Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Week That Was, march 19, 2017

     Working with some familiar faces, Tiger Woods has promised to deliver a “unique and incredible golf experience” on Eleuthera, an island in the Bahamas. Woods’ course will take shape at Jack’s Bay, a private resort community that’s expected to feature – what else? – vacation houses and a beach club. One of the parties creating Jack’s Bay is Beacon Land Development, the group that hired Woods to design the golf course at Bluejack National, in suburban Houston, Texas, and hopes to use him for a repeat performance in suburban Nashville, Tennessee. The company claims to be “committed to delivering unique spaces in special places,” and Woods has described Jack’s Bay as a “spectacular project in paradise.” At least for a while, the golf experience at the community will be brief, because Wood’s course will have just 10 “short” holes. In the future, however, the Jupiter, Florida-based “signature” architect may be enlisted to create an 18-hole track.

     Brad Benz, who led a California-based architectural practice during the 1980s and 1990s, died last week. He began to design golf courses in the 1970s, apprenticing with Dick Phelps and J. Michael Poellot, and an obituary states that he had “an affinity for the old golf courses built by hand that utilized the existing landscape to its greatest advantage.” Benz’s best-known course is probably the 18-hole track at La Zagaleta, on Spain’s Costa del Sol, but over the years he was responsible for layouts in at least five U.S. states (among them Gainey Ranch Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona), China (Beijing Golf Club, a co-design with Poellot), England, Finland, and Mexico. He was 70, and he’d reportedly suffered from Alzheimer’s for the past 15 years.

     Just weeks after acquiring its first private club in greater Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Concert Golf Partners has acquired its second. The Newport Beach, California-based investment group has assumed control of Philmont Country Club, a 110-year-old venue with a pair of 18-hole golf courses. Generally speaking, the transaction was modeled almost exactly on Concert’s previous purchases, for the new owners have paid off Philmont’s debt, promised not to raise the members’ annual dues for two years, and pledged to invest in overdue capital improvements. What’s different this time, however, is that Concert plans to raise the money for the upgrades by selling part of Philmont’s South course. Meaning: The sale will cost the club at least nine holes. “Philmont CC is a great club with a top-rated golf course and a dedicated membership, but it had too much real estate and not enough capital,” Concert’s CEO, Peter Nanula, said in a press release. “All of these capital and real estate issues are now solved.” Philmont will complement White Manor Country Club, a property that Concert acquired in late 2016 or early 2017. In total, Concert now owns 15 properties in 10 states.

     As expected, Muirfield has solved its woman problem. By an overwhelming margin (498-123), the members of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers have voted to let women join their tradition-bound golf club, a venue that had been reserved exclusively for men since 1744. The decision was, in the words of the New York Times, “perhaps more about pragmatism than principles,” but there was no perhaps about it. Not quite a year ago, the honourable company’s members had voted to maintain Muirfield’s exclusionary policies, an act of social defiance that wasn’t appreciated by the R&A, which promptly stripped the Scottish club of its cherished place in the rotation for the Open Championship. If last week’s vote proves one thing, it’s this: Old habits may die hard, but stupidity has its limits. It’ll be a while before women actually begin to roam Muirfield’s halls, however, because the club reportedly has a two-year waiting list. Barring special treatment for female petitioners, the members of Muirfield are going to have their cake and eat it too.

     Muirfield isn’t the only golf club that became more accommodating to women last week. After reviewing its bylaws, 125-year-old Royal Adelaide Golf Club, in South Australia, decided to make full membership available to the opposite sex. The change in policy gives female members a vote in club matters and allows them to play golf seven days a week, privileges that had formerly been denied to them.

     Anyone who keeps a close eye on professional golf has no doubt noticed that this year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, the first to be held since the King died, had a hard time attracting many of the sport’s biggest stars. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia, and others skipped the event, using excuses that included injuries, scheduling problems, and even a friend’s unfortunately timed wedding. Surely, though, players could have used such alibis in the past. One suspects that they didn’t because it was difficult, if not impossible, to say “no” to Arnold Palmer. Today, alas, the Arnold Palmer Invitational isn’t much different from other events on the golf calendar, and players no longer view their absence as a sign of disrespect. The tournament says it has “a number of elements in place as a long-term strategy” to ensure its future success, but its strategy hasn’t been tested. It’s worth noting that Palmer’s design firm – like those of the other aging “signature” architects – must now learn to cope with a similar problem. Whatever he did, wherever he went, Palmer opened doors, and people were thrilled to walk through them. His legacy will be difficult to maintain.

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