Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Week That Was, february 26, 2017

     Ever heard of Trịnh Văn Quyết? How about Phạm Nhật Vượng? Don’t worry, not many people have. As it happens, though, Quyết and Vượng are almost certainly the richest men in Vietnam – billionaires both – and examples of the intimate relationship that exists between golf and money, as they’re also the chairmen of the nation’s most active golf-development companies. Quyết leads FLC Group, which has produced such properties as FLC Sầm Sơn Golf Links in Thanh Hóa Province and FLC Quy Nhơn Golf Links in Bình Định Province. Vượng’s company, Vingroup, is responsible for Vinpearl Golf Club Nha Trang in Khánh Hòa Province and Vinpearl Golf Club Phú Quốc in Kiên Giang Province. What’s more, Quyết and Vượng have only just begun. FLC Group has several irons in the fire, notably FLC Đong Hoi Golf Links, a Mission Hills-inspired spread along the Central Coast that will feature 10 courses. Vingroup likewise has a supersized golf complex on its to-do list – a 14-course venue on Phú Quốc Island – as well as ventures in Hà Nội, Hải Phòng, Hồ Chí Minh City, and other cities. Vietnam has set out to open 96 courses by 2020, and Quyết and Vượng could very well end up owning nearly half of them.

     Just days after acquiring its first golf property in Maryland, ClubCorp acquired its fourth in Pennsylvania. For an undisclosed price, the Dallas, Texas-based owner/operator has taken possession of North Hills Country Club, in suburban Philadelphia. The club, which is said to be “thriving,” was founded in 1908, with “a true old-style championship golf course.” (The 18-hole track was designed by J. Franklin Meehan.) North Hills’ president called the sale “a win-win” and praised ClubCorp for being “a world-class organization” with “a proven track record of improving newly acquired clubs.” ClubCorp owns one other golf property in the Philadelphia area, Hartefeld National, and two in greater Pittsburgh, Diamond Run Golf Club and Treesdale Golf & Country Club. Already this year, ClubCorp has added two clubs to its golf portfolio, which now includes more than 150 properties. In all of 2016, the company added only three.

     Late last year, the President Elect described one of his golf clubs as “a special place” and its members “special people.” So imagine the chill that must have blown through the White House earlier this month, when the Treasury Department froze the assets of Samark Lopez Bello, a member of Trump National Doral Golf Club, alleging that he acts as a “front man” for a high-ranking Venezuelan government official who’s engaged in “international narcotics trafficking.” The department’s action prevents Lopez Bello from selling his multimillion-dollar condos in Miami (he reportedly owns three), but it apparently doesn’t affect his membership at Doral, presumably because he’s one of the “special people.” Message to President Trump: Instead of spending billions of dollars on a wall across the Mexican border, maybe your war on drugs should start with “extreme vetting” at your golf properties.

     Regarding Ben Crenshaw’s redesign of Lions Municipal Golf Course: Crenshaw reportedly wants the course, in Austin, Texas, to remain “affordable and playable,” and he aims to restore the routing that it had in the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s, when he could often be found playing it. “We’re going to get this right, and we’re going to have fun doing it,” he said in a comment published by Golf Advisor. Crenshaw unveiled his back-to-the-future proposal last week, and a growing number of golfers, historians, and legislators in the Lone Star State are beginning to offer their support. Of course, there’s no guarantee that Crenshaw’s plan will ever be implemented, as “Muny,” as it’s known locally, is still officially slated for development. To save it, people with money are going to have to step up bigly.

     It took eight years, but the financially troubled Peninsula Golf Club, on New Zealand’s North Island, has finally moved into its new home. The 60-year-old club now operates as Wainui Golf Club, on a 200-acre acre site in suburban Auckland. In exchange for their original, flood-plagued property, the club’s members got a new 18-hole golf course, a new clubhouse, $10 million to save for a rainy day, a soon-to-open nine-hole, par-3 layout, and a more optimistic outlook. Wainui’s course has been designed by a Canadian firm, Puddicombe Golf, which has been doing business in New Zealand since the mid 1980s. The company, founded by Sid Puddicombe and now led by his son Grant, has designed two courses in the nation, Lakes Resort Golf Course in Pauanui and Terrace Downs Golf Resort in Windwhistle, and it’s currently at work on some renovations as well. In Canada, Puddicombe does most of its work in Alberta, where it’s produced such properties as RedTail Landing in Edmonton, WhiteTail Crossing in Mundare, and Coal Creek in Ryley. Peninsula’s former property has been sold to a home builder and will become a 500-house subdivision.

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

     This year’s Asia Pacific Golf Summit will take place in one of the hottest golf destinations in what’s arguably the world’s hottest market for golf development. The three-day event will be held in Đà Nẵng, Vietnam, beginning on November 14, and it’ll be hosted by BRG Group, one of the nation’s most prominent golf developers. It’s still too early for any details to be announced, but the show’s theme will be “New Directions” and BRG has floated a tantalizing tidbit that’s hard to believe: In a press release, it says that Donald Trump, the president of the United States, plans to attend.

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