Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Week That Was, december 16, 2012

The International Olympic Committee is starting to worry about the pace of facility development in Rio de Janeiro, including the 2016 games’ Gil Hanse-designed golf course. “There is time, but time is ticking, and they need to carry on attacking this one with all vigor,” an IOC spokesman said in what the Associated Press describes as “an unusually blunt public statement about an Olympic organizing committee.” Despite the uncertainty over the ownership of the property where the golf course is to be built, Hanse will be heading south in January. Course construction, as everyone no doubt remembers, was originally supposed to begin in October.

One of the golf industry’s biggest financial supporters has agreed to pay a $1.92 billion fine for participating in schemes that allowed it to launder money for Mexican drug cartels, terrorist organizations, and rogue governments including Iran. I’m talking about HSBC, the “official banking partner” of the Open Championship and the official sponsor of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, the WGC-HSBC Champions in China, and the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore. For the life of me, I can’t understand why the golf industry chooses to do business with a criminally inclined group. Aren’t we better than this?

For me, here’s the biggest highlight from last week’s Asia Pacific Golf Summit: Ron Fream was inducted into the event’s hall of fame, thanks to his “unsurpassed hands-on and creative approach to golf course architecture.” I wouldn’t have used those words to describe Fream’s contributions to our industry, but I nonetheless wholeheartedly endorse his selection. Few architects are more deserving. And to put a little icing on the cake, the summit named Fream’s Club at Nine Bridges on South Korea’s Jeju Island as the best course in the Asia Pacific. Full disclosure: As faithful readers know, Fream is an occasional contributor to this blog.

The PGA of America believes non-professionals will stop having fun, and maybe stop playing golf altogether, if our business imposes limits on the distance golf balls are allowed to fly. “If you do anything that’s going to cause the rank-and-file, amateur player to not hit the ball as far, there’s no way you’re going to enhance their enjoyment of the game,” the group’s president told Reuters. My question: When does the price of a round of golf -- a price that depends in large part on the cost of building and maintaining ever-longer, ever more-expensive courses -- begin to affect a player’s enjoyment?

A judge in California has dismissed a lawsuit that threatened the future of Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica. Various environmental and conservation groups have for years been trying to close the course, arguing that its existence endangers certain vulnerable species of frogs and snakes. “It’s a tremendous victory,” said a spokesman for one of the groups that have been fighting to keep the course open. Fans of “classic” golf architecture believe the decision will revive long-delayed plans to restore the 80-year-old, Alister MacKenzie-designed layout.

Reignwood Group, a Chinese golf developer, appears set to buy one of Ireland’s premier golf resorts, Fota Island in County Cork. The 780-acre spread includes a trio of 18-hole courses, one of which (the Deerpark track) hosted the Irish Open in 2001 and 2002. Reignwood is led by Chanchai Ruayrungruang (he’s part Thai, if you hadn’t noticed), who made his money by selling Red Bull to under-energized Chinese. Reignwood owns Pine Valley Golf Club in suburban Beijing, a facility that features a pair of 18-hole Jack Nicklaus “signature” layouts and is expected to become the Chinese branch of the ultra-exclusive, limited-edition network of Jack Nicklaus Golf Clubs. If he can close on the purchase of Fota Island, Ruayrungruang aims to snag the Open again, according to the Irish Examiner.

Earlier this year, Phil Mickelson petitioned the city of San Diego, in California, to let him oversee a renovation of the North course at the Torrey Pines complex in La Jolla. Last week, the city gave him the gig. “It has been a dream of mine to turn that golf course into what I know it can be,” Mickelson told the San Diego Union-Tribune. The city expects to spend $7 million on the overhaul, which will likely begin in 2015. Mickelson has agreed to waive his design fee, but his architectural support team -- it includes Mike Angus of Gaylord Sports Management and Rick Smith, the well-known golf instructor -- will be paid.

KemperSports has been tapped to manage Vista Mar Golf & Beach Resort in San Carlos, Panama, a 700-acre property featuring a J. Michael Poellot-designed golf course that offers ocean views from each of its 18 holes. The Northbrook, Illinois-based firm -- “the most trusted name in golf course management,” it says of itself -- will also help the resort’s owners build a clubhouse, a spa, and other attractions.

Donald Trump, who last week called for a boycott of Glenfiddich scotch, is getting a taste of his own medicine. An editor of Golf Monthly, a British magazine, has called for a boycott of Trump International Golf Links Scotland.

Josh Sens of Golf magazine has written a first-person account of his recent visit to North Korea, where he played in the second annual Democratic People's Republic of Korea Amateur Golf Open. If you wish to participate in next year’s event, start getting yourself mentally prepared to endure constant police-state surveillance and relentless government propaganda. Try to ignore the disgraceful poverty that will surround you, and don’t do anything that will land you in one of the nation’s concentration camps.

Okay, so a round of golf at Pyongyang Golf Course in North Korea isn’t on your bucket list. Maybe you’d rather visit one of the 10 “most elite” Asian golf destinations, as recommended by a Forbes-affiliated website. My take: If you like to play celebrity-designed tracks in the places most favored by the crème de la crème of international business, you’ll love this list.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder how one my photos ended up on the "Forbes" article as the course is not even on the list!

    A+++ Reporting there.