Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Week That Was, december 23, 2012

The European debt crisis, economic deceleration in China, and uncertainty about the impact of the “fiscal cliff” deliberations in the United States will have a negative effect on international golf development and construction in 2013. That’s my unfortunate conclusion about our industry’s prospects for next year, based on an analysis of the planet’s economic situation by the United Nations. “I’m afraid this time around we’re not very optimistic about how things are moving,” said the author of the report, called “World Economic Situation & Prospects 2013.” The report’s worst-case scenario, according to the New York Times, is “a new global recession that mires many countries in a cycle of austerity and unemployment for years.” Let’s hope we can avoid that outcome. On the bright side, the report offers some suggestions about how nations might boost their economies -- in particular, government programs that focus on job growth -- but concludes that austerity-obsessed politicians aren’t likely to accept them.

If the design fee for the Olympics’ course in Rio de Janeiro is $300,000, what should an architect expect to take home for his work on the forthcoming Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas, Texas? The answer: Maybe not much. An official from AT&T, one of the venture’s sponsors, has made it known that prospective designers “can cover their time and costs and nothing else,” according to the Dallas Morning News. “No one gets to make a profit out of this,” the official told the newspaper. “This is a not-for-profit in every way.” In other words, the newspaper noted, the project’s promoters believe their course “will be so prestigious that it will attract bids from experienced course designers and project managers who simply want their names associated with it.” My questions: Will developers of other high-profile courses use the same strategy to put the squeeze on design talent? And if they succeed, how will it impact design fees for other course construction?

In a frank, honest Q&A with Buffalo Golfer, Ian Andrew discussed his favorite golf courses (the Old Course at St. Andrews heads his list), his major design influences (“To be frank, I’ll steal a great idea from

anyone”), and his apprenticeship with Doug Carrick (“We grew apart quickly”). But my favorite part of the interview came when Andrew, a Canadian architect, addressed the golf ball, which he believes is “killing the game.” Here’s part of what he said: I would roll back the ball by 15 to 20 percent. It would take the emphasis off power and return the value of shot-making and working the ball. . . . The reduction in length would stop the wholesale carnage that has taken place on many of the greatest layouts in the game, where new tees -- or worse, major renovations -- have been made to some of the game’s greatest holes, ruining them in order to keep up with technology. A shorter ball would [also] make the game cheaper. We would need smaller land envelopes for new courses, less maintained area on our courses, and less expense to operate. . . . The ball is the quickest, easiest, and most impactful way we can turn around the future.

A reporter for the Independent says that the average asking price for houses nestled along the 50 top-ranked golf courses in England is £265,000 ($428,200), compared to a national average of £170,000 ($274,000). The most expensive houses are located at Walton Heath Golf Club in Surrey (average price: $874,200), followed by those at Wentworth Club in Surrey ($738,500) and Sunningdale Golf Club in Berkshire ($720,700). Comparable houses without golf-course views are likely to cost about $150,000 less, according to a report cited by the newspaper. This is unquestionably a hefty premium for golf real estate, but the newspaper notes that property values at the top 50 courses have increased by 7 percent since 2010 while those in other places have remained flat.

A golf course will be among the attractions at a resort and “world-class trade hub” that will take shape on a 1,500-acre man-made island in the Malaysian state of Malacca (or Melaka). In addition to the golf course, Mestika Heritage Island, as it’s been dubbed, will include houses, a theme park, a trading center, and something called the Cheng Ho Institute of Higher Learning.

Entebbe Golf Club, in Uganda, is about to get a makeover. The 6,684-yard course, which opened in 1901, will get a new irrigation system, ponds to supply water, and a new practice center. The overhaul is being overseen by Golf Data, a South African firm that serves as the African representative for Jack Nicklaus’ design group.

Remember the episode of “Seinfeld” in which George finds one of Kramer’s golf balls in the blowhole of a beached whale? Well, now that “Seinfeld” has been deemed “the funniest sitcom of all time,” a writer for Golf Digest has catalogued some of the show’s funniest golf-inspired moments.