Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Week That Was, september 24, 2017

     In Europe these days, the golf-related word du jour is stabilized, or variations thereof.
     Earlier this month, a study issued by the European Golf Course Owners Association asserted that golf participation levels on the continent have “stabilized,” and now KPMG’s Golf Advisory Practice seconds that emotion. In “Golf Participation Report for Europe 2017,” KPMG concludes that Europe’s golf participation rate is 0.92 percent (“stable” since 2015) and that the 43 nations surveyed have a total of 6,924 “standard” golf courses, a statistically insignificant net loss of 28 over 2015. “Golf supply in the European market is currently stable,” the report notes.
     The report, which draws on information provided by the continent’s golf associations, finds stability in other areas as well. Only 12 European nations have 100,000 or more registered golfers, which is no change from the number KPMG found in its 2016 report on golf participation. In addition, the two nations with the most golfers, England and Germany, account for nearly 32 percent of Europe’s total, roughly the same share that they were credited with in the 2016 report. And the top five nations – England, Germany, Sweden, France, and the Netherlands – still account for 62 percent of Europe’s total, just as they did previously.
     For both the EGCOA and KPMG, stability is a hopeful word, as it suggests a possible end of the declines to which we’ve become accustomed. But let’s be real: Stability is a feeble substitute for growth, which is the way we used to measure our industry’s progress. After a decade of deterioration, however, it’s clear that golf is willing to take what it can get.

     Brad Pitt appears to be serious about his Croatian golf venture. The now-single movie star (Fight Club, World War Z, Moneyball, The Big Short) and winemaker (Château Miraval) recently spent a Hollywood minute on the nation’s Adriatic coast, smiling for cameras and drawing attention to the to-be-named resort community he and his Swiss partners hope to build outside the town of Šibenik. Pitt once called Croatia “the most beautiful country he has ever visited,” and he intends to further beautify it with about 1,000 houses, a hotel, schools, places to eat and drink, and a golf course. Šibenik, the oldest native Croatian city on the Adriatic, is full of historical landmarks – churches, cathedrals, fortresses – that have long attracted tourists, but these days, according to Total Croatia News, it’s “suddenly thriving.”

     Resurrection Golf LLC has assumed control of a third property in Maine that once belonged to Harris Golf. In recent years, Kevin McCarthy’s golf arm has acquired two Harris-owned venues, Old Marsh Country Club in Wells and Bath Golf Club in Bath. Now, by paying slightly more than $227,000 in overdue property taxes and roughly $1,600 in additional costs, Resurrection has picked up Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono. Harris reportedly paid $3 million for the club in 2007 but disputed the amount it was being charged for property taxes, so, in protest, it stopped paying them in 2015. Penobscot features an 18-hole, Donald Ross-designed course that opened in 1924.

     Surplus Transactions – Citing “tremendous potential” in “a beautiful area,” a Chicago-based partnership has paid $3.25 million for St. James Golf Resort, in Carrabelle, Florida. The 14-year-old club features an 18-hole, Robert Walker-designed golf course, and MJM Carrabelle LLC’s purchase includes property that could eventually become several dozen single-family houses and condos. . . . In what’s said to be its 60th year of operation, Golf Club at Maplehurst is on the cusp of a transition. An unidentified investor has reportedly agreed to buy the former private club (originally known as Maplehurst Country Club) and its 18-hole, James Harrison-designed golf course. The club, in Frostburg, Maryland, believes the sale will be “in the long-term interest of its members and the greater community.” . . . Bonnie Caldwell is retiring, and the golf course her parents built doesn’t figure to retain its 18 holes for long. Robert and Marcia Nappi have agreed to buy Kwiniaska Golf Course, in suburban Burlington, Vermont, with an eye toward building houses on nine holes. Kwiniaska emerged on former farmland in 1964.

     In Texas these days, golfers are remembering the Alamo – not necessarily the historic mission where a bloody siege took place in 1836 but the defunct golf venue in San Antonio. Alamo Golf Club closed in late July, after its 95 acres were purchased by the city of San Antonio. The city reportedly paid $7 million for the club, as part of an effort to “preserve the land as open space before it filled up with homes.” Alamo featured an 18-hole course that opened in 1993.

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