Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Week That Was, february 14, 2016

     The developers of Pacific Gales, the forthcoming au naturel track near Port Orford, Oregon, are enjoying what they believe is a long-overdue “whoopee moment.” The state’s land-use board of appeals has rejected the latest and probably the last in a string of arguments against Pacific Gales, thereby giving Elk River Property Development LLC a seemingly clear path to development. “It’s like someone took a 50-pound slab off my shoulders, finally,” Jim Haley, one of the developers, told the Coos Bay World. Haley and his partners proposed Pacific Gales, an 18-hole layout that they’ve suggested might be ranked ahead of those at nearby Bandon Dunes, two years ago, and they’ve been fighting battles against critics ever since. They hope to break ground on their Dave Esler-designed golf course this summer, provided they can find enough investors to realize their dream.

     Just three years short of its 100th anniversary, one of Scotland’s most famous golf courses will be made over to more faithfully resemble its designer’s original intentions. I’m talking about the James Braid-designed King’s course at Gleneagles, the celebrated resort -- “a national institution,” BBC News calls it -- that’s hosted, among other things, the Ryder Cup matches of 2014 and the G8 summit of 2005. Beginning any day now, Gleneagles’ new owners intend to restore some of the track’s lost design elements in an attempt to bring it “closer to Braid’s original vision” and give golfers “a more authentic playing experience.” The King’s course, which opened in 1919, is one of three regulation-length courses at Gleneagles. The rest of the 850-acre spread in Perthshire includes a 232-room hotel, a Michelin-starred restaurant, an equestrian center, a shooting range, and the British School of Falconry. For more than three decades, Gleneagles had been owned by Diageo, the world’s largest producer of spirits, but last year Diageo sold the property (reportedly for roughly $215 million) to Ennismore, an investment company that owns several boutique hotels. At the time of the sale, Ennismore promised to invest “significant sums” into improvements at Gleneagles. The upgrades at the King’s course are the first evidence of its commitment to the historic resort’s golf business.

     The original version of the preceding post first appeared in the February 2016 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.

     A decision has been made regarding the lawsuit filed last year by caddies on the PGA Tour: They fought the law, and the law won. The caddies have failed in their attempt to win a share of the sponsorship money that corporations pay to players on the tour and will therefore continue to wear advertising on their bibs. “Caddies have been required to wear the bibs for decades, so caddies know when they enter the profession that wearing a bib during tournaments is part of the job,” a judge in U.S. District Court concluded. The ruling aside, it’s worth noting that the caddies aren’t impoverished. Some have their own sponsorship agreements, and Forbes has determined that each of the 10 top earners in 2014 made at least $600,000. If the caddies have the will to muster another fight, it may be over health care and a retirement plan.

     As we approach the date of a court hearing in the case of Vijay Singh versus the PGA Tour, Pete Madden of Golf magazine contends that professional golf’s drug-testing program is “riddled with holes,” “all but unenforceable,” and designed “not so much to catch cheaters as to reassure sponsors that there are no cheaters to catch.” Singh, you’ll no doubt remember, confessed to using deer-antler spray, a banned substance, in 2013. He received a short suspension that was later rescinded, but he sued the tour anyway, claiming that he’d lost a sponsor and was exposed to “public humiliation and ridicule.” His case is scheduled to be heard in early April, but Madden doesn’t expect it to shine any light on the way the tour polices the use of performance-enhancing drugs. The tour, he writes, has “argued for and won a sweeping protective order that made sure anything controversial remained confidential.”

     The first nine holes have opened at what may eventually be Uganda’s top-rated golf course. The Kevin Ramsey-designed, tournament-worthy layout at Lake Victoria Serena Golf Resort & Spa opened late last year, after nearly six years of construction. Ramsey, one of the principals of Santa Rosa, California-based Golfplan/Dale & Ramsey, hopes to open the second nine by 2018, but he isn’t betting his house on it. “Construction slow and challenging for many reasons,” he writes in an e-mail. Among the challenges: The course is taking shape upon a marsh that must be solidified, a painstaking process. The resort is located on Africa’s largest freshwater lake, Lake Victoria, midway between Kampala and Entebbe. It has a Roman-style hotel and a partially completed marina, and it’ll eventually have a “luxury residential complex,” meeting space, and a helipad. Golf Digest counts 15 golf properties in Uganda, and it rates Uganda Golf Club in Kampala as the nation’s best. But Serena Hotels believes it’s got the first “professional golf course” in Uganda, and it’s planning to implement a major marketing campaign to prove it.

     The original version of the preceding post first appeared in the February 2016 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.

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