Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Week That Was, january 14, 2018

     Giles Morgan is still complaining about golf’s failure to keep up with changing times. In a post at Rive Gauche, his online newsletter, the former head of sponsorship for HSBC – he orchestrated the bank’s support of the Open Championship and other high-profile golf events – once again warns that the sport “is losing relevance with new audiences and looking increasingly out of touch with what society wants and expects.” Before it’s too late, he argues, our business must find its “epiphany moment,” or else it risks the possibility of “extinction.” Golf’s institutional leaders haven’t commented on the post, but one suspects that they have a cheerier assessment.

     While the Very Stable Genius was giving himself a nice, fat, juicy tax break, the Scottish government was taking away one he’s enjoyed for years. Trump Turnberry, the premier property in the Trump Organization’s portfolio, has lost roughly £110,000 ($151,000) in annual financial relief that it previously earned because it had been declared to be, in the words of Newsweek, one of the nation’s “struggling businesses.“ It’s worth noting that the U.S. President has few friends in Scotland (or, for that matter, anywhere else in the British Isles), mostly because of issues related to his golf resort in Aberdeenshire. The organization has broken many promises about what would eventually emerge at Trump International Golf Links Scotland, and it’s long been engaged in an ugly legal battle against a proposed off-shore wind farm that could be seen from the property. And, in an irony that’s hard to miss, the organization gripes incessantly about one alternative energy installation near its property but endorses the construction of who knows how many oil rigs along U.S. coastlines. Sad!

     If you believe the Very Stable Genius, Nigeria is a “shithole" country where everybody lives in huts. Nonetheless, a Chinese company recently staged a ceremonial groundbreaking on Virgin City, a large-scale spread outside Calabar, the capital of Cross River State. Mark Sino Construction Company has master-planned Virgin City to include all the suburban amenities you’d expect, including hotels, schools, a “water world fairground,” manufacturing facilities, a hospital, and a golf course. Our clueless president may not believe that anybody plays golf in Nigeria, but it’s time for him to wake up. The nation has 50 golf courses, according to Golf Digest, that serve as a leisure-time distraction for the people who are hard at work creating one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. According to Knight Frank’s most recent wealth report, in 2016 its capital city, Lagos, was home to 6,800 millionaires, 360 multi-millionaires (people worth $10 or more), and 110 ultrahigh-worth individuals (people worth $30 million or more). And if predictions come true, by the end of the 21st century it’ll be the world’s third most-populous nation, behind India and China. And here’s what should be really troubling to the White House: To build Virgin City, Mark Sino is doing the same thing that another big Chinese company did at Baha Mar, in the Bahamas, which is bring in thousands of countrymen-laborers who’ll eventually take most of their earnings home with them. China is laying economic claims (and with them, political influence) all over Africa while the United States sits on the sidelines, mistakenly believing it can win the future without playing in the game.

   At the groundbreaking for Virgin City, the mayor of Calabar delivered a discouraging message for America Firsters. He recalled a trip he’d made to Jilin Province, the home of Mark Sino, calling it “a fantastic place” that’s “far more civilized than America.” The Very Stable Genius may not wish to admit it, but Nigerians are laughing at us.

     Regarding the forthcoming 18-hole golf course at Cabot Links: The location of the hoped-for track has upset some residents of Inverness, Nova Scotia. Mike Keiser, Ben Cowan-Dewar, and the other investors who’ve already opened two destination-worthy layouts at their Canadian resort are angling to build their next regulation-length course on some supposedly protected provincial parkland. The developers are viewed by local elected officials as extremely good neighbors – heck, they’ve injected some substantial life into an economically moribund area – so there’s a better than even chance that their wish will come true. But it may happen later rather than sooner.

     A trio of investors, among them starchitect Tom Fazio, have purchased Forest Creek Golf Club, a fading venue in Pinehurst, North Carolina that just so happens to feature a pair of well-regarded, Fazio-designed golf courses. Fazio believes that Forest Creek’s 18-hole tracks offer “one of the truly elite golfing experiences in this country” and are “at the top of my accomplishments as a golf course architect.” Bobby McCann and his partners reportedly paid $9.6 million for Forest Creek, the centerpiece of a 1,265-acre spread that was originally developed by an entity affiliated with Barton Tuck’s GolfSouth. McCann’s group bought the club (as well as more than 100 residential lots in the community) from 189 members who reportedly shelled out $15 million for the property in 2013. The members thought they’d found a buyer roughly a year ago, when a California-based group raised hopes of “re-establishing Forest Creek as a premier golf course destination community.” Luckily for them, the new owners have made the same promise.

     Speaking of Barton Tuck and Tom Fazio, one of their top-rated courses in North Carolina was shuttered in the waning days of 2017. Bright’s Creek Golf Club, a bankrupt, 18-year-old venue outside Hendersonville, was developed by GolfSouth, and its featured attraction is a Fazio-designed, 18-hole track that Golf Digest views as the #18 course in the state. The club, part of a 4,600-acre community, failed to sell at a bankruptcy auction some months ago, and its receiver recently reported that lawsuits have prevented him from “receiving the necessary funding to continue club operations.”

     Desolation Row Extended – Despite a recent re-do by Tom Doak, one of our nation’s highest-profile nine-hole golf courses has bitten the dust. Aetna Springs Golf Course, in Pope Valley, California, ended its 125-year run a few days ago, as it failed to generate a following. It’s hard to believe, but the course attracted only 4,800 rounds last year. Here’s another fact that’s hard to believe: Aetna Springs appears to be the seventh Doak-designed course to go dark. Its owners are said to be negotiating a sale to a buyer who reportedly thinks the site is a good location for houses. . . . Barely two years after a promised “repositioning and revitalization,” the owners of the Meadows, in Sarasota, Florida, are thinking about pulling the plug on half of their 54-hole complex. Citing comments by the Meadows’ community association, WWSB-TV reports that “dwindling memberships has caused some financial difficulties for the country club,” which features two Frank Duane-designed tracks and one by Arthur Hills. No word on which holes are on the chopping block. . . . The lights have been turned out at Naples Golf & Country Club, which had operated in greater Portland, Maine for nearly a century. The club’s shareholders are looking to sell their property, which features an 18-hole course that opened in two phases, in 1921 and in 2000.

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