Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Week That Was, november 12, 2017

     One of golf’s most influential people has left our industry’s power elites in a state of uncertainty. Giles Morgan, who formerly flexed his marketing muscle as the head of sponsorship for HSBC, has become an “independent advisor” to companies in the sports industry that might benefit from “a second opinion” about their operations. Under his direction, HSBC became the primary underwriter of the Open Championship and other high-profile golf events, and when he talked, golf listened. When he suggested, for example, that he might stop writing checks if professional tournaments continued to be held at male-only clubs, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews quickly voted to open its doors to women. Morgan hasn’t explained why he’s leaving HSBC, and the bank hasn’t outlined its future golf-related plans. As for his new job, Morgan says that the sports industry “faces one of the most exciting crossroads in its history” and that he’s “looking forward to playing a role in the next chapter in this rapidly evolving industry.” Next year, he expects to begin publishing a monthly e-newsletter called Rive Gauche, which translates as “left bank.” It’s a phrase that can be interpreted in a couple of different ways.

     With each passing day, Donald Trump becomes a larger thorn in the side of Mike Keiser. It’s bad enough that several conservation groups have joined forces to battle against Coul Links, their argument being that Keiser’s Coore & Crenshaw-designed track will threaten “an irreplaceable piece of Scotland’s natural heritage.” What’s worse is that Scottish newspapers and commentators have taken to portraying Keiser as a carbon copy of Trump, who’s now been accused of destroying the dunes that serve as the home of his failing resort in Aberdeenshire. Trump’s reputation in Scotland couldn’t be worse, and Keiser is paying the price. He and his partners recently submitted their development proposal for the Coul Links property to local officials, and they’ll most likely learn its fate before the end of the year. The Ugly American syndrome lives on.

     Pipeline Overflow – Regarding Grand Oaks Reserve, the forthcoming Chinese-financed community in suburban Houston, Texas: Mike Nuzzo has designed two nine-hole courses for the 615-acre spread, one of them a par-3 layout, along with a putting course. The whole shebang is being built by Don Mahaffey, who collaborated with Nuzzo to create Wolf Point Golf Club, the naturalist pièce de résistance outside Port Lavaca, Texas. Nuzzo says that Mahaffey is doing “minimal earthwork,” and he expects at least one of the nines to open in late 2018. . . . As part of a flood-control effort, the city of Denver, Colorado is redesigning City Park Golf Course, a parkland-style track that’s said to have “unbeatable skyline and mountain views.” The transformation is being overseen by the team of signature architect Hale Irwin and Todd Schoeder of iConGolf Studio, which previously created a course at Glacier Club in Durango, California and Lodestone Golf Club in McHenry, Maryland. The 18-hole layout at City Park is expected to re-open in 2019. . . . Monte Rei Golf & Country Club, which features the best golf course in Portugal, is serious about adding its long-delayed companion track. The club, part of what’s been described as “the rural, rugged, peaceful version of a luxury golf resort,” expects to break ground on its second Jack Nicklaus-designed layout next year, and future plans include a boutique hotel and a beach club.

    Doug Manchester’s deep pockets have put him in line to get a plum political-patronage job, so he’s ended his pursuit of a past-its-prime club in Pinehurst, North Carolina. Forest Creek Golf Club had hoped that a sale to one of San Diego’s best-known businessmen would restore its reputation as “a premier golf course destination community,” but Manchester, a major contributor to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, is now studying to become our nation’s ambassador to the Bahamas. He has no foreign policy experience, but he does own a home in the island nation, which has reportedly been without a U.S. ambassador since 2011. Forest Creek’s members will presumably renew their search for a buyer who might be interested in their property, which is anchored by a pair of 18-hole, well-regarded, Tom Fazio-designed golf courses.

     Surplus Transactions – New York City-based Blackstone Group, a gargantuan investment company, has reportedly agreed to pay $330 million for Turtle Bay Resort, a 1,300-acre spread on the northern coast of O’ahu, Hawaii. For its money, Blackstone will acquire a 450-room, resort-style hotel, a substantial amount of undeveloped property, and 18-hole golf courses that were designed by George Fazio (his course opened in 1972) and Arnold Palmer (1992). Blackstone owns some prominent hotel chains (Hilton, Wyndham, La Quinta Inns, Motel 6), and over the years it’s purchased (and later sold) several golf properties, among them two in Florida, Naples Grande Golf Club in Naples and Grande Oaks Golf Club in Fort Lauderdale. . . . Wilson Gee, a financially besieged golf-course owner in Phoenix, Arizona, has found a buyer for Club West Golf Course. The Inter Tribal Golf Association has agreed to buy Club West, a dried-out Brian Whitcomb/Ken Kavanaugh-designed track that’s said to “look horrible” and reportedly needs $4 million worth of improvements. Gee sold Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Course a year or so ago, and he’s apparently willing to sell his remaining venues, Ahwatukee Country Club and the Duke at Rancho El Dorado. . . . The clock is ticking on an 18-hole, Press Maxwell-designed golf course in Tulsa, Oklahoma. An unidentified group has acquired the struggling MeadowBrook Country Club, which has operated since 1955 and will stay open for a year or so before it meets its fate as a subdivision.

     The city of Oshkosh, Wisconsin has offered to sell part of Lakeshore Municipal Golf Course – about 35 acres – to the state’s largest federal contractor. It’s an insurance policy of sorts, as Oshkosh Corporation, a Fortune 500 company that manufactures military vehicles from its plant in the city, is looking for a new headquarters and has suggested that it might relocate to another city. A proposed agreement stipulates that the company would pay $3.5 million for the golf course property, but it would receive $13 million in tax breaks and other concessions. If the company accepts the offer, Lakeshore’s remaining 70 acres might become a park.

     Desolation Row Extended – Windtree Golf Course, an 18-hole track in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, is scheduled to close on the day before Thanksgiving. Danny Hale, one of the course’s co-owners, had hoped to secure permission to build houses on his property, but he was denied. He hasn’t announced any plans for the future, but the Lebanon Democrat reports that he’s received an offer for the 26-year-old course. . . . By the end of the year, Brooklyn Country Club – “a cute little golf course for families or people who aren’t that great at golfing,” according to one of its longtime customers – will bite the dust. The club, in eastern Connecticut, features a nine-hole track that opened in 1960. Its owner, Richard Riges, told the Norwich Bulletin that he’s “unsure” about the property’s future. . . . The future of Reidy Creek Golf Course, an 18-hole, par-3 layout in Escondido, California, is in jeopardy. The course, one of two owned by the city, has lost money since it opened in 2002, and its 54 acres represent a potential source of income that can’t be ignored. “It’s a loss every year,” Escondido’s city manager said in a comment published by the San Diego Union-Tribune. “That’s not sustainable. It has to stop.” The city is reportedly weighing its options.

     Luke Donald, part of the next wave of signature architects, set out to design one of the best courses in Vietnam, and it appears that he’s succeeded. Donald’s 18-hole layout at Bà Nà Hills Golf Club, which opened last year on the outskirts of Đà Nẵng, has been honored as the World’s Best New Course by the World Golf Awards, the Best New Course in the Asia Pacific by the Asia Pacific Golf Summit, and, most recently, as the Best New Course 2016-17 by Việt Nam Golf magazine. Of course, some credit for these accolades should go to Brit Stenson of IMG Golf, who held Donald’s hand through the design process.

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