Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Week That Was, february 21, 2016

     ClubCorp has added a third property to its holdings in greater Jacksonville, Florida. The publicly traded relationship builder and life enricher -- that’s how it describes itself -- shelled out $4.5 million for Marsh Creek Country Club, a 30-year-old venue in St. Augustine. The seller was an investment group led by Roger O’Steen, the developer of the club’s accompanying gated community. In a press release, O’Steen called ClubCorp “an ideal fit for the members and community,” and Eric Affeldt, ClubCorp’s president, called Marsh Creek as “a perfect complement to our nearby clubs and to the rest of the ClubCorp Network.” ClubCorp’s other Jacksonville-area properties are Deercreek Country Club and Queen’s Harbour Yacht & Country Club. The company has nine other golf properties in Florida, all of them, curiously, in the northern and central parts of the state. When it comes to golf, ClubCorp has no presence in or around Miami, West Palm Beach, Fort Myers, Naples, and other southern population centers.

     A New York City-based real estate investment trust has acquired a historic golf getaway in Vermont that opened (as a tavern and inn) before the Declaration of Independence was written. Carey Watermark Investors paid an undisclosed price for the Equinox Resort & Spa, a 1,300-acre mountain property in Manchester that’s been around, in one form or another, since 1769 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Teddy Roosevelt, Ulysses S. Grant, and Mary Todd Lincoln all reportedly slept there. (Not together, of course.) The purchase includes Golf Club at Equinox, which opened (with an 18-hole, Walter Travis-designed golf course) on July 4, 1927. (Rees Jones redesigned the track in the early 1990s.) In a press release, Carey Watermark’s CEO describes the Equinox as a “high-yielding and stable, cash-flow generating asset” and a welcome addition to the company’s portfolio of “assets that are positioned to generate attractive, near-term cash flow and increase in value over time.” Among the resort’s other attractions are nearly 200 overnight accommodations, meeting space, a spa, and fly-fishing, shooting, and falconry schools.

     Any day now, Robert Trent Jones, Jr. will reportedly break ground on his eighth golf course in China, an 18-hole track at Blue Bay International Golf Club. Details about the venture are scarce, perhaps because of the well-publicized moratorium on golf construction in the People’s Republic. Nonetheless, Blue Bay International’s unidentified developers recently opened their first course, an 18-hole layout created by Don Knott, one of Jones’ former associates. The golf complex and associated development -- houses, hotels, a marina, a theme park -- are taking shape at Gulei Port, a fast-growing area outside Zhanghou, in Fujian Province. (I suspect that the developer is Zhangzhou City Gulei Port Development Company, Ltd., but I can’t verify it.) Jones, who’s based in Palo Alto, California, has designed one other course in Fujian, Trans Strait Golf Club in Changle. The remainder of his Chinese portfolio includes a course at Spring City Golf & Lake Resort in Kunming (in Yunnan Province), Yalong Bay Golf Club on Hainan Island, and Enhance Anting Golf Club in Shanghai.

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

     China Daily reports that the vast majority of the 74 golf courses on Hainan Island are “struggling financially in a new era of frugality” and, taking the advice of a provincial tourism official, recommends that they “make the cost of play more affordable for the average person.” The director-general of the Hainan Provincial Tourism Development Commission told the state-run newspaper that roughly 70 percent of the courses on the island, a vacation spot that often likens itself to Hawaii, are losing money. The problem, he contends, is that too many of the courses are “focusing on high-end clients.” His advice: “There should be more golf courses open for regular tourists and white-collar workers.”

     Not surprisingly, those “talks” that McConnell Golf was having with Providence Country Club have led to a sale. Without disclosing a price, John McConnell’s fast-growing company has announced that it’s acquired Providence, a 27-year-old venue that describes itself as “one of Charlotte’s premier family country clubs.” In a press release, McConnell called his most recent purchase “a truly outstanding club” and committed $4 million to making it, presumably, even more outstanding. McConnell Golf’s portfolio now consists of seven golf properties in North Carolina, two in South Carolina, and one in Tennessee.

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