Friday, June 29, 2012

The rumor mill starts with the return of Tiger Woods

Speculation has been rampant about only if Tiger Woods will return - the resurfacing of the prodigal son golf.  He is the subject of a lot of talk, rumor, speculation and tabloid fodder due to his shenanigans have wondered off the golf course and a lot of people is that he is going to be straight again to work.  It is not running the top earner in the Gulf for some time as if he actually payday need cash at this time, as he already, thanks to a tremendous number of tour victories and lucrative sponsorship.

Word camp fire is he for Bay Hill back would be

Both CBS News Baltimore Sun pretending that he who can join Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, and the Bay Hill Club / lounge outside of Orlando.  Tiger need no quick cash for a hotel, he can just go home.  The bumps in the road are first Bay Hill still boo said not enough room for reporters who want to be a story, and also, and perhaps most important, Tiger Woods if he returns to golf.

Tiger Woods hires some help

Recently Tiger Woods Ari Fleischer was his PR guy.  Ari Fleischer has much experience with the press, Mark McGwire, MLB, NFL, BCS and the Green Bay Packers have worked. He used to be Press Secretary of the White House.  (He was involved in the Valerie Plame affair, but we only leaves the.)  Fleischer is a big deal.

What is Tiger Woods?

Tiger Woods spent weeks in treatment and recovery, he has gone on the driving range in Isleworth, Florida near his home. Probably he has focused on his drives.  There is no, currently at all confirmation to action at the Arnold Palmer Invitational will return, but it also rumored he could play in the Tavistock Cup, a tournament in Isleworth.  Bay Hill of his return should be, he has to register as all participants must register a full week before every PGA Tour event until 5 pm March 19th.

READ MORE - The rumor mill starts with the return of Tiger Woods

Thursday, May 17, 2012

france Grape Expectations

China’s fast-growing thirst for prestige wine has made wineries in Bordeaux some of the hottest real estate on the planet. Over the past year or so, Chinese buyers have snapped up more than a dozen wineries, most of them in a region called Entre-deux-Mers, which is known for producing fruity, easy-to-drink wines that suit the Chinese palette.

The latest to turn over is Chateau Grand Moueys, a 425-acre estate along the Garonne River in the village of Capian. The estate, which has been producing wines since before the French Revolution, had previously been owned by a German company.

Chateau Grand Moueys’ new owner, Zhang Jinshan, is the principal of Ningxiahong Zhongning Wolfberry Products Company, which has been described as “the world’s largest producer of alcohol from goji berries.”

Zhang also owns a travel agency, which will come in handy in his effort to help turn his winery into a vacation spot for Chinese tourists. “From 2013, we hope to welcome around 10,000 Chinese visitors a year,” he told at the time of the sale.

Chateau Grand Moueys currently has only about half of its property under cultivation, which means that Zhang has plenty of opportunities for development. He plans to overhaul the property’s 18th-century estate, add an upscale Chinese restaurant, and build a nine-hole golf course. And if his projected tourism numbers pan out, he’ll turn the estate’s guest rooms into a hotel with a spa.

Various reports from France say that more sales are in process. “For some chateaux that struggle to sell their wine,” a winery owner told Decanter in late 2011, “China really is a get-out-of-jail-free card.”

Some information in this post originally appeared in the March 2012 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.
READ MORE - france Grape Expectations

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Week That Was, may 13, 2012

united states Back in the Swing of Things?

Slowly but surely, the bad-news stories about our business are disappearing. While the Great Recession isn’t yet completely dead and buried, it appears that happier days are here again for the owners and operators of U.S. golf properties.

The evidence is still mostly anecdotal, and better times haven’t arrived in every U.S. market, but there’s no disputing the essential fact: Courses from coast to coast are ringing up more rounds this year. You can chalk up the increase to an unusually warm winter, to an improving economy, to pent-up demand, or to all of the above. No matter how you slice it, however, things are definitely looking up.

Here are three illustrations:

-- The Fort Myers News-Press reports that Southwest Florida’s golf operators “are hopeful that the local market has stabilized and might even be on the rebound.” The newspaper singles out San Carlos Golf Club in Fort Myers, which recorded “at least a dozen” 300-round days in the first quarter of 2012. “It’s been unbelievable this winter. The traffic has been exceptional,” says the track’s pro. “They’re playing some golf this winter.”

-- The Pittsburgh Tribune reports that “with few exceptions,” public and semi-private golf courses in Western Pennsylvania are seeing increases of “between 20 percent to 50 percent” in rounds and revenues. The newspaper singles out Hickory Heights Golf Course in Bridgeville, which is said to be “busier than it’s been in more than a decade.” One of the course’s owners says, “We are up substantially from last year. . . . It’s like night and day.”

-- The Gainesville Times reports that while “the economy may be depressed” in northeastern Georgia, the golf business “is swinging.” The newspaper singles out Royal Lakes Country Club in Flowery Branch, where rounds are up by 25 percent over 2011. “Is [our business] back to where it was in 2007?” asks the course’s director of golf. “No, it’s not quite there, but it’s certainly improved since it started derailing in 2008 or 2009.”

To be sure, the U.S. golf business isn’t out of the woods yet, and plenty of dark clouds remain on the horizon. Lots of cities still have way more courses than they need. Many courses that were built primarily to sell houses continue to struggle. Courses that have been selling rounds at deep discounts won’t be able to generate significant profits even if they can increase play. The industry isn’t creating new players. And scores of private clubs haven’t been able to replace the members they’ve lost since the economy crashed.

Still, it’s okay to look on the bright side every once in a while. We deserve it. We’ve been through a lot.

And in Other News . . .

 . . . mexico  The race to build the planet’s first Tiger Woods-designed golf course is apparently being contested in Mexico. Just weeks after Golf Vacation Insider claimed that Woods has “signed a contract” to design a course at Diamante Cabo San Lucas in Los Cabos, a press release from Punta Brava says that its Woods-designed course could open “as early as September of 2013.” Clearly, reports of Woods’ demise as a designer were premature. The question now is, Which tony community will be first to cross the finish line?

Some information in the previous post originally appeared in the November 2008 and the April 2012 issues of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.

. . . united states How much would you pay for a 10,000-acre resort community that features six golf courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio, Bob Cupp, Rees Jones, and Jim Engh? The courses, assuming you haven’t already guessed, are the featured attractions of Reynolds Landing, the financially troubled spread on Lake Oconee in Georgia. Sometime this summer, the whole place -- including a Ritz-Carlton hotel, four marinas, plans for a Pete Dye-designed golf course, and, perhaps most important, 5,000 acres of undeveloped land -- will belong to MetLife, the largest insurance company in the United States. MetLife, which reportedly has a real estate portfolio worth $50 million, hasn’t yet revealed the sales price. But if you’re wondering, 3,600 home owners passed on an opportunity to buy Reynolds Plantation for $45 million.

. . . sweden Johan Edfors, a Swedish golf pro, has purchased Hills Golf Club in suburban Gothenburg. The club’s eight-year-old course, co-designed by Arthur Hills and Steve Forrest, has its admirers (among them Bill Clinton and Alice Cooper), but it’s frustrated too many potential customers and, as a result, fell into bankruptcy late last year. A reviewer from CNBC has called it “a basket case of a course -- by turns beautiful, infuriating, impossibly difficult, and enormous fun.” The “impossibly difficult” reputation hangs like a dead weight on the 7,500-yard layout, and Edfors and his partners must change it for the course to become profitable. To that end, two holes will be redesigned, and the course will be made “more compact,” according to Golf Course Architecture. “Hills has been too hard for the average golfer,” says Edfors. “We will change that without making it too easy for Tour players.”

. . . wild card click Where there’s a Will, there’s a way.
READ MORE - The Week That Was, may 13, 2012

Saturday, May 12, 2012

talking points Lee Trevino, Design Critic

“The Merry Mex” isn’t very happy about the current state of golf design.

Lee Trevino thinks today’s golf courses are too long, too hard, and too expensive to maintain. He thinks designers and developers have regrettably strayed from traditional values, and now an entire industry is paying the price.

To be sure, Trevino isn’t breaking any new ground here. Still, it’s nice to hear a winner of six majors and a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame stand up for the average golfer.

Here’s some of what Trevino had to say about golf design in a recent interview with the Golf Channel: 

I think [the game] is in trouble. I know that it’s very exciting on [the PGA] Tour, but it’s not exciting for a lot of people to have to play these courses that they’re building for the Tour players. They build these hard golf courses, and now they’re talking about playing the forward tees. They should have never built those back tees in the first place. Why do you want a golf course that's 7,400 yards long? . . .

Guys feel like they’re going to the ladies tees when you push them up forward. They don’t like that. Golfers want to be macho. . . .

We build hundreds and hundreds of golf courses in this country that most people can’t play. They take too long to play because they’re too difficult. And also, it costs too much for maintenance. And that, in return, sends the dues (and green fees) up, and people are dropping out. We’re in a lot of trouble right now.

These new modern courses they’ve built in the last 30 years are all carry. There are a lot of people who can’t get [the ball] in the air, or they get it in the air and it’s low, and they don’t have a chance to run the ball to the green. They’ve got to carry bunkers and false fronts. We’ve really gone the wrong way. . . .

If people wanted some re-dos, I’d go back to traditional. If you hire me to re-do your golf course and you’ve got bunkers in front of your greens, I’m going to take them out. . . . All these forced carries are stupid. . . .

People don’t understand: At a public course, time is money. . . .
READ MORE - talking points Lee Trevino, Design Critic

Thursday, May 10, 2012

china A Moratorium To Dye For

A question regarding China’s moratorium on golf construction: Exactly how meaningless is it?

I ask because Dye Designs Group recently secured permission to start building not just one but two golf courses in the People’s Republic. “Two of our China projects have been green-lighted to break ground as soon as possible,” reports O’Brien McGarey, one of the firm’s principals, in an e-mail.

For the record, China’s moratorium is still in force. But developers are obviously finding ways to circumvent it.

As a result, McGarey’s firm is moving ahead with Guilin Sports, Tourism & Leisure Center in Guilin (in the GuangXi Zhuang Autonomous Region) and Minqi International Golf Club in Ruili, an outpost in western Yunnan Province. The courses will be designed by McGarey’s wife, Cynthia Dye-McGarey, who maintains offices in Englewood, Colorado and Shenzhen, China.

In Guilin, the couple is working for Guilin XinChang Investment Group, which owns a spread near the Karst Mountains that will eventually include 100 villas, a hotel with a conference center, and a hot-spring day spa. The site may not be ideal for golf, but it sure does catch the eye, as it features both karst landforms and natural springs.

“Of all the properties that I have walked in my lifetime,” Dye-McGarey said in a press release, “this is the most surreal setting.”

Construction on Dye-McGarey’s 18-hole, championship-caliber golf course is supposed to begin in July.

The course in Ruili will likely be more of a challenge. Ruili is located along China’s border with Myanmar (formerly Burma), and, like many of the world’s border cities, it’s a hot-bed of criminal activity. Last year, an architect employed by Joe Obringer, an Atlanta, Georgia-based designer, was kidnapped in the area while working on a golf project. His captors held him for four days, until they got the ransom they demanded.

Minqi International, which is being developed by Minqi Estate Company, Ltd., will consist of tourist-friendly attractions including housing, a resort-style hotel, and an 18-hole golf course. With luck, McGarey believes, the developers could break ground on the course before construction commences in Guilin.

These two courses are among nearly a dozen that Dye Designs has in various states of design and construction in the People’s Republic. The group includes Sky Oasis Golf Club in Yunnan Province, Xing Ning Golf Club in Xing Ning in Guandong Province, and two courses in the vicinity of Kunming City: Lin Da Fu Golden Beach Resort and Kunming Caiyunwan Lake.

For the better part of the past year, the moratorium has put most of the firm’s dozen or so Chinese projects on ice. But if every one of them got approved tomorrow, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised.

Some information in this post originally appeared in the October 2011 and March 2012 issues of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.
READ MORE - china A Moratorium To Dye For

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Week That Was, may 6, 2012

scotland The Verdict on Trump’s “Irish-style” Links

Trump International Golf Links Scotland opens in just two months, and one of golf architecture’s foremost opinion-makers has concluded that it’s “one of the most polarizing courses in all of golf.”

Donald Trump may wince when he reads that phrase. For years, he’s predicted that his much-discussed track in Aberdeenshire would be “the world’s greatest golf course.” Its unveiling was supposed to be a personal triumph, one that cements his golf bona fides.

But that’s not how Darius Oliver sees it. Oliver, the architecture editor of Australian Golf Digest, likes the site -- heck, he gushes over it -- but not the “Irish-style links” that’s been laid upon it.

“While there is obvious quality here and literally dozens of gorgeous vantage points across Trump Scotland,” Oliver reckons, “the big issue purists will have with this layout is the lack of truly outstanding design and the number of awkward architectural features.”

It’s hard to imagine a verdict that would sting an architect worse. What Oliver is saying is that Trump has been let down by the hired help.

In this case, the help is Martin Hawtree, the course’s British designer. The way Oliver sees it, Hawtree hasn’t done the property justice. Oliver manages to muster some faint praise for Hawtree’s layout -- “on a superficial level, at least, he succeeded” -- but he suggests that “pushing some of the golf out onto the flatter surrounding land might have yielded a more playable course.”

Of course, Trump might have rejected such a suggestion. So if Hawtree gets a pass, it’s found in this sentence: Given the client and his early proclamations about this being the world’s best golf course, it might have been difficult for the designer to sacrifice scenery for the sake of routing balance.

Clearly, Oliver was underwhelmed by Trump’s course. But Trump has always had trouble with people who believe that beauty should be more than skin deep.

And in Other News . . .

. . . ireland  Is Mike Keiser looking to invest in a golf resort in Northern Ireland? This summer, the Chicago-based developer recently told Golf Digest, he’s going to size up a pair of potential sites in places where golf began. One of them is on the Inch Peninsula in southwestern Ireland, and the other is “Bushmills Dunes in the north.” I presume Keiser is referring to Bushmills Dunes Golf Resort & Spa in County Antrim, where a New York City-based developer, Alistair Hanna, recently secured permission to build a David McLay Kidd-designed golf course. This is the course about which Kidd famously said to Hanna, “If I can’t get your course into the top 50 of the world, you should shoot me.” If I’m right -- and I’m willing to bet that I am -- this will be the second time that Keiser and Kidd have worked together. Kidd, you’ll remember, designed the first course at Bandon Dunes, the one that put Keiser’s property in remote Oregon on the proverbial map.

Some information in this post originally appeared in the October 2011, November 2011, and December 2011 issues of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.

. . . england  Regarding those Asian and Malaysian investors who were ready to pounce on the famed Belfry resort in suburban Birmingham: Much ado about nothing. It turns out that a U.S. company, KSL Capital Partners, is “close” to buying the 550-acre property, which features a luxurious hotel, three Dave Thomas-designed golf courses (two of them in collaboration with Peter Alliss), and a spectacular heritage, as it’s hosted the Ryder Cup matches four times. This is a distress sale, as the Belfry is controlled by the banks and insurance companies to which Sean Quinn’s investor group was beholden. The Belfry will unquestionably be a sweet addition to KSL’s portfolio, which includes ClubCorp and some highly regarded U.S. golf properties, including the Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia and La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, California. And it comes at bargain price: According to the Sunday Independent, KSL will likely pay “less than half” of the $38 million (or so) that the now-bankrupt billionaire once known as “the Mighty Quinn” shelled out in 2005.

. . . talking points  Sad but true: A new driver may impress your friends, but it isn’t likely to improve your game. If you need proof, consider that U.S. golfers spend ungodly amounts of money on golf equipment every year -- nearly $4 billion in 2011 -- and they haven’t lowered their scores a bit. “Despite all of the mind-bending technology that has revolutionized golf in the past decade, golfers aren’t getting any better,” writes the Newark Star-Ledger. “The average golf score still remains at around 100, according to the National Golf Foundation, and that number hasn’t changed since your grandpa was knocking balls around with hickory sticks.” Here’s another noteworthy but distressing stat from the article: The number of rounds played in the United States has fallen from 518 million in 2000 to 475 million in 2010. Do all these facts add up to a story? You tell me.

. . . wild card click  Shall we cut to the chase?
READ MORE - The Week That Was, may 6, 2012

Saturday, May 5, 2012

india Unhappy Days Are Here Again

More and more people in India now have money in their pockets, but it isn’t making them happy.

Despite a solid economy, a Gallup poll has determined that Indians have become “much more unhappy about their lives” over the past four years. As a result, they don’t smile and laugh as much as they used to. They feel less financially secure. They get more stressed-out. They’ve lost their optimism about the future. Nearly one-third of them -- 240 million people -- now consider themselves to be “suffering.”

This personal unhappiness has wider ramifications. “The sense that the 21st century belonged to India has begun to evaporate,” says a story in the Washington Post, “replaced by a deepening sense of malaise.”

Reading the Post’s story, I began to worry that a declining happiness quotient could put the squeeze on India’s prospects for golf development. In recent years people have been predicting that India, thanks to its ever more affluent middle class, would be the golf industry’s next big thing. But people who believe that they’ve reached a personal, social, or economic plateau don’t continue to aspire to the good life. They may no longer dream of joining a golf club or moving into a golf community. And when that happens, your golf development dreams disappear.

There are other possible ramifications, too, worse ones. The Post’s story raises the possibility that personal unhappiness might lead to social unrest -- “the sort of upheavals,” the newspaper writes, “that roiled Tunisia and Egypt last year.”

If you think such a suggestion is far-fetched, remember this: One-third of world’s poorest people live in India. Like you and me, they’ve seen pictures of rich Indian businessmen playing golf, eating in expensive restaurants, and driving Mercedes. Don’t you think it’s likely that, at one time or another, the idea of a revolution has crossed their minds?

Here’s a distilled version of the Post’s story:

Indians have become much more unhappy about their lives in the past four years, despite one of the world’s fastest rates of economic growth, a survey by the Gallup polling organization showed Monday.

The deterioration appears to have been driven partly by the expectation, created by politicians and the media, that India’s boom would dramatically improve its citizens’ standard of living. When many Indians realized that the boom was not significantly benefiting them, their sense of well-being and optimism about the future seemed to collapse.

“It is very dangerous to create expectations and not meet them,” said Rajesh Srinivasan, Gallup’s regional research director for Asia and the Middle East.

The number of Indians who rated their lives poorly enough to be considered “suffering” rose this year to 31 percent, equivalent to 240 million people, a dramatic rise from just 7 percent in 2008. . . .

Gallup classifies respondents as “thriving,” “struggling,” or “suffering,” according to how they rate their current and future lives. While 74 percent of Danes said they were “thriving,” the highest percentage anywhere in the world, just 13 percent of Indians said the same thing.

The global average is 24 percent.

India’s self-image has taken a battering in the past few years. Corruption scandals dominate the headlines on a daily basis, the government seems paralyzed and unable to take even simple steps to reform the economy, and growth has been slowing.

The sense that the 21st century belonged to India has begun to evaporate, replaced by a deepening sense of malaise. Business confidence and investment have also declined. 

Massive government welfare and rural employment programs have helped drive down poverty levels, the Gallup survey found. The share of people saying they did not have enough money for food dropped to 13 percent in 2012 from 35 percent in 2006.

But high levels of inflation have helped depress Indians’ sense of financial well-being. Stress levels have risen, and the number of people who can count on social support and help has fallen.

The percentage of those saying they had smiled or laughed the previous day fell to 52 percent in 2012 from 62 percent in 2006. . . .

The findings also raise the possibility of the sort of social unrest that struck Los Angeles 20 years ago, after police officers were filmed beating Rodney King, or the sort of upheavals that roiled Tunisia and Egypt last year, said Jim Clifton, Gallup’s chairman and chief executive.

“All you need is a matchstick event,” he said. . . .
READ MORE - india Unhappy Days Are Here Again

Thursday, May 3, 2012

wales A Makeover for Brynhill

In an attempt to shore up its balance sheet, one of the oldest golf clubs in Wales has decided to give itself a dramatic makeover.

Brynhill Golf Club, a fixture in Barry since 1921, plans to sell part of its property to a residential developer intent on building 180 houses. With the proceeds from the sale, the club will redesign its 18-hole golf course and build a modern, multi-purpose clubhouse.

Brynhill’s officials hope the revitalization will attract new, sorely needed members. “As with many traditional members’ clubs across the U.K., Brynhill is experiencing significant financial difficulties,” noted the club’s captain, Stephen Jones, in a statement posted on the club’s website.

The club’s 6,516-yard golf course, which was redesigned by Dave Thomas in the late 1990s, needs what Jones has described as “vital improvements.” A master plan created by Surrey, England-based Weller McEvoy calls for the construction of three new holes and substantial upgrades to all the rest.

Weller McEvoy is a partnership between Bruce Weller and Peter McEvoy. Weller apprenticed with Bernhard Langer’s design firm and has been involved in numerous golf projects all over the United Kingdom. In 2005 he entered into an occasional partnership with McEvoy, one of Great Britain’s most celebrated amateur golfers. Together, the duo has worked on golf projects in the United Kingdom, Thailand, South Africa, France, and Italy.

As an architect, McEvoy is probably best-known as a co-designer (with Christy O’Connor) of the 18-hole track at Fota Island Golf Course in Cork City, Ireland. The course hosted the Irish Open in 2001 and 2002, after some of its holes were redesigned by Jeff Howes. These days McEvoy spends much of his time helping to develop junior golfers, primarily as a promoter for PowerPlay Golf.

If the area’s residents react favorably to Brynhill’s proposal, the club and Flintshire-based Redrow Homes will submit a development application to local officials later this year.

Some information in this post originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.
READ MORE - wales A Makeover for Brynhill

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Week That Was, april 29, 2012

 united states The Unlikely Number One

Bandon Dunes is the top golf destination in the United States.

Its golf courses, according to a recent ranking, combine “beauty and challenge,” and playing any one of them “is sure to be a memorable experience for any golfer.”

I recently stumbled across the ranking online. What struck me is that it didn’t come from Golf Digest, Golfweek, Golf World, or any other publication where golf cognoscenti gather. Nor did it come from Travel & Leisure, Condé Nast Travel, National Geographic Traveler, or similar publications that ferret out undiscovered places where the smart money is vacationing.

Instead, the ranking came from a website called It’s a website that tells you the weather. I have no idea why it decided to rank the top 10 U.S. golf destinations.

If you’re wondering, the website’s list of the top 10 U.S. golf destinations placed Pebble Beach as number two, then Pinehurst, Myrtle Beach, and “anywhere in Hawaii.” The second five: Williamsburg, Phoenix/Scottsdale, Las Vegas, San Antonio, and Ocean City, Maryland.

I cite’s list not to question its merits or to dispute the selections. I cite it because is in no way, shape, or form an insider’s guide to quality golf. My guess is that it is, in fact, as mainstream as online publications come.

And that can only mean one thing: After less than a decade of existence, Bandon Dunes has tapped deeply into the mass consciousness and, more important, the mass market. It’s no longer the secret preserve of the purists, classicists, and Golden Agers among us. A couple of years ago, a fellow who’d played Bandon earned instant cred. Today, he’s just another golfer with money.

The biggest development risk of Mike Keiser’s career has paid off in spades.

 And in Other News . . .

. . . uruguay Is Arnold Palmer’s design firm rewriting history? The company’s first course in Uruguay is under construction, with the initial nine holes (of a planned 18) anticipated to open in late 2012 or early 2013. The course will be part of a private resort community called Las Piedras -- the name translates as “the rocks” -- which is taking shape just outside Punta del Este, a popular vacation spot that’s been called “the St. Tropez of Uruguay” and “the Riviera of South America.” So who designed the course? A recent press release identifies Thad Layton as the course’s architect. But this news doesn’t jibe with previously published material from Palmer, not to mention an interview I conducted myself in 2010. The truth is, the course was designed by Eric Wiltse, who was let go from Palmer’s firm during a downsizing in 2011, just about the time that JHSF Participacoes SA broke ground on Las Piedras.

Some information in this post appeared in the November 2010 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.

. . . canada A partially finished golf course in suburban Calgary, largely abandoned since 2010, will be completed this summer and may open by the end of the current golf season. It’s Blue Devil Golf Club, and it was begun by J. R. Shaw, the retired chairman of a Calgary-based cable television company, Shaw Communications. Shaw managed to build 13 holes on the Gary Browning-designed course, which was supposed to be the centerpiece of a private club that never found members. Scott Atkinson, the course’s new owner, plans to finish the remaining holes and, eventually, give Blue Devil a proper clubhouse. And if western Canada’s golf business ever revives, Atkinson aims to build Serenity Golf Club, a 36-hole complex in suburban Calgary that will also be designed by Browning.

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

. . . scotland When he isn’t huffing and puffing and threatening to blow Scotland’s renewable-energy strategies down, Donald Trump dreams of hosting a major tournament at his soon-to-open golf course in Aberdeenshire. Unfortunately, his relentless war of words with the Scottish government doesn’t appear to be winning him any friends at the Royal & Ancient, the gatekeeper of the Open Championship. When asked whether the Martin Hawtree-designed track at “the world’s greatest golf course” would be considered for the R&A’s top prize, the group’s CEO gave a decidedly non-committal reply. It is a spectacular golf course, Peter Dawson said in comments published by the Associated Press. As for an Open Championship being played there, we will have to wait and see. There is every indication the golf course is very strong, but let’s see how it matures. I would say it has a long way to go yet. Trump International Golf Links Scotland is scheduled to open in July. Weekend greens fee: $325.

. . . wild card click Why do the best things always disappear? I’ve been asking myself the same question a lot lately. Au revoir, Levon.
READ MORE - The Week That Was, april 29, 2012

Saturday, April 28, 2012

worth reading The Killers Elite

Now that economic sanctions are being lifted, will Myanmar emerge as a hot spot for golf development?

Agence France-Presse is trying to make a case for golf’s future in the police state formerly known as Burma, contending that “an influx of investment” is on the horizon, part of which will be used to build “plush new golf resorts.”

Let me lay my cards on the table: I hope AFP is dead wrong on this prediction. If there’s one place on earth that doesn’t deserve to have a vibrant golf industry, it’s Myanmar.

Myanmar is one of the poorest, worst-educated, most insular nations on earth, thanks to decades’ worth of repression by a brutal military dictatorship. The nation features a continuing civil war, a deplorable health-care system, and political leaders as beloved as those in Syria. Before it starts to build “plush new golf resorts,” it ought to build some decent highways.

Top 100 Golf Courses of the World summed my feelings nicely: “Myanmar is one of the few countries in the world that any potential visitor should consider long and hard from an ethical perspective before deciding to visit.”

No doubt, though, Myanmar has a golf culture. Golf has been played in thenation since the 1880s – a contribution to “growing the game” by British rulers – and AFP says that roughly 80 courses are currently in operation.

If you believe you must play some of Myanmar’s historic courses, or if you’re thinking about getting involved in a development venture, I’d advise you to keep your nose clean while you’re in the country. Myanmar’s most powerful people have proved themselves to be among the planet’s most notorious human rights violators, and old habits die hard.

After decades in the shadows, Myanmar’s sudden opening-up to the outside is shining a new light on the country -- and revealing, amongst other things, one of Asia’s most vibrant golf communities.

Behind Myanmar’s “bamboo curtain,” golf, a relic of British colonialism, has been an enduring pastime with scores of public courses -- often with green fees as low as $5 -- and a dozen driving ranges in Yangon alone.

According to Asian Tour executive chairman Kyi Hla Han, a highly successful Myanmar golfer who first represented his country at the 1980 World Cup, many visitors are taken aback when they see the extent of the country's facilities.

“People don't realize how popular golf is in Myanmar. They don’t know that we already have such a strong golf culture,” Han told AFP. “There are lots of public courses. It’s like Scotland or Australia. You don’t have to be a member, you can just turn up and play.”

Han estimated there were up to 80 courses in Myanmar, formerly called Burma, which borders Thailand and has an estimated population of 54 million. Its golf-playing history of 100 years is among the longest in Asia.

Now the relaxation of military-ruled Myanmar in politics and border controls is expected to bring an influx of investment, including plush new golf resorts, greater prize money, and more opportunities for the country’s players.

“It’s great news now that the country is opening up for business, and I think once the economy gets better and a lot of middle-class people are able to afford playing, I’m sure they’re going to pick up golf,” said Han. . . .

Golf was first played in Myanmar by the British military, who left behind several courses when the country gained independence in 1948. Since then, it has remained mainly the preserve of the military and business elite.

But Han said it was just a matter of time before Myanmar’s economy improves, swelling the middle class and leading more people to seek out golf, as has happened in other growing Asian countries. . . .

READ MORE - worth reading The Killers Elite

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

india Getting Served in Delhi

Will this be the year that the Delhi Development Authority finally breaks ground on its third golf course?

DDA Dwarka Golf Course, the first “international-standard” track in metropolitan New Delhi, is having a better-late-than-never moment. The Phil Ryan-designed course was originally supposed to open in 2012, but municipal agencies in India have never been described as models of efficiency.

The 7,208-yard course is to be built on 170 acres in Dwarka, a DDA-designed mini-city that’s rapidly spreading houses, shopping areas, office space, and even a “diplomatic enclave” over more than 14,000 acres. Ryan, the principal of Victoria, Australia-based Pacific Coast Design, has also agreed to provide the community with a nine-hole, par-3 course and a lighted golf academy.

New Millennium Company, the development company Ryan is working with, was awarded the contract to build the course in 2008. Ryan says he hasn’t been told when construction will begin, but he notes that “it would be a major issue for it not to go ahead as planned,” seeing as how the land has been allocated and the project approved.

Ryan and New Millennium have already built one golf course in India, an 18-hole track at Oxford Golf & Country Club in Pune, and they’re hoping to build another at Tourism City in Jaipur.

With other developers, Ryan has designed at least four other courses in India, including Eagleton Golf Village in suburban Bangalore, Poona Golf Club in Pune, and JW Golf Club in Mysore.

The DDA, which controls 70,000 acres in and around New Delhi, opened its first golf property, Qutub Golf Course, in 2002. These days it’s also at work on Bhalaswa Golf Course, which opened three holes in 2003 and currently has six. Bhalaswa is expected to eventually become a full 18, but the DDA doesn’t appear to be in much of a hurry to complete it.

Some information in this post originally appeared in the February 2012 and November 2010 issues of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.
READ MORE - india Getting Served in Delhi

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Week That Was, april 22, 2012

First, the good news: The golf population in Vietnam may be growing.

A government official recently told the Vietnam Investment Review that the nation these days has as many as 8,000 players. This feels to me like a somewhat soft number, seeing as how the official didn’t cite its source. But that being said, if the number is solid, it represents a strong increase over the 5,000 golfers that the New York Times estimated were alive and swinging in Vietnam less than a decade ago.

Yes, I realize that 8,000 golfers is a minuscule number, especially in a nation of more than 91 million people. But you’ve got to start somewhere.

Which brings me to the bad news: The number appeared in a story headlined Golf Course Projects Face Growing Criticism.

The golf business in Vietnam has generated a lot of negative press over the years, and clearly, it continues to do so.

For this reason, some senior government officials have begun a media tour, in an effort to rehabilitate golf’s suspect image. Their message: Don’t blame the game. Blame the unscrupulous people who’ve approved and built golf courses on rice fields and, in the process, displaced the families who once lived on them.

“Bad programming is to blame,” one of them opined in a comment reported by Viet Nam News.

What’s happening in Vietnam is emblematic of the problems that golf faces as it begins to establish itself in nations wary of Western values. The plain truth is, a lot of people on our planet simply don’t trust golf and the affluence it typically represents. For them, golf development is just another front in a never-ending class struggle. Their argument: Golf’s economic benefits flow primarily to wealthy developers and powerful businessmen, while the poor and vulnerable are left to suffer from the game’s social and environmental consequences.

The ministers on the advocacy tour believe that golf in Vietnam will eventually be “vindicated,” and they contend that new, stricter regulations will make golf development “cleaner.”

But in Vietnam, there appear to be degrees of cleanliness. “Golf courses,” an official on tour said, “will be only allowed to develop on sandy or fallow land, barren hills, and in places that have really great potentials to develop tourism.”

That isn’t a squeaky-clean statement. It sounds as if agricultural land will be protected unless someone important believes it’s too valuable to be used for farming. If I’m interpreting the statement correctly, I don’t think the vindication tour is going to change very many hearts and minds.

And that’s too bad, because the stakes for golf development in Vietnam are relatively high. The government aims to stock the nation with 90 or more courses by the year 2020, and it can’t succeed if it has to battle with angry citizens every step of the way.

brazil What Happens to a Dream Deferred?

Is golf’s Olympic dream on the verge of turning into a nightmare?

The Associated Press reports that a land-ownership dispute “is threatening the construction of the golf course for the 2016 Summer Games” and that the city of Rio de Janeiro “might have to find a new site.”

And while I don’t wish to add to anyone’s emotional distress, the AP points out that “a final decision on who owns the golf course land could take months or several years.”

Talk about waking up in a cold sweat!

Can you imagine the embarrassment that will be suffered if it turns out that the site in Barra da Tijuca wasn’t fully secured and that the Olympic organizers will have to request a mulligan? We’re talking about one of the biggest Olympic blunders of all time.

Gil Hanse, the course’s designer, expects to break ground on the layout in Barra da Tijuca in October. He put on a brave face for the AP but acknowledged, “If they decided for whatever reason to make changes, you would have to start all over again. Our design is specifically for that site. You can’t just put it someplace else.”

Still to be determined, of course, is how serious the threat to the pending construction may be. Call me cynical, but my guess is that the company causing the hubbub, Elmway Participacoes, would drop its claim to the property in exchange for what might be termed “cash considerations.”

If I’m right, checks will be written and by this time next week all this sound and fury may very well signify nothing. But if Elmway Participacoes wants to give a few Olympic officials some sleepless nights, it’s off to an excellent start.

And in Other News . . . 

. . . united states  If your neighborhood golf course sold recently, this may be why: Since 2006, median prices of 18-hole, stand-alone U.S. golf courses have fallen by 33 percent. The median price through the first nine months of last year was $3 million, according to Marcus & Millichap, down from $4.5 million in 2006. Let me emphasize that these are median prices, and golf properties are selling for much less -- relative peanuts, really -- in cities from coast to coast. “Golf courses may never be as cheap as they are today,” one of the firm’s principals told Bloomberg. The ever-helpful news service used the opportunity to offer a comparable, cheerfully noting that $3 million “is about the threshold for a luxury apartment in Manhattan.”

. . . wild card click  How should we honor the memory of American's oldest teenager? Let's dance!

READ MORE - The Week That Was, april 22, 2012

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Following the Money

China, Brazil, Argentina, and India – those nations, Greg Norman believes, are golf’s future development hot spots. “We are really focused on emerging markets in developing countries,” the West Palm Beach, Florida-based designer said in a recent interview with KPMG’s GolfAdvisory Practice. “We see tremendous upside for the growth of golf in these developing countries.”

KPMG also quizzed Dana Garmany, the CEO of Troon Golf, on this topic. Garmany threw a passing nod at China while singling out Morocco as “a growing market for us at the moment” and the Middle East in general as “an important market.”

Like Norman, Jack Nicklaus believes China, Brazil, and Argentina are promising nations for golf development. However, during an interview withthe Golf Channel, Nicklaus added some other countries to the mix: South Korea, Russia, Cambodia, and Malaysia.

Add it all up and you get nine nations and one region – a wealth of choices. But remember this: When you hear golf-industry professionals talking about the nations that offer the best opportunities for growth, what you’re really hearing is the sound of checks being cashed. Money talks, and it can have a powerful influence on one’s perspective.

Some information in this post originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.

READ MORE - Following the Money

Thursday, April 19, 2012

england Harry Colt, Railroaded

A recently approved railway in England is going to destroy a Harry Colt-designed golf course.

The track is the centerpiece of Whittington Heath Golf Club in Lichfield, a northern suburb of Birmingham. A rail line linking London to Manchester, Leeds, and other northern cities will run through the middle of the course, right across its clubhouse. The course still has a little life in it -- the railway, known as HS2, isn’t likely to be built until 2018 at the earliest -- but its days are clearly numbered.

Whittington Heath got the bad news just a year after it celebrated it 125th anniversary. The 500-member club was created in 1886, to serve soldiers from the nearby Whittington Barracks. Its original course, a nine-hole track, was designed by an army colonel on what had been a horse-racing track.

Colt’s 18-hole, 6,490-yard course dates from 1927. The layout isn’t generally regarded as being among his best, but its loss will nonetheless be felt by those who appreciate golf’s design traditions.

“It has unique features,” John Tipper, the club’s captain, told the Tamworth Herald earlier this year. “It's almost like an inland links and always poses a challenge.”

Colt, who trained as a lawyer, is an iconic figure in the history of golf architecture, a designer of great influence. Born in Highgate, England in 1869, he was responsible for more than 100 golf courses on six continents, including Sunningdale Golf Club in England and Royal Portrush in Ireland, and he redesigned some perennial British Open venues, notably Muirfield in Scotland and Royal Liverpool Golf Club in England. With collaborators (including Alister Mackenzie and C. H. Alison), he produced nearly 200 other courses. He died in 1951.

Whittington Heath is currently trying to work out compensation with local government officials. The club will use the money to acquire a site for a new course and hire a designer who has big shoes to fill.

An earlier version of this story originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.
READ MORE - england Harry Colt, Railroaded

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Week That Was, april 15, 2012

talking points The Coore of the Argument

The best golf courses, Bill Coore believes, bear a resemblance to the best songs, in that they reveal more of their complexity and depth during repeated play.

“It's like a really good essay or poem,” the Texas-based golf architect told the Wall Street Journal in a story published last week. “If you get all nuances the first time through, well, then it wasn’t very good.”

I’m not sure Coore would describe himself as a “minimalist,” but that’s what the Journal called him: a designer who believes that a golf course should, as the paper’s John Paul Newport puts it, “flow directly from the particular features of the landscape upon which it is built.”

Years ago -- back when Coore and his design partner, Ben Crenshaw, designed their celebrated course at Sand Hills Golf Club in Nebraska -- such back-to-nature attitudes seemed quaint and naive, applicable only at faultless sites where dirt hardly needs to be moved. But today, with money and water in short supply, Coore’s approach has become the prevailing style in golf design. Heck, these days Coore & Crenshaw -- along with Tom Doak, Gil Hanse, and other so-called minimalists -- are about the only golf architects who continue to work regularly.

I’m not one of those metaphysical people who rhapsodize about artists who can find bears hidden in blocks of wood or pieces of sandstone, and I always bristle when I hear a designer suggest that God surely must have laid out a landscape with golf in mind. (As Arnold Palmer once said about Tralee Golf Club in Ireland, “I designed the first nine, but surely God designed the back nine.”) If there really is a God, wouldn’t he (or she) find such conceits insulting?

That being said, it seems obvious to me that architects like Coore, who are determined to preserve the uniqueness of the properties they’ve been given, can potentially offer more to golf than architects who believe a site is merely raw material. If land really does tell a story or sing a song, a golf course should let us hear it. Wouldn’t it be nice if every golf course in the world expressed a distinctive sense of place?

“The human capability for imagination is vast,” Coore told the Journal, “but it’s nowhere near as vast as nature’s in terms of variety, randomness, and surprise.”

I can’t say why, exactly, but for some reason that sentence got me to thinking about Steve Wynn and Tom Fazio.

If we wanted to, we could literally build Wynn’s Shadow Creek Golf Club anywhere we’d like to, seeing as how it’s a completely artificial creation that bears only a passing relationship to the land upon which it was built. It’s the hand of man improving on the hand of God, who obviously didn’t intend for Wynn’s particular expanse of Las Vegas desert to become a golf course.

The question is, is Sand Hills inherently better than Shadow Creek?

I’m not talking about the quality of the golf experience. I’m talking about the process of its creation.

I once drove Robert Trent Jones, Jr. from downtown Washington, DC to Dulles airport, in the suburbs of northern Virginia. We talked about his work the whole way. At one point on the Dulles Toll Road, we passed a road construction site -- flattened, featureless property almost completely devoid of organic material. Jones quipped, “I’d design a golf course right here if somebody wanted me to.”

Of course he would, and I don’t begrudge his willingness to do so. Greatness comes in many shapes and styles, and it can be found in unexpected places. Sand Hills and Shadow Creek both have their admirers. When a golfer wants to have a good time, does he care if he’s been serviced by a “minimalist” or a “maximalist”?

Generally speaking, I prefer “natural” to “artificial.” But every golf course is a little of both, is it not?

italy KPMG’s Showtime in September

KPMG’s annual industry get-together is usually a springtime affair, but the ninth annual Golf Business Forum has been pushed back to the fall. The three-day event begins on September 17, 2012, at the Il Ciocco Tuscany Resort in Barga, Italy.

Why Italy? Well, KPMG believes that the Mediterranean region in general is ripe for golf development and that Italy in particular has undeniable upside.

But that being said, Andrea Sartori, the head of the firm’s golf advisory practice, clearly has mixed feelings about Italy’s potential. On the one hand, he says, “There is no doubt that Italy possesses all the key ingredients for the successful development of golf resorts and communities as well as stand-alone facilities.” On the other, “Obstacles have to be eliminated to encourage new golf and real estate projects.”

Sartori’s bottom line: “It is now a question of domestic and international economic recovery and the return of confidence of buyers and developers. I am fairly sure this will happen, but I cannot say when.”

My bottom line: At best, KPMG is offering a tepid endorsement of Italy’s golf-development prospects.

Lest I forget, the winner of this year’s lifetime achievement award is Dana Garmany, the CEO of Troon Golf. He’ll be on hand at the forum, presumably to talk about the future of golf in the Mediterranean.

. . . wild card clicks Love means never having to say you're sorry.
READ MORE - The Week That Was, april 15, 2012

Saturday, April 14, 2012

thailand Drive, He Said

A car nut and a golf nut -- that’s Prachin Eamlumnow in, well, a nutshell.

Prachin, the CEO of Bangkok-based Grand Prix International Corporation, publishes some of Thailand’s most popular car magazines and organizes Thailand’s biggest auto show, the annual Bangkok International Motor Show. He takes driving seriously, and these days he’s trying to persuade the capital city’s golfers and prospective home buyers to get into their cars and head roughly 120 miles northwest, to the city of Kanchanaburi -- the center of the nation’s gem industry -- where his Grand Prix Golf Club is expected open any day now.

The club is among the attractions at Blue Diamond Golf & Water Sports Club, a 790-acre resort community that will eventually include villas and condos, a five-star hotel, a spa, a lake, various recreational amenities, and, naturally, an auto race track.

Grand Prix’s 18-hole, 7,261-yard course has been designed by Prayard Chinaraj, but Prachin recently confessed to Thai Golf News that he “enjoyed adding my own personal touches as well.”

Prachin, who’s 69, has reportedly been playing golf for 40 years and has long dreamed of owning his own golf course. He hopes Grand Prix -- he calls it “our own piece of golf heaven” -- will eventually attract a professional tournament.

Some information in this post originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.
READ MORE - thailand Drive, He Said

Thursday, April 12, 2012

australia Virginia Will Get a Makeover

Wayne Grady, a winner of PGA championships in the United States and Australia, has been tapped to oversee a renovation of Virginia Golf Club in suburban Brisbane.

The club’s centerpiece is an 18-hole, 6,728-yard “championship” course that opened in two phases, in 1929 and 1933. In the late 1960s, Al Howard, a Sydney-based golf-pro-turned-architect, redesigned the original 18 and added a nine-hole, 2,582-yard course that’s said to be “an ideal track for beginners.”

Grady, who has a design firm in Coolum Beach, Queensland, is expected to complete a master plan for the club sometime this spring. Pending final approval by the members, the renovation could begin later this year. The nature of the work hasn’t yet been announced, but it won’t involve an irrigation system, as the club recently installed a new one on the 18-hole course.

These days Grady is also said to be working on renovations at two other courses in Australia, Urunga Golf Club and Wyong Golf Club, both in New South Wales.

He had an edge in the competition for Virginia’s commission, as he’s a former club champion. In fact, he’s one of two former club champions who’ve gone on to win major championships. The other: Greg Norman.

Some information in this post originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.
READ MORE - australia Virginia Will Get a Makeover

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Week That Was, april 8, 2012

united states Looking on the Bright Side

Bloomberg has taken the temperature of the U.S. golf business, and it believes the patient is recovering.

The industry is “growing for the first time in five years,” the news agency reports, based on its analysis of golf’s leading economic indicators -- factors that include the number of rounds played, retail sales to golfers, and purchases by golf course superintendents. “It will probably be the strongest year since the recession,” the president of Nike’s golf division believes.

Here are some snapshots from Bloomberg’s review:

-- This year, for the first time since 2007, sales of clubs, balls, shoes, and other equipment is expected to increase. Citing data provided by Golf Datatech LLC, Bloomberg says that these sales will hit $2.41 billion in 2012, an increase of 1.3 percent over the number posted in 2011.

-- Course managers and operators have begun to write checks for equipment, giving a boost to the bottom line at companies such as Toro, Jacobsen, and John Deere. Partly due to increased golf-related sales, Toro estimates that its revenues will increase by 7 percent in 2012. “We’re seeing a lot of pent-up demand,” says a marketing manager at Jacobsen.

-- ClubCorp bought four golf courses last year and plans to continue buying golf properties. Also last year, the company sold more memberships than it had in any year since 2005. Eric Affeldt, the company’s CEO, told Bloomberg, “We are rebounding and like what we’re seeing in terms of the recovery.”

-- Through February, the number of rounds played at U.S. golf courses had increased for four consecutive months. Four months do not a trend make, especially when those months are part of what will almost certainly be among warmest winters on record. Nonetheless, after so many dreary years when cash registers hardly rang, nobody is complaining.

“We were bouncing along the bottom and expect we’ll see a modest recovery in 2012,” a spokesman for the National Golf Foundation told Bloomberg. “The signs since the beginning of the year have been positive.”

spain Sheldon Adelson’s Spanish Flyer

One of the world’s casino kings aims to extend his reign to Spain, and a trio of golf courses will be part of his royal entourage.

Sheldon Adelson, the chairman of publicly traded Las Vegas Sands Corporation and the sugar daddy of Newt Gingrich’s comatose presidential campaign, wants to build a “mini” Las Vegas Strip at a to-be-determined location in Spain. It’ll be called EuroVegas, and it’ll include six casinos, a dozen hotels, nine entertainment venues, convention and meeting space, shopping areas, restaurants operated by celebrity chefs, and other attractions designed to attract high rollers and assorted easy marks.

EuroVegas has its detractors -- “We are going to become a nation of waiters and prostitutes,” a critic complains -- but elected officials in Madrid and Barcelona, the primary targets of Adelson’s interest, have rolled out the red carpet. In an attempt to deliver jobs (Spain’s unemployment rate has climbed well past 20 percent), they’re reportedly trying to figure out how they can deliver on Adelson’s demands, which include free land, tax breaks, and an exemption from laws that prohibit smoking in public spaces.

Las Vegas Sands operates a pair of casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, the Venetian and the Palazzo, plus others in Singapore, Macau, and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The company is expected to settle on a site for EuroVegas sometime this summer.

If things don’t work out in Madrid or Barcelona -- unlikely, considering the desperate state of the nation’s economy -- the powers that be in Valencia and the Costa del Sol have already told Adelson to them a call.

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

And in Other News . . .

. . . england On Howard Swan’s plate for 2012 are renovations of two 18-hole golf courses in metropolitan London, England. The Essex-based architect has begun to oversee an overhaul of Gerrards Cross Golf Club, in the city’s western suburbs, and he’s preparing a master plan for a future makeover of Bentley Golf Club, which is located northeast of the city. The work at Bentley is essentially part of the family business, as the club features a 40-year-old track designed by Swan’s father, Alex. Some modest design changes are in order, as big hitters are no longer challenged by several holes on the 6,703-yard layout. The 6,243-yard course at Gerrards Cross, which opened in 1922, has been similarly outmoded by technological advances, a situation that Swan is addressing via a bunker renovation. Work on two holes is said to be in progress.

Some information in this post originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.

. . . brazil Question: How does a golf course architect’s life change after he wins a coveted design commission? Answer: He starts talking with reporters from Forbes. At least that’s how things have gone for Gil Hanse since he won the contest to design the golf course for the 2016 Olympics. The Q&A published last week by the famed magazine for One Percenters is completely forgettable, but Hanse did offer this tidbit about the course he’s designed in Rio de Janeiro: The courses that I’ve thought about are the Sandbelt courses in Australia -- Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath. I want to combine something like that with something like the Old Course in St. Andrews. The site in Rio is pure sand, and there’s not a whole lot of elevation change, sort of like the Old Course. If we can somehow craft something that looks like a Sandbelt course and has some of the characteristics of the Old Course, then I think we’ve done our job.

. . . wild card click If it sometimes seems that miracles are beyond belief, we can at least appreciate small wonders.
READ MORE - The Week That Was, april 8, 2012

Thursday, April 5, 2012

slovakia Creating a Golf Destination?

A Bratislava-based developer aims to build a 27-hole golf complex in the foothills of the High Tatras mountain range near Kezmarok, in northeastern Slovakia.

The complex will be the featured attraction of Royal Valley, which will include 66 single-family and vacation houses, a hotel, meeting space, a spa, a wellness center, and the usual recreational amenities. WBA Property Development hopes to break ground on the community in 2013 or 2014, with a nine-hole course set to be built in phase one of construction and an 18-hole course in phase two.

Royal Valley will emerge on 375 acres in the village of Maly Slavkov, near Tatras National Park. WBA hopes the area will eventually become what it calls “a new regional golf destination,” as Royal Valley will be just a short drive from the recently opened Black Stork golf community in Velka Lomnica. As it happens, WBA also plans to build some houses and a hotel in Velka Lomnica.

WBA was established by Marek Morgenstern, an English-speaking residential developer. In suburban Bratislava, it’s already developed the first of what it hopes will be a national network of communities for seniors (called Seniorville), and it aims to redevelop a brownfield in Nitra.

The company is an affiliate of WBA Holding, which has offices in Cyprus and Malta.

Some information in this post originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.
READ MORE - slovakia Creating a Golf Destination?

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Week That Was, april 1, 2012

morocco Tony Jacklin’s Marrakech Express

A year or so from now, Tony Jacklin expects to debut his second golf design in Morocco, at a U.S.-style resort community in suburban Marrakech.

Jacklin’s 27-hole complex will serve as a drawing card for Argan Golf Resort, which is being developed by the home-building arm of Groupe Addoha. Argan’s marketers have promised that the community’s 18-hole course will be “a jewel on par with the most prestigious professional golf courses.”

“We have designed the course in a desert style to minimize water consumption and have used plants and fauna that are indigenous to the area,” Jacklin reports in a press release. “The fabulous views of the Atlas Mountains provide the golfer with a stunning backdrop. This will undoubtedly provide players of all abilities with an experience to remember.”

Despite the exotic setting, the master plan for Argan mimics a familiar model. At build-out, the 550-acre community will consist of villas, apartments, a hotel, a spa, and an upscale shopping area. Jacklin has also agreed to produce a nine-hole, beginner-friendly track, and in the future he may be enlisted to add a golf academy.

To U.S. eyes, Argan’s only out-of-focus attraction is a polo club.

Groupe Addoha is a publicly traded company that was founded and is majority owned by Anas Sefioui, one of Morocco’s richest people. Bloomberg estimates that he’s worth $2.7 billion.

Groupe Addoha has reportedly built something like 190,000 houses all over Morocco, some of them at its Plage des Nations Golf Resort in suburban Rabat. In addition, the company is said to be building an 18-hole, Colin Montgomerie “signature” course at Marrakech Golf City in Marrakech.

In fact, Jacklin also has a little history with Groupe Addoha. Last year, construction began on a Jacklin-designed 18-hole course at Bouskoura Golf City in suburban Casablanca. Presuming the developers maintain their construction schedule, the course’s front nine will open later this year, the full 18 in 2013.

For those too young to remember Jacklin’s professional career, he won both a British and a U.S. open championship and was a member of seven Ryder Cup teams. He and Jack Nicklaus shared one of the best-remembered moments in Ryder Cup history, the famous “concession” putt that ended the 1969 matches in a draw. To commemorate this expression of sportsmanship, Jacklin and Nicklaus later co-designed Concession Golf Club in Sarasota, Florida.

Jacklin, who’s based in Bradenton, Florida, has also designed or co-designed courses in Spain (San Roque Club in Cadiz), Turkey (Klassis Golf & Country Club in Istanbul), and the Channel Islands (St. Pierre Park Golf Club in L’Ancresse).

His “ghost” designers for the courses at Argan and Bouskoura are a pair of Spanish architects, Blake Stirling and Marco Martin, who operate as Madrid, Spain-based Global Golf Company.

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

And in Other News . . .

. . . united states For better or worse, Donald “the Persuader” Trump’s sphere of influence in the golf business continues to grow. Last week, after months of spirited debate, the members of Point Lake & Golf Club in Mooresville, North Carolina voted to sell their property to the New York City-based developer, self-promoter, and reality TV star. When the transaction closes, possibly later this month, the Point will be known as Trump National Golf Club Charlotte. Improvements to the club’s Greg Norman-designed golf course, its clubhouse, and its other amenities are in the cards, to provide the lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous cachet that Trump-owned golf venues require. Eric Trump, the son who’s sounding more and more like a chip off the old block every day, told the Charlotte Observer, “There is no doubt that when completed, Trump National Golf Club Charlotte will be the best club in North Carolina and beyond.” I hope it isn’t too much to ask, How far beyond? The results of the vote haven’t been published, but Eric Trump claims that his family won the vote “overwhelmingly.” The price: $3 million.

. . . south africa The financially ailing Durban Country Club has been bailed out, at least temporarily, by a half-dozen trustees and deep-pocketed members. The rescue squad put up 45 million rand -- more than $5.8 million, presuming my currency calculator is working properly -- to fend off a possible foreclosure for DCC, which has been a home away from home for Durban’s high society since 1922. The amount of the loan reflects the depth of the hole DCC is in, and it may not be enough to keep the club’s doors open, as a trustee has confessed to the Durban Mercury that the club is “insolvent.” These troubling money issues have put the fate of the club’s showpiece course into question. DCC features one of the continent’s top tracks, a layout co-designed by golf pros George Waterman and Laurie Waters that’s hosted 16 South African open championships. A management group has been hired to attract new members, but the trustee fears that he’ll “probably see more members leaving.” To secure the loan, DCC had to offer its second 18-hole course, the Beachwood course, as collateral.

. . . cuba The number of vacationers heading to Cuba may be increasing -– it was up by 7.3 percent last year -– but the number of golf courses planned to serve them is not. Last week, during a press conference called to tout the nation’s recent successes on the tourism front, a minister reported that his nation aims to open 13 golf courses by 2020. As the Cuba Standard dutifully notes, the number is down by three from the one tourism officials were shooting for in 2010. Not that it matters, since all of Cuba’s pie-in-the-sky predictions regarding golf development have so far proved to be nothing but hot air. It’s no sweat off my back -- or off any U.S. resident’s -- but I think it would be nice if Cuba’s all-talk, no-action government could manage to build just one course. For me, that would be reason to call a press conference.

. . . wild card click My salute to opening day.
READ MORE - The Week That Was, april 1, 2012

Saturday, March 31, 2012

morocco Niall Cameron's Marrakech Express

Marrakech Golf Club, which features the first golf course designed by Niall Cameron, had its debut earlier this month.

The club, which bills itself as “the first truly private members’ course in Morocco,” will serve as the centerpiece of Assoufid, an upscale community just a short drive from downtown Marrakech. Exclusivity will be a major part of the community’s appeal, as its 555 acres are to include just 80 villas, a 98-room hotel with a spa, and a golf academy.

Assoufid will be managed by Sir Rocco Forte’s hotel group, which made a splash in golf circles in 2009, when it opened Verdura Golf & Spa Resort on the island of Sicily. Forte enlisted Cameron, a Scottish golf pro who serves as Verdura’s director of golf, to design Assoufid’s course, a 7,020-yard track that was built on property formerly dotted with olive trees.

“I had to pinch myself when I first saw the site,” Cameron said in a press release issued late last year. “The terrain for the golf course was ideal.”

Forte aims to sign 300 members to the club, and he’s reserved a spot for each of Assoufid’s property owners.

Some information in this post originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.
READ MORE - morocco Niall Cameron's Marrakech Express

Thursday, March 29, 2012

australia Dynamic Duo Goes Royal

Australia’s hottest design duo has been tapped to prepare a master plan for renovations at Royal Canberra Golf Club in suburban Canberra, New South Wales.

I’m talking, of course, about golf pro Geoff Ogilvy and “minimalist” architect Michael Clayton, the co-designer (with Tom Doak) of Barnbougle Dunes in Tasmania.

The partners, who operate out of Clayton’s office in Sandringham, Victoria, are currently working on makeovers of Bonnie Doon Golf Club in suburban Sydney and Sun City Country Club in suburban Perth, and Clayton (not yet officially with Ogilvy) has agreed to design a new “world-class” layout on Seven Mile Beach outside Hobart, in Tasmania.

This year Ogilvy and Clayton will turn their attention to Royal Canberra, which features a 50-year-old, 18-hole track (designed by Commander John Harris off a routing by James Scott) that’s long been ranked among Australia’s top layouts. (The club later added a third nine, designed by Peter Thomson and Michael Wolveridge.) The fundamental character of the complex isn’t expected to change significantly, but some tees and bunkers may be relocated, and all of the design elements will be refreshed.

The club doesn’t figure to begin any substantive work until after February 2013, when it hosts the Australian Women’s Open.
READ MORE - australia Dynamic Duo Goes Royal

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Week That Was, march 25, 2012

united states The Closings Accelerate

If you believe the U.S. golf business has stabilized, you might want to reconsider: The inventory of golf courses in our nation shrunk dramatically last year.

Since 2006, according to the National Golf Foundation, our industry has lost 358.5 “18-hole equivalent” courses. By my math, this works out to a net reduction of roughly 72 courses a year in each of the past five years.

In 2011, however, the number of closings hit 157.5 -- more than double the number that might have been expected. The net reduction amounts to 138.5, when the measly 19 courses that opened during 2011 are taken into account.

From the NGF’s perspective, this is welcome news.

“The slow correction that is now occurring is very much overdue and necessary, to help return the golf course business to a more healthy equilibrium between supply and demand,” says Joe Beditz, the group’s president, in a press release.

Of course, the owners of the courses that have gone belly up may not see things quite so dispassionately. One man’s “market correction” is another man’s retirement savings gone kablooey.

And while this gradual shrinking of the market may translate into greater profits for existing courses, it sure doesn’t lay a solid foundation for the industry’s long-term health. The NGF’s research indicates that most of the recently shuttered courses are public tracks with low greens fees -- in other words, cheap-to-play courses where juniors, beginners, and average-income hackers typically gather. How can we create a thriving business when we diminish the supply of venues that introduce golf to future generations?

All in all, the NGF’s numbers-crunchers say, over the past five years the United States has lost 2.4 percent of its total supply of courses, and they predict that further reductions are on the horizon. But the way the NGF sees it, these are signs of good things to come.

“The outlook for golf remains slightly positive,” Beditz concludes, “with a stabilization of demand likely in the near term and slow growth likely in the longer term.”

I want to draw your attention to Beditz’s ominous hedging. In order to make a one-sentence comment about golf’s “slightly positive” future, he had to use the word likely twice. Inspires confidence, doesn’t it?

What the NGF is saying is that we can all look forward to a few more down years followed by decades of lean years. I don’t know about you, but I can hardly wait.

And in Other News . . .

. . . maldives For those ardent travelers who can’t wait for the opening of the much-discussed “floating” golf course in the Maldives, an alternative has emerged: A nine-hole, par-3 track is scheduled to debut this week at the Shangri-La Villingili Resort & Spa on the southern part of Villingili Island. The course is the island nation’s second, joining a six-hole track at Kuredu Island Resort on Lhaviyani Atoll. Although the course at Villingili certainly isn’t destination-worthy -- a report from Golf Today suggests that it was designed by someone at Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts -- people are clearly finding reasons to visit the Maldives. A record number of tourists -- 931,000 -- made their way to the place last year, and over the past decade its tourism arrivals are said to have nearly doubled.

. . . australia After more than a decade of trying, the 400-odd members of Maleny Golf Club have secured permission to build an easy-to-play, nine-hole golf course. The track will be part of a community that’s taking shape on a municipally owned, 300-acre parcel in Maleny, Queensland. (If you’re wondering, it’s 12 miles west of Maroochydore, 80 miles north of Brisbane.) The club, which currently operates a driving range on the property, has tapped Graham Papworth of Hastings, Australia-based GNP Golf Design to design the golf course, which could someday grow to 18 holes.

Some information in this post originally appeared in the February 2010 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.

. . . china I can’t decide if China these days reminds me more of limbo or the second act of Waiting for Godot. While the central government hasn’t yet lifted its moratorium on golf construction or issued those long-awaited regulations on development, projects in the People’s Republic are nonetheless being approved, construction is taking place, and new courses are opening. It’s counter-intuitive, I know. Here’s how Brian Curley explained the situation in the current issue of Asian Golf Business: “Things are much slower as far as construction goes, but we are still producing plans and signing new deals. This has us optimistic about the future, but there’s still an unknown time frame associated with the slowdown.” The Scottsdale, Arizona-based architect knows there’s no upside in predicting the future, but he gamely ventured a guess. “We expect a slow first half of 2012,” he told the magazine. “From there, it could be crazy busy or a continued slow pace. You never know.” No, you don’t. And that’s why China has become a giant blur for the world of golf.

. . . wild card click You can never have too much of a good thing.
READ MORE - The Week That Was, march 25, 2012

Saturday, March 24, 2012

worth reading The Grandest Illusion

I never thought about the lawn-care industry as having a start date, but apparently it has one: the second week of April 1967. That weekend, for the first time, the Masters was broadcast live and in color, sparking America’s mad quest for the impeccable front lawn.

No doubt, Augusta National in April is lovely, and it has inspired all too many golf writers to wax overly poetic about its flawlessness. But what CBS and ESPN don’t really care to admit is that the tournament venue is in many respects merely an illusion, one that’s greener, more sumptuous, and more picture-perfect than any golf course could ever be for 52 weeks a year. Its magnificence epitomizes both golf’s glory and its ruin.

Paul Tukey, who favors “natural” agronomic practices, recently put Augusta National in perspective. Here’s part of an essay he recently published in eNews Park Forest:

For the professionals who care for grass, either on golf courses or in home yards, the “Augusta Syndrome” is a love-hate relationship between financial opportunity and unrealistic expectations of their patrons and customers. For the manufacturers like Scotts Miracle Gro, Bayer, and others, America’s obsession with Masters green has been a pure gold excuse to print their own money.

“The Masters golf tournament is a nightmare for us every year,” said Mike Bailey, the superintendent of the Whitlock Country Club in Hudson, Quebec, the first town in North America that ever banned lawn and garden pesticides on all property -- except golf courses and farms. “We’re sitting up here in Canada in April, when the grass hasn’t even broken dormancy most years, and yet our members show up the week after the Masters and expect our course to look like a golf course 2,000 miles to the south.” . . .

Ron Dodson, the president of Audubon International that has certified golf courses for their environmental stewardship, famously denounced Augusta National Country Club as a “television studio on which a golf tournament is played in the spring.” The club reportedly dyes ponds blue or black to hide algae bloom, spray-paints grass to make it look more green in years when the newly planted ryegrass isn’t flourishing, and even refrigerates or warms the azaleas so that they’ll be in perfect bloom for the second weekend in April. Rumors have it that this year Hollywood set designers have been brought in to Augusta to hide damage caused by the lawn chemical weed killer Imprelis that was found last year to kill trees as a side effect.

The pressure to make Augusta National look perfect for a week each year is immense -- and certainly still at the core of our nation’s obsession with lawn-care aesthetics. You want to take a look at what the world’s most famous golf course really looks like when the cameras are off? It’s easy. Go to and type in “Augusta National Country Club.” Click on the satellite button and then begin to zoom in. What you’ll find is grass that probably looks a lot like your grass. You’ll see bare patches and faded greens. You’ll find empty rubber-lined holes in the earth where those made-for-TV ponds were filled when the cameras were on. It’s a rather scorched-earth appearance that most people wouldn’t imagine when they think of the Masters. . . .

The real issue is expectations and marketing. Golf can be played amongst a few weeds and brown patches, but customers who have been overtly and subliminally motivated by ad dollars don’t want to hear it. . . .

And yet, in three weeks the Masters tournament will recharge those expectations among consumers. In a couple of weeks, Opening Day of the baseball season will showcase all those “Scotts is Used Here” banners in Major League ballparks. Baseball fans will charge into the landscape supply centers and buy a bagged product that offers the intrinsic promise of Fenway Park and Dodger Stadium at home lawns across North America.

It’s a multibillion-dollar industry based on a big pile of bunk.

So this year when you watch the Masters, understand one thing: It’s no more realistic for your lawn to look like Augusta National Country Club does for a week in April than it is for your golf game to be on par with Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, or Tiger Woods.
READ MORE - worth reading The Grandest Illusion

Thursday, March 22, 2012

tunisia The Wide World of Sports Cities

If you’re looking for fresh reasons to feel optimistic about international golf development, consider this: Late last year, Sports Cities International announced that it’s resurrected its down-but-not-out community in Tunisia’s capital city.

“We expect to resume the work soon,” SCI’s CEO, Victor Shenoda, told Emirates 24/7.

Tunis Sports City was a link in a chain of sports-oriented communities that SCI, a subsidiary of Sharjah, UAE-based Bukhatir Group, hoped to build in Sri Lanka, South Africa, India, Vietnam, Morocco, and, for a brief time, Pakistan. However, the company managed to open just one: Dubai Sports City, which debuted in 2004 and includes an Ernie Els-designed golf course.

In keeping with the template created in Dubai, the 650-acre Tunis Sports City has been master-planned to include a variety of housing types, a few hotels, some office space, the largest shopping area in North Africa, schools, a medical center, nine sports academies, a 10,000-seat outdoor stadium, and a 5,000-seat indoor stadium. Its 6,650-yard golf course has been designed by Peter Harradine, a Swiss architect who has an office in Dubai.

Shenoda didn’t provide any particulars about when the construction in Tunis will begin. As for the other communities, they remain kayoed by the global economic collapse, at least for the time being.

Some information in this post originally appeared in the December 2011 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.
READ MORE - tunisia The Wide World of Sports Cities

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Week That Was, march 18, 2012

england The Next Belfry?

A few weeks ago, construction began on an ambitious plan intended to transform a small luxury hotel in the North East into one of England’s top golf destinations.

Ramside Hall Hotel, in suburban Durham, currently features an 80-room hotel, meeting and banquet space, restaurants, and a 27-hole, Jonathan Gaunt-designed golf complex. Over the next couple of years, however, the hotel will grow to 128 rooms, its meeting and banquet space will be enlarged, a spa and some recreational amenities will added, and 34 single-family houses will flank the fairways. The sale of the houses will finance the expansion, which is estimated to cost more than $26 million.

Part of the money will be spent on enhancements to Ramside’s golf offerings. Gaunt, who’s based in Derbyshire, England, has been retained to redesign the hotel’s Cathedral nine and add a second nine to it, to create a 36-hole complex with one course that stretches to more than 7,200 yards.

“By expanding the hotel and creating a new course, we are polishing our golfing diamond, giving County Durham a first-class golf resort that it can be proud of,” the hotel’s owner, John Adamson, told the Sunderland Echo.

What’s more, Adamson believes that Ramside Hall’s new courses will rival those offered at any of England’s premier golf destinations. “It is our intention to make Ramside Hall Hotel the Belfry of the North,” he told the Northern Echo in January 2011, referring to the golf resort in suburban Birmingham that’s hosted four Ryder Cup Matches.

Gaunt believes the hotel’s new golf complex will be ready for play in the spring of 2013.

Some information in this post originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.

nicaragua The Next Big Thing?

A Nicaraguan newspaper reports that David McLay Kidd “thinks Nicaragua has all the right ingredients to become the next great golf destination, rivaling Hawaii, South Africa, and Costa Rica.”

The way Kidd sees it, Nicaragua has it all: friendly people, gorgeous views, pleasant weather, affordable prices, and a low crime rate. What it doesn’t have, at least not yet, are destination-worthy golf courses.

As best I can determine, the nation has just four golf properties, two in Managua (Nejapa Golf & Country Club and Gran Pacifica Beach & Golf Resort) and two along the Pacific coast (Iguana Golf & Beach Club and the first nine holes of a planned 27 at Milagro del Mar Golf Club). When Kidd’s 18-hole track at Guacalito de la Isla opens next year, it’ll almost certainly ride straight to the top of the nation’s best-of list.

Maybe that’s why the Bend, Oregon-based architect is encouraging other developers to check out what Nicaragua has to offer. “Nobody here wants to prevent competition to this course,” he told the Nicaragua Dispatch. “I would hope that all my competitors in the golf-design business come to Nicaragua and build great golf courses, and I hope that they can do something as good as we have done.”

Kidd may soon get his wish, as a Jack Nicklaus “signature” layout at Seaside Mariana is supposed to open in 2014. But the course has been in the works for years, so I’ll believe it when I see it.

And in Other News . . .

. . . united states Some random facts related to the financial turmoil at Cliffs Communities, courtesy of bankruptcy filings via Journal Watchdog: The eight communities -- six in South Carolina, two in North Carolina -- have a total of 9,000 lots, 3,734 of which have been sold. So far, 1,384 houses have been built and 63 are under construction. The first two Cliffs communities, Cliffs at Glassy (with a Tom Jackson-designed course) and Cliffs Valley (Ben Wright), have sold more than 90 percent of their 1,900 combined lots. At the other end of the spectrum, of the 1,200 lots at Cliffs at High Carolina (Tiger Woods), only 10 percent have been sold. The Cliffs’ prospective owners, Steve and Penny Carlile, have committed $5 million to complete the Gary Player-designed golf course at Cliffs at Mountain Park. (The track is said to be 70 percent done.) Finally, the Cliffs’ nearly 8,000 creditors include Tom Fazio’s design firm, which is owed $800,000.

. . . talking points Care to predict where on earth golf’s future growth will come from? Here’s Gary Player’s opinion: “The U.S. and the U.K. will probably never return to the growth figures they were seeing 10 to 15 years ago, and in a similar time it’s quite likely that China and India between them will have more golfers than there are in the U.S. today.” No, it’s nothing we haven’t heard countless times before. But don’t blame Player for delivering an inconsequential sound-bite. British Airways Business Life asked, so he politely answered. In journalism, your questions usually get the answers they deserve.

. . . wild card click If you want to know where I’ve been lately, I’ve been suffering from food poisoning. This is how it feels.
READ MORE - The Week That Was, march 18, 2012