Monday, November 28, 2011

The Week That Was, november 27, 2011

china Illegal Activities Continue

Moratoriums be damned: The first of four planned 18-hole golf courses at a big resort community in Yunnan Province is scheduled to open in early 2012.

That's the word from Troon Golf, which has been tapped to manage the 7,000-yard, Joe Obringer-designed track at Gaoligong Golf Club. Hengyi Group, the club’s developer, has promised that it’ll be “one of China’s finest golf courses.”

To be sure, the track won’t be a pushover. A press release issued earlier this year says it’s been “designed for strategic and creative shot-making, with forced carries and small target areas.”

The club will be part of Gaoligong International Tourist City, which is taking shape in Tengchong, a mountain town 250 miles west of Kunming. The city will eventually consist of “an ecological residential area,” a hotel, an equestrian center, a theme park, and three more 18-hole golf courses.

Obringer, the principal of Atlanta, Georgia-based JFO Design, has has designed more than a half-dozen courses in China. He's been working in the People's Republic for decades -– he served as one of Nicklaus Design’s field architects for nearly 15 years –- and he made news in late 2009, when he agreed to co-design the Mickelson “signature” course that will be part of the massive World community in Tianjin.

In a recent press release, Ryan Walls of Troon Golf characterized golf in China as a “growing game” but noted that development activity “has slowed over the last few months,” probably as a result of that aggravating moratorium on golf construction.

That being said, Walls believes that some “specific parts of Asia” -- Vietnam and Malaysia in particular -- continue to offer “significant development opportunity.”

“A lot of governments are seeing the value in tourism locations like Vietnam and Malaysia,” he said. “That will continue to grow.”

Walls also believes that “there’s a tremendous amount of demand for golf in Korea,” although a recent story in the Korea Times suggests otherwise. The Times reports that economic hard times are putting a financial squeeze on the nation's golf business and that “a slew of bankruptcies among the courses are imminent.”

Some information in this post originally appeared in the May 2011 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.

united states Will Trump Have a Boston Tee Party?

Donald Trump has kicked the tires on Boston Golf Club and “remains interested in the financially troubled property,” according to an online report.

The reality-TV star and erstwhile presidential candidate already owns posh golf properties in metropolitan New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC, so the club in Hingham, Massachusetts, with its well-regarded Gil Hanse-designed golf course, could be the missing piece in an evolving Northeastern puzzle. The parties reportedly exchanged pleasantries earlier this year, but Trump concluded that the asking price ($9 million, it's said) far exceeded his estimate of the property's true value ($5.5 million).

The club's members have already passed on the $9 million price, most likely because of their familiarity with the pinch of the club's annual losses -- between $1.3 million and $2.5 million annually.

Of course, it's possible that Trump believes he can get a price that suits him by simply waiting, as the price of golf properties in New England is expected to continue to fall. “Over the next several years,” a golf consultant tells, “we’ll see several courses not able to survive. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the reality of the economy today.”

Then again, the club's owner, John DeMatteo, isn't putting all his eggs in Trump's basket. According to the Hingham Journal, DeMatteo has agreed agreed to sell the club to another group, with the transaction expected to close sometime this winter.

And in Other News . . .

. . . united kingdom Speaking of imminent bankruptcies, roughly 100 golf properties are up for sale today in the United Kingdom -- a huge number, considering that the region typically sells 30 courses a year. “In the U.K. and other parts of Europe, such as Ireland, Spain, and Portugal, there are too many courses for too few golfers,” a golf course salesman tells the Wall Street Journal. The result: Prices are falling, and it doesn't appear that we'll hit the bottom of the market anytime soon. Says the executive director of the U.K. Golf Course Owners Association: “It's perfectly possible to lose money at every price point in the market.”

. . . isle of man The uncertainty has ended for Castletown Golf Club: The club, which has been in business since 1892 (originally with an Old Tom Morris-designed course), has found an owner who promises to move its 18-hole layout up the ranks of the United Kingdom's top 100. The new owner is Philip Vermeulen, a South African investor who's said to own a home on the island and, now, one of its most famous golf courses. The track, one of nine courses on the island, was redesigned in the late 1920s by Philip Mackenzie Ross, a Scottish architect who's probably best known for creating the Ailsa Course at the Turnberry resort in Ayr, Scotland. What Vermeulen didn't buy (at least not yet) is what a local newspaper calls “the dilapidated and long-closed” hotel that complements the club. But it's hard to imagine him operating Castletown as a stand-alone entity.

. . . canada ClubLink's Florida offensive continues: The Canadian golf operator has purchased yet another golf property, Palm-Aire Country Club in Pompano Beach, reportedly $7.2 million. ClubLink's 44 golf properties, the vast majority of them in the Great White North, are said to have more than 20,000 members, many of whom long to bask in the Sunshine State's warmth while their friends and neighbors hunker down for the winter. To satisfy their golf fix, Palm-Aire offers a trio of 18-hole courses, one designed by William F. Mitchell and two co-designed by George and Tom Fazio. ClubLink's holdings in Florida, all of which have been acquired over the past year or so, includes Woodlands Country Club in Tamarac, Heron Bay Golf Club in Coral Springs, and seven courses in Sun City Center.

wild card click It's like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get.