soiled one of America’s greatest golf destinations.
     In court documents, a woman alleges that Hank Hickox, the former general manager of Bandon Dunes, directed inappropriate sexual advances and comments at her and at other female staffers for years. She also alleges that Bandon Dunes was a hostile environment for women and that its management company, KemperSports, neglected to address her complaints in a timely, sincere way.
     These sad and troubling accusations have been made by Darla Hamblin, who went to work at Bandon Dunes in 2000. Hamblin filed a $501,000 lawsuit against Hickox and KemperSports but withdrew it earlier this month, just days before a trial was scheduled to start. The action suggests that the parties have reached a settlement.
     Mike Keiser, the developer of Bandon Dunes, isn’t named in the lawsuit.
     Hamblin’s court filings contend that Hickox compared the size of her breasts to those of other employees, touched her in unwelcome ways, gave her an unwanted, open-mouthed kiss during a work party, questioned her about her sex life, and expressed an interest in having a sexual relationship with her.
     Hamblin reportedly didn’t file a formal complaint about Hickox’s behavior with KemperSports until 2015 because she feared for her job. According to KGW-TV, she believes that KemperSports has “a company-wide culture of permissiveness” and that Hickox, who had close relationships with KemperSports’ leadership, once warned her “not to ‘bite the hand that feeds you.’”
     In a court filing, KemperSports acknowledges that Hickox “was forced into early retirement” last year.
     Hamblin’s allegations are supported by a court declaration submitted by Adrienne Fitzgerald, a former KemperSports executive. Fitzgerald told the court that Hickox was “notorious in the company for being sexually inappropriate and horribly offensive.”
     Fitzgerald, who worked at the company’s headquarters in suburban Chicago, states that she learned of Hamblin’s complaints when she overheard some of her male colleagues joking about them.
     “These men constantly talked about sex during work hours and gossiped about which female employees in the company were sexy and attractive and which ones were ugly and not worth f---ing,” declared Fitzgerald, who’s quit her job at KemperSports. “For a woman to stay or succeed in management, she had to be one of the boys and put up with their inappropriate behavior.”
     In a statement to Golf.com, KemperSports insists that it took “decisive remedial action” when it heard about “the alleged inappropriate behavior at Bandon Dunes” and that it’s retained “independent outside counsel” to “investigate the situation.” It also says that it’s “committed to providing a workplace environment that is rewarding, comfortable, and free from discrimination and harassment.”
     The statute of limitations has passed on many of Hamblin’s allegations, but the legalities of her case aren’t the issue here. When it comes to men and their customary insensitive treatment of women, a day of reckoning has arrived. As recent headlines prove, predatory behavior will no longer be tolerated. Women will no longer remain silent.
     Like their counterparts in politics, the movie and fashion industries, and every other walk of life, men in the golf industry need to address their demons and exorcise them. If they don’t, they’re going to be brought before a judge, either in a court of law or in the court of public opinion. Either way, the verdict will be harshly rendered.

     Like his U.S. counterpart, Kim Jong-un is finding it difficult to shake his golf dreams. Earlier this year, it was revealed that North Korea’s Peerless Leader aims to build “a sports and ecological resort” near Lake Mubong, in the northern part of his impoverished nation. Now comes word of a second golf-focused resort, this one at the slowly emerging Wonsan–Mount Kumgang International Tourist Zone, near the city of Wonsan. Kim Jong-un reportedly wants to turn Wonsan into a “world-famous tourist city,” and he apparently figures that a golf course – along with planned resort-style hotels, beaches, a ski area, and other attractions – will do the trick. But who’s kidding whom? Most vacation spots promise that you’ll return home with pleasant memories. North Korea may very well send you home with tapeworms in your intestines.

     Pipeline Overflow – Jack Nicklaus has celebrated the soft opening of his 300th “signature” design. It’s in West Palm Beach, Florida, and it’s a remake of the old Robert Trent Jones-designed course at Presidents Country Club, which now operates as Banyan Cay Resort. Nicklaus believes he’s created “a modern-day golf course and something special,” with “a lot of excitement” and “a lot of challenges.” . . . Romania’s top poultry producer has opened his nation’s second 18-hole golf course. The course, designed by Ioan Străjan, will anchor a 166-acre resort (sorry, but I can’t find the name) that Ioan Popa is building outside Alba Iulia, and it’s expected to put Romania “on the map of world-class golf.” The nation’s only other 18-hole layout is Paul Tomita Golf Club in Alba . . . Sometime next spring, Forrest Richardson will debut his re-do of Palo Alto, California’s flood-prone municipal golf course. The 18-hole track, originally designed by William F. Bell, will henceforth be known as Baylands Golf Links, and it’ll be accompanied by a three-hole “youth” layout and a short-game practice zone.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Week That Was, november 12, 2017

     One of golf’s most influential people has left our industry’s power elites in a state of uncertainty. Giles Morgan, who formerly flexed his marketing muscle as the head of sponsorship for HSBC, has become an “independent advisor” to companies in the sports industry that might benefit from “a second opinion” about their operations. Under his direction, HSBC became the primary underwriter of the Open Championship and other high-profile golf events, and when he talked, golf listened. When he suggested, for example, that he might stop writing checks if professional tournaments continued to be held at male-only clubs, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews quickly voted to open its doors to women. Morgan hasn’t explained why he’s leaving HSBC, and the bank hasn’t outlined its future golf-related plans. As for his new job, Morgan says that the sports industry “faces one of the most exciting crossroads in its history” and that he’s “looking forward to playing a role in the next chapter in this rapidly evolving industry.” Next year, he expects to begin publishing a monthly e-newsletter called Rive Gauche, which translates as “left bank.” It’s a phrase that can be interpreted in a couple of different ways.

     With each passing day, Donald Trump becomes a larger thorn in the side of Mike Keiser. It’s bad enough that several conservation groups have joined forces to battle against Coul Links, their argument being that Keiser’s Coore & Crenshaw-designed track will threaten “an irreplaceable piece of Scotland’s natural heritage.” What’s worse is that Scottish newspapers and commentators have taken to portraying Keiser as a carbon copy of Trump, who’s now been accused of destroying the dunes that serve as the home of his failing resort in Aberdeenshire. Trump’s reputation in Scotland couldn’t be worse, and Keiser is paying the price. He and his partners recently submitted their development proposal for the Coul Links property to local officials, and they’ll most likely learn its fate before the end of the year. The Ugly American syndrome lives on.

     Pipeline Overflow – Regarding Grand Oaks Reserve, the forthcoming Chinese-financed community in suburban Houston, Texas: Mike Nuzzo has designed two nine-hole courses for the 615-acre spread, one of them a par-3 layout, along with a putting course. The whole shebang is being built by Don Mahaffey, who collaborated with Nuzzo to create Wolf Point Golf Club, the naturalist pièce de résistance outside Port Lavaca, Texas. Nuzzo says that Mahaffey is doing “minimal earthwork,” and he expects at least one of the nines to open in late 2018. . . . As part of a flood-control effort, the city of Denver, Colorado is redesigning City Park Golf Course, a parkland-style track that’s said to have “unbeatable skyline and mountain views.” The transformation is being overseen by the team of signature architect Hale Irwin and Todd Schoeder of iConGolf Studio, which previously created a course at Glacier Club in Durango, California and Lodestone Golf Club in McHenry, Maryland. The 18-hole layout at City Park is expected to re-open in 2019. . . . Monte Rei Golf & Country Club, which features the best golf course in Portugal, is serious about adding its long-delayed companion track. The club, part of what’s been described as “the rural, rugged, peaceful version of a luxury golf resort,” expects to break ground on its second Jack Nicklaus-designed layout next year, and future plans include a boutique hotel and a beach club.

    Doug Manchester’s deep pockets have put him in line to get a plum political-patronage job, so he’s ended his pursuit of a past-its-prime club in Pinehurst, North Carolina. Forest Creek Golf Club had hoped that a sale to one of San Diego’s best-known businessmen would restore its reputation as “a premier golf course destination community,” but Manchester, a major contributor to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, is now studying to become our nation’s ambassador to the Bahamas. He has no foreign policy experience, but he does own a home in the island nation, which has reportedly been without a U.S. ambassador since 2011. Forest Creek’s members will presumably renew their search for a buyer who might be interested in their property, which is anchored by a pair of 18-hole, well-regarded, Tom Fazio-designed golf courses.

     Surplus Transactions – New York City-based Blackstone Group, a gargantuan investment company, has reportedly agreed to pay $330 million for Turtle Bay Resort, a 1,300-acre spread on the northern coast of O’ahu, Hawaii. For its money, Blackstone will acquire a 450-room, resort-style hotel, a substantial amount of undeveloped property, and 18-hole golf courses that were designed by George Fazio (his course opened in 1972) and Arnold Palmer (1992). Blackstone owns some prominent hotel chains (Hilton, Wyndham, La Quinta Inns, Motel 6), and over the years it’s purchased (and later sold) several golf properties, among them two in Florida, Naples Grande Golf Club in Naples and Grande Oaks Golf Club in Fort Lauderdale. . . . Wilson Gee, a financially besieged golf-course owner in Phoenix, Arizona, has found a buyer for Club West Golf Course. The Inter Tribal Golf Association has agreed to buy Club West, a dried-out Brian Whitcomb/Ken Kavanaugh-designed track that’s said to “look horrible” and reportedly needs $4 million worth of improvements. Gee sold Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Course a year or so ago, and he’s apparently willing to sell his remaining venues, Ahwatukee Country Club and the Duke at Rancho El Dorado. . . . The clock is ticking on an 18-hole, Press Maxwell-designed golf course in Tulsa, Oklahoma. An unidentified group has acquired the struggling MeadowBrook Country Club, which has operated since 1955 and will stay open for a year or so before it meets its fate as a subdivision.

     The city of Oshkosh, Wisconsin has offered to sell part of Lakeshore Municipal Golf Course – about 35 acres – to the state’s largest federal contractor. It’s an insurance policy of sorts, as Oshkosh Corporation, a Fortune 500 company that manufactures military vehicles from its plant in the city, is looking for a new headquarters and has suggested that it might relocate to another city. A proposed agreement stipulates that the company would pay $3.5 million for the golf course property, but it would receive $13 million in tax breaks and other concessions. If the company accepts the offer, Lakeshore’s remaining 70 acres might become a park.

     Desolation Row Extended – Windtree Golf Course, an 18-hole track in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, is scheduled to close on the day before Thanksgiving. Danny Hale, one of the course’s co-owners, had hoped to secure permission to build houses on his property, but he was denied. He hasn’t announced any plans for the future, but the Lebanon Democrat reports that he’s received an offer for the 26-year-old course. . . . By the end of the year, Brooklyn Country Club – “a cute little golf course for families or people who aren’t that great at golfing,” according to one of its longtime customers – will bite the dust. The club, in eastern Connecticut, features a nine-hole track that opened in 1960. Its owner, Richard Riges, told the Norwich Bulletin that he’s “unsure” about the property’s future. . . . The future of Reidy Creek Golf Course, an 18-hole, par-3 layout in Escondido, California, is in jeopardy. The course, one of two owned by the city, has lost money since it opened in 2002, and its 54 acres represent a potential source of income that can’t be ignored. “It’s a loss every year,” Escondido’s city manager said in a comment published by the San Diego Union-Tribune. “That’s not sustainable. It has to stop.” The city is reportedly weighing its options.

     Luke Donald, part of the next wave of signature architects, set out to design one of the best courses in Vietnam, and it appears that he’s succeeded. Donald’s 18-hole layout at Bà Nà Hills Golf Club, which opened last year on the outskirts of Đà Nẵng, has been honored as the World’s Best New Course by the World Golf Awards, the Best New Course in the Asia Pacific by the Asia Pacific Golf Summit, and, most recently, as the Best New Course 2016-17 by Việt Nam Golf magazine. Of course, some credit for these accolades should go to Brit Stenson of IMG Golf, who held Donald’s hand through the design process.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Week That Was, november 5, 2017

     Roger Packard, who was once described as “probably the best designer you’ve never heard of, or certainly not enough of,” died last month. He was 70. His career was overshadowed by that of his father, Larry Packard, who had a hand in designing or redesigning hundreds of courses in the United States, foremost among them the three 18-hole tracks at the Innisbrook resort in Palm Harbor, Florida. Nonetheless, Roger was involved in the creation of several dozen courses, most of them in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Texas, some of them designed alone, some with his father, and some with PGA pro Andy North. The group includes three 18-hole layouts at the Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa in Galena, Illinois, a 27-hole complex at Cantigny Golf Club in Wheaton, Illinois, a 27-hole complex at Trappers Turn Golf Club in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, and a pair of 18s at Sweetwater Country Club in Sugar Land, Texas. In a sad remembrance, Ron Whitten of Golf Digest says that in 2002 Roger told him that he was suffering from “drastic personal financial difficulties” related to the downturn in post-9/11 golf development. Later that year Roger moved to Shanghai, presumably to find work, and Whitten suggests that Roger’s lack of notoriety stems in part from the fact that he’d lived abroad, out of touch with his U.S. colleagues, for more than a decade. Roger had cancer. He spent the last days of his life in Palm Harbor, Whitten reports, where he was treated by the same caregiver who looked after his late father.

     Roger Packard was one of two second-generation architects who died last month. The other was David Gordon, the son of William Gordon, one of the original members of the American Society of Golf Course Architects and the builder of courses designed by Donald Ross, Devereux Emmet, and Willie Park, Jr. The Gordons collaborated on more than two dozen golf courses, a group that includes the Grace and Weyhill courses at Saucon Country Club in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the Montchanin course at DuPont Country Club in Wilmington, Delaware, Stanwich Club in Greenwich, Connecticut, and Williamsburg Country Club in Williamsburg, Virginia. David also claims credit for many on his own, among them the Monocacy course at Bethlehem Country Club in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and Frosty Valley Country Club in Danville, Pennsylvania. David joined the ASGCA in 1951 and was, at the time of his death, the organization’s longest-tenured member. He was 95.

     In what’s been described as a “near-unanimous” vote, the members of Frosty Valley Country Club, in Danville, Pennsylvania, have approved a sale of their property. The members of the self-described “community gem” appear to have been desperate to make the sale, as the lease on their financially stressed club was unexpectedly abandoned earlier this year by Integrity Golf Company, a Kissimmee, Florida-based management firm that’s no longer in business. “We were in a difficult position,” the chairman of the club’s board conceded to the Daily Item. Frosty Valley’s new owner is the Liberty Group, which claims to be “committed to taking Frosty Valley to the next level.” Liberty also owns Clinton Country Club in nearby Mill Hall. It hasn’t disclosed what it paid for Frosty Valley, which features a nine-hole course that was designed by David Gordon and opened in the early 1960s.

     Surplus Transactions – Half of the 18-hole layout at Donald Ross Golf Club, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, will soon be replaced by a softball stadium and a track-and-field complex. The other half will continue to operate as a daily-fee golf course and as a practice center for the golf teams from the Indiana Institute of Technology, which has agreed to buy the 90-year-old property. Before it assumed the name of its designer, the venue had operated as Fairview Golf Club. It got its current name from Dave Alverson and Quinn Griffin, who bought Fairview in 2006. . . . An unidentified group has acquired Oak Creek Golf Course, a nine-hole track in Red Bluff, California that’s said to be “a great place for senior citizens to get out and hit a golf ball.” The new owners are expected to revived Oak Creek, which opened in 1975 but has, according to a local newspaper, “been going downhill for the last four years.” . . . Jaime and Stacey Sumners have purchased Spruce Ridge Golf Course, which has been described as one of the “most beloved” venues in Dowagiac, Michigan. The 18-hole facility has operated since 1962, and the new owners hope to make it “a good golf course, in great shape, at an affordable price.” Spruce Ridge has reportedly been closed for a year, and the Sumners aim to reopen it in the spring of next year.

     Still More Surplus Transactions – Andy Clouse has acquired a golf property that he’s been playing since he was a kid. In September, Clouse paid an undisclosed price for Loudon Meadows Golf Club, which features an 18-hole track that’s been in business since 1962. Loudon Meadows is in Fostoria, Ohio, like Clouse’s Fostoria Country Club, and just a short drive from Hillcrest Golf Course in Findlay, which Clouse purchased in April. Clouse plans to sell memberships that will enable local golfers to play all three courses. . . . Bobcat Trail Golf Club, a 19-year-old venue in North Port, Florida, has a new owner and a new name. Roger Delagrange, who purchased Bobcat Trail in 2004, has sold what’s now called Charlotte Harbor National Golf Club to its pro, Rich Smith. The club features an 18-hole course that was co-designed by Bob Tway and Lee Singletary, and Smith has promised “some positive changes and community involvement.” . . . With a pledge to give it “the attention it deserves,” a commercial real-estate company has purchased the Orchards by Cobblestone Golf Course in Lawrence, Kansas. Block & Company paid an undisclosed price for the nine-hole course, which was once known as Orchards Golf Course and then Cobblestone Golf Course. The track, which opened in 1979, is said to be located “just down the road” from the University of Kansas, but it may be linked to a covenant that prevents Block from developing its 30 acres.

     It appears that another golf property on South Carolina’s Grand Strand is about to bite the dust. Pending approval of a rezoning application, Heather Glen Golf Links, a 27-hole complex in Little River, will be sold to a home builder and closed within weeks. “We can’t afford to operate the golf course, so we’re shutting it down,” the managing partner of Glens Group, the facility’s lessee, told the Myrtle Beach Sun-News. Heather Glen, which spreads across 420 acres, features an 18-hole, Willard Byrd-designed course and a nine-hole, Clyde Johnston-designed track. The complex is owned by a trust controlled by the family of Vivian E. Vereen. The newspaper reports that Golf Digest selected Byrd’s track as named America’s best new course in 1987.

     Desolation Row Extended – Time has run out on Vermilion Oaks Country Club, which has operated in Abbeville, Louisiana since 1929, when it was known as Abbeville Country Club. The club’s owners have put their 105-acre property on the market, with an asking price of $1.8 million. Vermilion Oaks is said to be the last remaining golf venue in Vermilion Parish. . . . The fate of Patuxent Greens Country Club, an 18-hole venue in Laurel, Maryland, has been sealed. In July, Cohen Siegel Investors paid $5.4 million for the 200-acre spread, with plans to build up to 450 housing units on it. Cohen Siegel figures that it’ll take perhaps two years to secure approval for its plans, and it’s promised to keep Patuxent Greens’ Russell Roberts-designed golf course open until then. The seller was Fore Golf Partners, which sold another one of its golf properties just weeks ago. . . . So what’s the other course Fore Golf Partners recently sold? It’s Hidden Creek Country Club, in Reston, Virginia, a nearly 50-year-old venue that features an 18-hole, Ed Ault-designed layout. Hidden Creek’s new owner is a home builder that will maintain the golf operation in the near term but reportedly “reserves the right to redesignate” the 164-acre property for houses in the future.

     Greg “the Living Brand” Norman is a salesman par excellence, and not a very trustworthy one. For months, the LB has promised that Greg Norman Company and Verizon would soon unveil some sort of “innovative and disruptive technology” that would “change the way people play and view” the game of golf. Well, last week the LB showed us what he had in mind, and it boils down to this: Golf carts outfitted video screens that will stream music, news, sports, and whatever, because playing golf is simply not stimulating enough on its own. The LB calls this concept the Shark Experience, but the rest of the world has already dismissed it much ado about nothing. Next time you have a bright idea, Greg, don’t call us. We’ll call you.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Week That Was, october 29, 2017

     Tom Fazio and Discovery Land Company are once again joining forces, this time to put their distinctive marks on an emerging high-end community in suburban Nashville, Tennessee. An 18-hole, Fazio-designed golf course is set to take shape at Hideaway at Arrington, a 742-acre private community that will feature up to 350 houses as well as a variety of amenities that will, the developers say, enable residents to enjoy the area’s “rich cultural heritage” and engage in “an active, outdoor lifestyle.” Discovery owns at least 16 golf communities in the United States, Mexico, and the Bahamas, and Fazio has created courses for probably half of them, including Estancia Club in Scottsdale, Arizona; Gozzer Ranch in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Iron Horse in Whitefish, Montana; the Madison Club in La Quinta, California; and the recently opened Summit Club outside Las Vegas, Nevada. Discovery has also enlisted Fazio to produce a course for the Hills at East Quogue, on New York’s Long Island, but nresidents in the area have proven themselves to be formidable opponents. A groundbreaking for the track at the Hideaway hasn’t been announced, but in a press release Fazio said he aims to make it “one of the top-rated courses in Tennessee.”

     Pipeline Overflow – Tantalizing news from New Zealand’s North Island: Tom Doak’s 18-hole track at Tara Iti Golf Club may soon have a companion. Darius Oliver, the well-known Australian design critic, reports that Tara Iti’s developers, a group led by Los Angeles, California-based financier Ric Kayne, have decided “to proceed with a second course” and that an official announcement is “expected soon.” This will be a plum assignment for whoever wins the commission, but it may not be possible to match Doak’s accomplishment. His course is the nation’s most talked-about new venue, and Oliver himself has concluded that “there isn’t anything else quite like this in golf.” . . . Elected officials in Orange County, California have set out to build a golf course in Newport Beach, on 205 acres of the closed Coyote Canyon landfill. They’re currently negotiating the terms of a lease on the property with an investment group that wants to build an 18-hole “short” course and other attractions, including what’s been described as “wedding gardens” and “a food court.” The county appears to be in a good bargaining position, because it has another development group waiting in the wings. . . . It’s been an ordeal, but Brian Coutts has finally secured permission to build a driving range and a nine-hole pitch-’n-’putt course on property he farms in Ollerton, a village north of Nottingham, England. After denying Coutts’ proposals for 10 years, local planners have concluded that it may actually be “a much-needed sporting facility for the community.”

     Earlier this year I criticized Jack Nicklaus, he of the spotless reputation, for accepting a design commission from a world-class tyrant, Gurbanguly “Spellcheck” Berdymukhamedov of Turkmenistan. The way I see it, Nicklaus has agreed to polish the image of a notoriously repressive regime, and his support of Berdymukhamedov’s golf ambitions is a tacit endorsement of policies contrary to fundamental American values. As it turns out, I’m not alone in finding the opening of Turkmenistan’s first golf course, at Ashgabat Golf Club, distasteful and troubling. Radio Free Europe was on hand for the unveiling, and it says that Nicklaus appeared to be “smitten” by Berdymukhamedov, whose nation is now “in the throes of an economic crisis” that has “led to shortages of certain foods and other commodities.” And here’s the worst part: Nicklaus has agreed to design not just one more course in Turkmenistan, as I reported, but as many as 10. It’s often said that power corrupts. So does money.

     Pipeline Overflow Overflow – Early next year, according to Golfasian, Golfplan-Dale & Ramsey Golf Course Architecture will debut its second course in Pattaya, Thailand, one of Southeast Asia’s favorite golf destinations. The 18-hole track will be the main attraction at Chee Chan Mountain Golf Resort, a 250-acre spread that was conceived several years ago as Master Golf Resort. Pattaya is home to at least 30 golf properties, including some notable layouts by “signature” architects, among them Jack Nicklaus (Laem Chabang International Country Club), Pete Dye (Khao Kheow Country Club), Gary Player (Sriracha Golf Club), and Peter Thomson (Greenwood Golf Resort). Golfplan’s first course in the area, Mountain Shadow Golf Club, was designed by the firm’s founder, Ron Fream, and opened in the early 1970s. . . . The wraps have come off the first of two Paul Albanese-designed golf courses at Yên Dũng Golf Resort, in metropolitan Hà Nội. The 18-hole track, which publicists say is “one of the most beautiful, challenging golf courses in northern Vietnam,” will eventually be joined by vacation villas, a hotel, an amusement park, and other attractions, including, in 2020, a second 18-hole layout. In the United States, Albanese is probably best known for Tatanka Golf Club, a links-like, minimalist-inspired layout in Niobrara, Nebraska. . . . La Romana Golf Club, the centerpiece of a resort community on the Dominican Republic’s southern coast, has opened its second golf course. The 18-hole “championship” layout, designed by a Spanish company that operates as Maverick Design & Construction or Maverick Golf & Construction, will complement the community’s existing executive-length track.

     A retired baseball player is the leader of a team that’s purchased a private golf club in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Paul Maholm, who spent nine years pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, and other major-league teams, paid an undisclosed price for Hattiesburg Country Club, which the Clarion Ledger describes as “one of the oldest and most storied golf clubs in the Magnolia State.” The newspaper reports that the club, which features an 18-hole, Max Maxwell-designed golf course, is suffering from “dwindling memberships.”

     Surplus Transactions – Tri-City Country Club, a financially struggling venue in Kennewick, Washington, has been rescued by 20 of its members. The new owners plan to open the club to the public, and they’ve given it a new name: Zintel Creek Golf Club. The club opened in 1938, as Twin City Golf Club, and its original nine-hole golf course was built by the federal government’s Works Progress Administration. . . . It appears that Bergen County, New Jersey’s sixth golf property will be in suburban Newark. County officials have agreed to pay $8.5 million for Emerson Golf Club, a 54-year-old venue in Emerson that features an 18-hole, Alec Ternyei-designed golf course. The transaction is expected to close sometime over the winter. The county’s other courses are in Mahwah, Paramus, River Vale, Rockleigh, and Teaneck. . . . Melrose Club, the centerpiece of South Carolina’s mostly abandoned, possibly cursed Daufuskie Island, is about to get another owner. A bankruptcy court is expected to turn the 400-acre island over to its main creditor, a Netherlands-based investment group that reportedly loaned $27.5 million to the Utah-based company that promised to breathe new life into the property in 2011. Melrose features an 18-hole, Jack Nicklaus signature golf course that opened in 1987.

     As part of its struggle for survival, a private club named after Thomas Edison has decided to develop part of its 27-hole, Devereux Emmet-designed golf complex. Edison Club, a 286-acre venue in the northern suburbs of Albany, New York, has been suffering for years from a parade of problems – it recently listed them as “normal inflation, lifestyle changes, tax-code changes, decline in private club golf demand, and an overbuilt inventory of local golf” – but it believes it can sustain itself if it builds houses on seven of its holes and obliges the home owners to become club members. Edison was founded by a group of executives from General Electric in 1904 and relocated to its present home in 1926. It may not have any revenue-generating ideas beyond its development proposal, for it believes it’s already done “everything we can to be more attractive to the community around us.” 

     Desolation Row Extended – The new owners of the Phoenician, a 315-acre resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, have secured permission to close one-third of their 27-hole golf complex. The holes will come from the complex’s Oasis and Desert nines, and they’ll be replaced by 300 single-family houses and condos. Host Hotels & Resorts reportedly paid $400 million for the Phoenician, which never lived up to being “the eighth wonder of the world,” in 2015. . . . A home builder has reportedly coughed up nearly $23.5 million for Lipoma Firs Golf Course, a 27-home complex in suburban Tacoma, Washington. Lipoma Firs opened with 18 holes in 1989 and added its third nine in 1994. It’s now closed, and the new owner believes its 202 acres can comfortably accommodate more than 1,000 houses. . . . Golf Club at Ballantyne, part of the Ballantyne Corporate Park in Charlotte, North Carolina, may not have much of a future. A spokesperson for Northwood Investors, which purchased the 535-acre business park earlier this year, told the Charlotte Business Journal that his company has “no immediate plans” to close the 20-year-old club but acknowledged that it’ll be “evaluating” the possibility “over time.”

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Week That Was, october 22, 2017

     Further proof that golf and rock-’n’-roll don’t mix: Astbury Hall, a well-regarded British golf resort created by former Judas Priest lead guitarist Ken “KK” Downing, has been taken over by administrators and is for sale. Downing designed Astbury Hall’s 18-hole golf course, bought out his original financial partners, hired Darren Clarke, a former captain of Europe’s Ryder Cup team, to serve as the property’s “global ambassador,” and won permission to add a boutique hotel, a spa, a restaurant, and another nine-hole layout to his 320 acres in suburban Birmingham, England. But the financing he secured to help pay for the construction has come back to haunt him. His lender has called the loan, leaving Downing, to borrow a phrase once used by Radiohead, high and dry. “We were taken aback that the funder was not more flexible with us as partners,” he told the Shropshire Star. Downing is trying to refinance the loan, and he hopes to continue to build “a top-class golf center with no snobbery” that will “put Shropshire on the golfing map.” But if someone comes along and drops £10 million ($13.2 million) on the table, he’ll be stranded on what Green Day called “the boulevard of broken dreams.”

     In recent years, Dan Hixson has produced a series of well-regarded courses in the Pacific Northwest – Wine Valley Golf Club in Washington and the reversible course at Silvies Valley Ranch in Oregon prominent among them – but the Vancouver, Washington-based architect appears to be hoping for a change of scenery. While acknowledging that he’s “getting great sites in the Northwest,” he told the Eugene Register-Guard that he’d “love to see some of the great sites around the country, and have a chance to build on something like that.” While he waits for a developer to offer one to him, Hixson will design an 18-hole track on a site near Roseburg, Oregon.

     Pipeline OverflowAustralian Golf Digest thinks Cathedral Lodge Golf Club’s just-opened 18-hole course “could be Greg Norman’s finest achievement in golf course design,” and “the Living Brand” isn’t putting up an argument. “There is nothing else like it in Australia – or the world, for that matter," Norman said earlier this year. Norman has also described the site, near Alexandra, Victoria, as “magnificent” and compared his track favorably to those at Ellerston and Augusta National. Cathedral Lodge is said to be Australia’s most expensive golf club (initiation fee: $50,000), and at the unveiling its developer, David Evans, said he’s already signed 70 members. . . . Charles “Buddy” Darby, the developer of the 2,500-acre Christophe Harbour resort community on St. Kitts, expects to resume construction on his long-overdue, Tom Fazio-designed golf course “at the end of the year.” Christophe Harbour has a marina and a soon-to-open hotel, and Darby’s master plan calls for a slew of vacation houses, places to eat, drink, and shop, and other attractions for the well-heeled. Years ago, Fazio promised that his 18-hole track would be among “the best of the best” in the Caribbean. . . . Roughly a year from now, Dale Beddo and Bruce Summerhays hope to debut an “affordable” 18-hole track in Hurricane, Utah. The design partners are well known in the area, as they co-designed Kokopelli Golf Course, an 18-hole layout in nearby Apple Valley that opened in 2009 but closed in 2012, a victim, it’s been said, of a rotten economy. Beddo told a local newspaper that his to-be-named new course won’t be “overbearing or difficult” but will place “a lot of demand on a good tee shot.”

     Predictions about the demise of Aurora, Colorado’s Fitzsimons Golf Course have been floated for more than two decades, and now they may finally come true. The Denver Post reports that the 18-hole layout, whose original nine holes were created by the Works Progress Administration in 1938, is “expected to shutter by the end of the year.” Economics may not be factoring into the decision, as the newspapers says that Fitzsimons “remains steadily busy.” An official notice from the city hasn’t yet been filed and no future uses of the course have been identified, but a nearby medical center could expand onto the property. If Fitzsimons does indeed bite the dust, metropolitan the Denver area will lose what’s been described as “one of the most affordable and accessible golf courses in the area.”

     Desolation Row Extended – Speaking of health-care facilities, Frank Veltri has agreed to sell part of his Practice Golf Center, in suburban Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Specifically, Veltri will sell the center’s nine-hole, par-3 course and continue to operate a driving range and a miniature golf course. . . . The fate of Meadows Golf Course, an 18-hole track in Christiansburg, Virginia, has been sealed. At a recent foreclosure auction, a development entity affiliated with Shelor Motor Mile paid $787,500 for the 115-acre property, and the new owner has already filed for a rezoning that would allow for the construction of houses. The Meadows opened with nine holes in 1955, and it got its second nine exactly two decades later. . . . Accepting an offer they couldn’t refuse, elected officials in Kent, Washington have voted to sell the nine-hole, par-3 golf course at Riverbend Golf Complex. An apartment developer has promised to pay $10.5 million for the 20-acre site, money that the city will use to shore up its golf enterprise fund and make improvements to Riverbend’s 18-hole track. The par-3 course has operated since 1961.

     With friends like Prime Minister Keith Rowley, the golf industry in Trinidad & Tobago may not need enemies. In his defense of a proposed $3 million overhaul of Chaguaramas Golf Course, Rowley stirred unnecessary controversy by comparing his nation’s golf courses to “sheep’s pastures” and then equating them to women because, he said, they both require daily grooming to be presentable. Unfortunately, all the noise Rowley created with his comments drowned out an important message he was trying to deliver, which is that it would be nice if Trinidad & Tobago, which currently has about eight golf properties, could build at least two more. So while Rowley may be burdened by sad, sexist ideas, at least he understands the impact that golf can have on a nation’s tourism business.