Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Week That Was, october 16, 2016

     One of the high flyers in China’s golf business has acquired a high-profile golf portfolio in greater Seattle, Washington, a place it reportedly views as “a gateway into the North American golf market.”
     An affiliate of HNA Group, the owner of more than a dozen golf venues in the People’s Republic, has reportedly paid $137.5 million for eight properties assembled by Oki Golf, a group led by former Microsoft executive Scott Oki. The collection consists of Golf Club at Hawks Prairie in Lacey (36 holes), Golf Club at Newcastle in Newcastle (36 holes), Golf Club at Redmond Ridge in Redmond, Harbour Pointe Golf Club in Mukilteo, Indian Summer Golf & Country Club in Olympia, Plateau Club in Sammamish, Trophy Lake Golf & Casting in Port Orchard, and Washington National Golf Club in Auburn.
     HNA Group is an aviation company -- it offers flights to and from several cities in China and the United States, including Seattle -- with a hospitality division that owns and/or manages more than 80 hotels in something like 30 Chinese cities. It owns seven golf properties on Hainan Island, among them Kangle Garden International Golf Club and Sun River Golf Club, and four others elsewhere in the nation. The company owns two other golf properties in the United States -- Nicklaus Club Monterey (formerly Pasadera Country Club) in Monterey, California and Somers Pointe Golf Club in Somers, New York -- and in 2013 it entered into a partnership with Nicklaus Design’s Chinese affiliate that was expected to lead to “the re-design and re-branding of many of the HNA facilities.”
     Oki Golf no longer owns any golf properties. It’ll continue to operate the courses that it’s sold to HNA Group as well as one other -- Golf Club at Echo Falls in Snohomish -- that it sold last year. Oki reportedly sold Echo Falls to an unnamed “international investment group.”

     Finally, Mike Keiser is acting on advice that he’s been getting for years: He’s going to build Bandon Dunes’ next course -- the resort’s fifth 18-hole track -- on waterfront property currently occupied by the free-form Sheep Ranch layout he co-owns with Phil Friedmann
     “It should happen in the next two years,” the Chicago-based developer told Golf Advisor.
     Keiser has identified Gil Hanse as “the front runner” for the design commission, and Hanse’s mouth is already watering.”The Sheep Ranch is the best site we’ve ever seen for a new golf course,” he told the online news service. “When Jim [Wagner] and I walked the property, we were doing cartwheels.”
     The minimally maintained Sheep Ranch course, which has 13 Tom Doak-designed greens but no tees and no real beginning or end, is the worst-kept secret in golf. Though its existence has for years been denied by the folks at Bandon Dunes, knowledgeable visitors know where it is and who to call to make a tee time. And, as Hanse has indicated, it’s a tee time that’s worth making. Keiser says the site is “spectacular,” and Josh Lesnik of KemperSports, the operator of Bandon Dunes, thinks it’s “crazy good” and “really unbelieveable.”
     Sheep Ranch’s disappearance will disappoint some of Bandon Dunes’ customers, but Keiser needs to protect his most precious asset. The resort already faces strong competition from well-regarded venues in Nova Scotia (Cabot Links) and Florida (Streamsong), and next year it’ll get a Keiser-created rival in Wisconsin (Sand Valley). A fifth course at Bandon Dunes would certainly keep the tourist traffic flowing, especially if Hanse can deliver a track equal to those already created by David McLay Kidd, Tom Doak, and Coore & Crenshaw.

     Things aren’t just going badly for Donald “the Nominee” Trump on the campaign trail, as his golf properties in Scotland lost £9.5 million (almost $11.6 million) between them last year. Trump Turnberry, which was undergoing a renovation that depressed income, was the big loser, as it was £8.4 million ($10.2 million) in the red. In a statement to British authorities, Eric Trump said that he expects the property to “return to profitability in the short to medium term.” For what it’s worth, Trump’s course in Aberdeenshire hasn’t turned a profit since it opened in 2012.

     Phil “the Gambler” Mickelson has found another revenue stream. The three-time Masters champion will join Bubba Watson and Lee Trevino as “ambassadors” for the Greenbrier, a historic golf resort and PGA Tour venue in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. “My family, like all others who have visited the resort, loves the Greenbrier,” Mickelson said in a press release. The financial terms of the agreement haven’t been disclosed, but Mickelson will be moving into a house at the resort’s Greenbrier Sporting Club -- “a wonderful community,” according to Mickelson -- and he’s agreed to help Jim Justice, the Greenbrier’s owner, market the emerging Oakhurst community, which will feature a golf course that’s been co-designed by Trevino, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and the late Arnold Palmer. Mickelson, who’s had several brushes with the law of late, collected more than $50 million last year in golf-related endeavors.

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