Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Week That Was, june 25, 2017

     Last week, the golf industry lost one of its living legends. Sandy Tatum, who contributed mightily to a sport that he grew up with and loved deeply, died at the age of 96. Mike Davis, the executive director of the U.S. Golf Association, called him “one of the great individuals ever involved with golf,” and he wasn’t exaggerating. Tatum was what people used to call “a Renaissance man.” He was a Rhodes Scholar, an amateur golf champion, a lawyer, a golf-course designer, a president of the U.S. Golf Association, and the chairman of the First Tee of San Francisco. He co-designed Links at Spanish Bay, one of the courses at Pebble Beach, but he was probably best known for turning a neglected municipal course in San Francisco’s Harding Park into a tournament-quality venue. TPC Harding Park hosted a Presidents Cup competition in 2009, and in 2020 it’ll host the PGA Championship. For all his accomplishments, though, Tatum was arguably not as well-known as he should’ve been, especially to younger golfers. That being said, few in our business have been held in higher regard. He was everything that most of golf’s institutional leaders aspire to be.

     ClubCorp has remembered an important lesson from business school: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. The world leader in private clubs, to use the company’s trademarked phrase, has made some sort of alliance with Topgolf as part of its continuing effort to provide value to its 430,000 members. The exact nature of the relationship hasn’t been spelled out, but a press release suggests that Topgolf will establish “the connections that bring people together for unforgettable good times” by installing its ball-tracking technology at ClubCorp’s driving ranges, so as to provide “a more interactive, gamified experience.” In addition, it appears that some ClubCorp properties will begin using Topgolf’s Topgolf Swing Suite, which is described as “a social experience” that involves golf simulators, big-screen TVs, and other necessities vital to an unforgettable golf experience, notably “comfortable lounge seating” and timely “food and beverage service.” These and other fun ideas will no doubt be popular when it’s too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, too early, or too late to play actual golf.

    ClubCorp is probably going to install a Topgolf-branded golf simulator at Medina Golf & Country Club, in suburban Minneapolis. Last week, the operations goliath announced that it has paid an undisclosed price for Medina, a nearly 50-year-old venue that claims to be “thriving” but nonetheless requires more than $2.5 million in capital improvements. Medina, which has described the transaction as “a win-win,” features an 18-hole Charles Maddox-designed golf course and a nine-hole, par-3 track. It’s ClubCorp’s first property in Minnesota and the company’s fifth acquisition of 2017. According to a press release, ClubCorp now has a presence in 28 U.S. states.

     The partnership created last year between professional golfer Louis Oosthuizen and golf-course architect Peter Matkovich is beginning to pay dividends. The collaborators have been hired to design the second 18-hole golf course at Heritage Golf Club, the centerpiece of a 6,250-acre resort on the island of Mauritius. The new course is scheduled to open in late 2019. In a press release, Oosthuizen promised a track that “perfectly balances the challenge of a championship layout with the element of fun that needs to be incorporated into any golf course.” Heritage, which markets itself as “an idyllic destination within a utopian island,” features two hotels, a dozen restaurants, a nature reserve, a beach club, and other attractions. Its existing course, a Matkovich design, will host this year’s AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open.

     Pipeline Overflow – The biggest hotel company in Cuba, Grupo Hotelero Gaviota, intends to build an 18-hole golf course near one of its properties in Varadero. A timetable hasn’t been announced, but the track is expected to take shape on 175 acres near the Meliá Marina Varadero, a 423-room waterfront venue. Gaviota, an entity controlled by Cuba’s military, owns several dozen hotels (at least 25,000 total rooms), a large number of them in and around Varadero, where tourists can find Cuba’s one and only 18-hole golf course. . . . A “traditional” golf club in Oxfordshire, England is having its “back-to-the-future” moment. Huntercombe Golf Club has commissioned Tim Lobb to prepare a master plan for improvements to its Willie Park, Jr.-designed course, a track that Lobb believes is “unique” and “historically significant.” The course has operated since 1901. Lobb will modernize the track while maintaining its classic look and feel, a job that’s expected to take several years to complete. . . . The owner of a tourist attraction in South Africa’s Limpopo Province wants to build a golf course. Tiveka Mathumbu hasn’t said how many holes the course will have, but it’ll take shape at her Tiveka Lodge, an 830-acre spread that caters to vacationers seeking to view big-game animals in their native habitats. Mathumbu hopes to open the course within five years.

     Pat Barber has doubled down on a golf investment he made well over a decade ago. Barber, the owner of Links at Stono Ferry in Hollywood, South Carolina, has reportedly paid $900,000 for the Plantation Course at Edisto, the only course on the state’s Edisto Island. With two golf courses, Barber figures he’ll be able to sell dual memberships, offer stay-and-play packages, and attract more events. “It made great sense,” he told the Charleston Post & Courier. Barber bought the Planation, a 206-acre spread, from a group operating as Edisto Golf LLC. Its course, designed by Tom Jackson, opened in 1974, as Oristo Golf Course.

     Surplus Transactions – Promising to give the residents of Godfrey, Illinois “a great place to play golf at a very fair rate,” Heinz Peter and his son, Heinz Peter, Jr., have acquired a financially troubled property that now operates as Golf at Lockhaven. The property, which was formerly known as Lockhaven Golf Club and, before that, as Lockhaven Country Club, has been around since the mid 1950s. Its golf course was designed by Robert B. Harris. . . . The town of West Bridgewater, Massachusetts has purchased River Bend Country Club. Gerry Cosby accepted $4.5 million for the 167-acre property, which features an 18-hole golf course that was co-designed by Phil Wogan and George Sargent. The town, which is looking to preserve open space, has turned over course operations to a third-party manager. . . . Chuck and Joni Klein have purchased Wildhorse Golf Club, an 18-year-old venue in Davis, California. Wildhorse’s practice facilities are said to be “among the best in Northern California,” and readers of the Davis Enterprise say the club’s 18-hole, Jeff Brauer-designed layout is the “Best Golf Course in Yolo County.”

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