Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Week That Was, october 8, 2017

     In Scotland, Donald Trump’s golf company is fighting losing battles against environmentalists, elected officials, angry neighbors, an off-shore wind farm, the sponsor of the Scottish Open, and, most distressingly, its own bottom line. The Associated Press, citing figures from the annual financial report that Trump Golf files with the British government, reports that the U.S. President’s Scottish golf resorts have lost money for the third consecutive year, with 2016’s deficits amounting to £17.6 million ($23 million). The golf operations at the resorts, Trump Turnberry and Trump International Golf Links Scotland, posted a 22 percent decline in revenues, falling from £11.4 million ($14.9 million) in 2015 to £9 million ($11.8 million) in 2016. Trump Golf blamed the losses on Turnberry being closed for renovations for part of the year and on currency fluctuations. Nonetheless, the news prompted a headline writer at Newsweek to ask, “Does Scotland Hate Donald Trump?” A year ago, when 2015’s financial results were published, Eric Trump stated that he expected Turnberry to “return to profitability in the short to medium term.” This year, he called attention to the resort’s “excellent reviews,” while a spokesperson for Trump Golf declined to comment.

     Unlike the American president, American Golf Corporation wants no hint of a relationship with the Ku Klux Klan. The El Segundo, California-based owner/operator, a longtime giant in our industry, has changed the name of a golf property in Tennessee that was named after Nathan Bedford Forrest, a wealthy plantation owner and slave trader who became a Confederate general and, after the Civil War, a grand wizard of our nation’s original terrorist group. The venue, in Franklin, had been called Forrest Crossing Golf Course. It’s now known simply as The Crossing. “We believe that the game of golf is a sport that can help bring people together despite their differences,” a spokesperson for American Golf said by way of explanation, “and want everyone to feel welcome to play this beautiful course.” The Crossing is American Golf’s only property in the Volunteer State and, presumably, the only one in its entire portfolio that honors a racist.

     Early next year, one of Vietnam’s premier golf developers expects to break ground on a resort community, featuring an 18-hole golf course, in Nghệ An Province, along the nation’s Central Coast. Hà Nội-based FLC Group, which aims to have 20 courses in its portfolio by 2020, has secured permission to build Nghệ An Beach & Golf Resort on 1,150 acres in a pair of villages located roughly 40 miles south of Thanh Hóa. In addition to the golf course, Nghệ An has been master-planned to include houses, up to 2,500 hotel and condo-hotel units, a convention center, an “interactive zoo,” an “extreme sport zone,” and a campground. A course designer hasn’t been identified, but either Nicklaus Design or Schmidt-Curley Design may have the inside track on the commission, as they have relationships with FLC Group. The former is responsible for 18-hole layouts that opened last year at FLC Sầm Sơn Golf Links in Thanh Hóa Province and FLC Quy Nhơn Golf Links in Bình Định Province, while the latter has produced a second course at FLC Quy Nhơn as well as FLC Hạ Long Bay Golf Club & Resort in Quảng Ninh Province. In addition, Schmidt-Curley has been hired to design the first two courses (of an expected 10) that will emerge at FLC Đong Hoi Golf Links, a 7,500-acre golf community in Quảng Bình Province. By my count, FLC Group has 15 existing and forthcoming courses, which means that it still has five that haven’t been announced. Today, only Vingroup has golf ambitions that equal or exceed FLC Group’s, and both companies have gone whole hog on golf for the same reason: It’s “a perfect way to leverage [their] real estate holdings.”

     Some information in the preceding post first appeared in the January 2016, May 2016, and August 2016 issues of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.

     Pipeline Overflow – Gary Player has agreed to oversee a renovation of the 43-year-old golf course at Soweto Country Club, in Johannesburg, South Africa. The work is expected to begin before the end of the year, and it’ll include upgrades to the 18-hole track’s tees, greens, and bunkers. Player, the course’s original designer, believes the club “plays an important part in the local community and deserves to be the very best it can be to represent Soweto and South Africa proudly.” . . . Brad Pitt isn’t alone in thinking that Croatia is made to order for golf development. Since 2015, a local group has been trying to secure permission to build Larun Golf & Yacht Resort on state-owned property in Tar-Vabriga, a village in Istria County. In addition to an 18-hole course, the 320-acre resort community will feature 130 villas, a hotel, a marina, and an olive grove. . . . A defunct 18-hole course in Geneva, New York may be revived as a nine-hole track that could open in 2018. Greg Missick, who bought the former Seneca Lake Country Club last year, wants to transform the property into Seneca Turk Resort Winery, which will feature a banquet center and a tasting room. The Finger Lakes Times reports that Missick is working with a course architect but doesn’t identify who he or she is.

     A resort in Genoa City, Wisconsin once dubbed “the Catskills of the Midwest” has changed hands. The National Hellenic Museum in Chicago, which celebrates “the contributions of Greek Americans to the American mosaic,” has sold Nippersink Golf Club & Resort, a 171-acre spread that includes a 46-room hotel, a banquet center, three dozen cottages and single-family houses, and an 18-hole, James Foulis-designed golf course that’s operated since 1922. In the 1930s and 1940s the resort, on Lake Tombeau, was a popular entertainment venue (it appears that Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett performed there) and a favored gathering spot for Chicago-area gangsters. Neither the buyer nor the price has been revealed, but Chris Charnas of Links Capital Advisors had listed the property for $1.2 million.

     Surplus Transactions – For an undisclosed price, David Spirk has agreed to purchase a 27-hole complex, including an 18-hole, Donald Ross-designed golf course, in Hellertown, Pennsylvania. The complex’s Ross course opened in 1948, as part of Bethlehem Steel Club, got its third nine in 1958, and assumed its current identity, as Silver Creek Country Club, in 1986, when the steel company decided that funding a club for its employees was a waste of money. Spirk, a developer, intends to build houses, including houses for seniors, on some of Silver Creek’s 280 acres. . . . Jonathan and Donald Hoening, who reportedly believe that public golf should be “accessible and affordable,” have acquired at Melody Hill Country Club in suburban Providence, Rhode Island. Melody Hill, which features an 18-hole layout that opened in 1976, will complement the brothers’ Raceway Golf Club, in Thompson, Connecticut. They also manage Dudley Hill Golf Club in Dudley, Massachusetts. . . . As part of an effort to preserve open space and provide affordable golf, the village of Johnsburg, Illinois has agreed to buy the 18-hole Chapel Hill Golf Course. The 100-acre property, located in the town of McHenry, has operated since 1969, and it claims to be “truly a staple of Northwest Chicagoland golf.” The sale price hasn’t been disclosed, but the village has set out to secure a $1.1 million loan.

     Ernie Els will receive next year’s Old Tom Morris Award, the highest honor that the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America can bestow. The award has been presented annually since 1983 to an individual who’s made “a lifetime commitment to the game of golf” and “helped to mold the welfare of the game in a manner and style exemplified by Old Tom Morris.” It’s previously gone to entertainers (Bob Hope, Dinah Shore), journalists (Dan Jenkins), developers (Herb Kohler), and to a parade of professional golfers who, like Els, became “signature” architects, among them Ben Crenshaw, Nancy Lopez, Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Arnold Palmer, and Annika Sorenstam. The GCSAA, citing Els’ many professional accomplishments and humanitarian activities, called the South African star “one of the greats of the game” who “elevates the human spirit in all of us to be better people and a more compassionate society.” Els said he was “honored” to receive the award and praised superintendents for being “as vital to this game as anyone.”

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