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Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Week That Was, april 2, 2017

     Last year, Golf Digest published a picture of Greg “the Living Brand” Norman in his private jet, eyes peering across an endless horizon, ostensibly contemplating his boundless future. In the accompanying story, the LB promised that he’d soon unveil unique enterprises that would make Greg Norman Company “a force on the landscape of golf and beyond.” Last week, we learned more about how the force will be with us, as the LB and Verizon unveiled “a bold vision to make the game more cutting edge” by using “innovative and disruptive technology” that will “change the way people play and view” the game of golf. Details are in short supply, but the LB boldly claims that he intends to do a whole bunch of stuff that our industry’s leaders have failed to do, namely “provide the golfer with a better experience on the course, introduce new people to the game, and help golf grow alongside the technology innovations that are happening across other industries.” Read between the lines, and it’s apparent that the LB thinks the future of golf will be in the palm of our hands. It’s possible that his new initiative, whatever it turns out to be, will be good for golf, but the cynic in me suspects that it’ll be better for the LB and Verizon.

     The first golf course designed by Arnold Palmer didn’t stay on the market for long. For an undisclosed price, a trio of investors has agreed to buy Indian Lake Golf Club, an 18-hole venue in Central City, Pennsylvania that the late King once described as “something that I will always remember.” The transaction is expected to close later this month. The property was offered for sale last October, and the Somerset Daily American reports that Indian Lake’s members accepted GCIL LLC’s price in January. The prospective owners, a group that includes the club’s pro, will reportedly operate the facility as a “premier public resort.” They’ve also given it a new name: Golf Club at Indian Lake.

     No details are available, but Wanango Golf Club has changed hands in what’s been called “a Chapter 11 bankruptcy sale.” The club, in Reno, Pennsylvania (it’s north of Pittsburgh, in the northwestern corner of the state), has operated since 1914, and it can claim a distinctive heritage, as three monumental architects have at one time or another laid their hands on its 18-hole golf course. According to the club, Donald Ross and Tom Bendelow were responsible for Wanango’s original layout, and A. W. Tillinghast later redesigned it. The Oil City Derrick reports that the club is now owned by three of the club’s members.

     Golf development often gets a bad rap in nations where the game is just beginning to take hold, as it’s typically viewed as the purview of wealthy, powerful, and completely self-interested developers. That’s one of the story lines these days in Vietnam, where a major golf developer, FLC Group, has apparently continued to work on a golf course despite receiving a cessation order from environmental authorities. The course, a Brian Curley design at FLC Hạ Long Bay Golf Club & Resort, in Quảng Ninh Province, is now nearly complete and scheduled to open this fall. Last year, however, FLC’s construction crews reportedly damaged roughly 100 nearby houses, leading to stop-work orders that Tuoi Tre News says “seem to have fallen on deaf ears.” Making a bad matter worse, FLC’s compensation to the homeowners is said to be coming “in a very sluggish manner.” This kind of behavior gives golf a bad name, and the fast-growing golf business in Vietnam doesn’t need one of its prime movers acting irresponsibly or flouting the law. Vietnam aims to have 96 courses in operation by 2020, but it can’t achieve its goal if public opinion turns against golf.

     Pipeline Overflow – Planning officials in Norwich, England have approved a redevelopment plan for the Royal Norwich Golf Club property, which means that the club now expects to break ground on its new home any day now. Royal Norwich’s members will continue to play on their James Braid-designed layout until 2019. Their forthcoming course has been designed by Ross McMurray of European Golf Design. . . . Cần Thơ City, in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, wants to inject more life into its economy, and it’s getting help from a prominent golf developer. The city is said to be working with Vingroup to build “a system of hotels, golf courses, and resorts” that would spark home building and attract tourists. . . . The Nigerian army wants to build a golf course, but it’s stirred a controversy with its financing idea: It wants its officers to cough up part of their salaries to pay for the track’s design and construction. “We’re fighting Boko Haram, herdsmen, and some economic saboteurs across the country right now, and they brought this?” an officer asked incredulously. “Why are they always finding different ways to extort officers?” If the dispute is settled, the course will take shape in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city.

     From the Department of Smoke & Fire: Though he hasn’t been accused of doing anything illegal, Phil “the Gambler” Mickelson has threatened to plead the Fifth if he’s called to testify in Billy Walters’ insider-trading trial. As most everyone knows, Mickelson made a bundle ($931,000) in the stock market by trading on tips from Walters, and he paid the money back (plus interest) when the Securities & Exchange Commission asked him to. So what’s preventing Mickelson from taking the stand? While he’s completely within his rights to invoke his constitutional rights in this matter, does his stance make him look like he’s guilty of something?

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