Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Week That Was, august 28, 2016

     Pacific Links International has closed on the sale of Pete Dye Golf Club, its top-rated U.S. golf property. The new owner of the club, in Bridgeport, West Virginia, is Randy Buzzo, a local auto dealer who told the Dominion Post that he loves to play “the best courses in the world.” If that’s the case, Buzzo has aced his first golf acquisition, because the club’s Pete Dye-designed track checks in at #53 on Golf Digest’s current list of America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses. PLI hasn’t said why it wanted to sell one of its most prestigious assets, but its golf portfolio is shrinking fast. Since March 2015, the Chinese/Canadian company has sold (or agreed to sell) three courses on the island of O’ahu in Hawaii (Kapolei Golf Course, Olomana Golf Links, and Royal Hawaiian Golf Club) as well as DragonRidge Country Club in suburban Las Vegas, Nevada. Buzzo, one of Pete Dye’s members, says that he bought the 21-year-old club “as a passion.” These days, such passions sell for $2.7 million.

     Peter Thomson, one of Australia’s most prolific “signature” architects, has retired from the design business. He cited his age -- he turned 87 last week -- and “declining health” as the reasons for his retirement.
     Thomson may not be very well-known in the United States, but he’s one of the greatest golfers of all time. By Wikipedia’s count, he had 89 victories as a professional. Beginning in 1954, he won the Open Championship three consecutive times, a nearly impossible feat, and he won it again in 1958 and in 1965. What’s more, he also had three second-place finishes in the event.
     Thompson began to design golf courses in the early 1960s. Over the years, he and various associates -- Michael Wolveridge, Ross Perrett, and Tim Lobb -- designed, redesigned, or renovated more than 200 courses, the majority of them in Australia, Asia, and Southeast Asia.
     The firm’s work isn’t universally admired. Here, for example, is how Darius Oliver of Planet Golf sums up Thomson’s legacy: “Thomson Perrett don’t build bad golf courses, but Australia is a sophisticated market and Aussie golfers tend to demand more than just nice-looking holes. The company would need to reinvent itself to repair some of the damage done by a decade of what could be viewed as substandard work, the sins of poor design compounded by the fact that some of their projects were on such fine golf land.”
     Despite such criticism, Thomson and his partners have had a hand in designing or redesigning at least 10 courses that Golf Digest ranks among its top 100 in Australia, a group that includes Royal Adelaide Golf Club in South Australia (#12), the Legends and Open courses at Moonah Links in Victoria (#19 and #31), Royal Sydney Golf Club in New South Wales (#24), Barwon Heads Golf Club in Victoria (#25), the Ocean course at National Golf Club in Victoria (#30), Hamilton Island Golf Club in Queensland (#37), and Links Hope Island in Queensland (#41). They’ve also produced courses in China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Scotland, Singapore, Thailand, and Turkey.
     In recent years, Thomson has operated through two firms, South Melbourne-based Thomson Perrett Golf Course Architects and London, England-based Thomson Perrett & Lobb. It appears that the firms will be dissolved, with Thomson’s associates hanging out their own shingles. A press release announcing Thomson’s retirement notes that Lobb’s office will henceforth operate as Lobb & Partners, while Perrett will complete the commissions currently on the books as he proceeds through “the process of rebranding the company.”
     Thomson’s retirement ought to remind us that other aging “signature” architects -- Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Gary Player notable among them -- will also be leaving the business before long. All of them thrived during a remarkable era when golf development, propelled by a parade of former professional stars, spread across the planet. They all capitalized on their fame, fashioning astonishing second careers, and collectively they had a tremendous influence on public perceptions of golf. Each in his own way is a titan who contributed mightily to our business.

     The owners of Castle Stuart Golf Links, one of Scotland’s most celebrated modern golf venues, are combing the world to find investors willing to fund their long-term development plans. Mark Parsinen and Grant Sword have retained an international real-estate consulting firm, Christie & Company, to help jump-start their next round of construction, which will include an Arnold Palmer “signature” golf course, a boutique hotel, and renovations designed to turn their resort’s 17th-century castle into luxurious overnight accommodations. Christie has been directed to find “a major new partner who would enjoy the development opportunity, share our vision, and help us finish what we’ve started here.” Castle Stuart, which occupies 425 acres in Inverness, has already secured funding, or at least some of it, for its second championship-worthy course, thanks to an equity investment from Palmer’s Orlando, Florida-based design group. Palmer’s track will complement the resort’s existing course, a Parsinen/Gil Hanse co-design that’s hosted the Scottish Open four times. After Castle Stuart completes its forthcoming phase of construction, it aims to add 148 lodges, a larger hotel, and a nine-hole, par-3 golf course.

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

     A substantial minority interest in one of the Middle East’s best-known golf properties -- “truly one of the world's great undiscovered seaside courses,” according to its designer -- has been passed from one arm of the Omani government to another. Omran, the group that oversees Oman’s tourism investments, has acquired 40 percent of Al Mouj Muscat, a high-end community that features, among other things, an 18-hole, Greg Norman-designed golf course. Norman, who sometimes refers to himself as “the Living Brand,” once described the track as being “among the best I have ever designed worldwide.” Al Mouj, originally known as the Wave, is being co-developed by the sultanate and Majid Al Futtaim Properties, a firm based in the United Arab Emirates. Omran’s stake in the community had previously been owned by Oman’s ministry of finance.

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