Thursday, January 26, 2012

cayman islands To Buy or To Build?

No sales tax, no income tax, no capital gains tax, no property tax, no inheritance tax -– no wonder Grand Cayman Island seems like heaven to the planet’s well-heeled bankers, financiers, and investors, not to mention at least one Republican presidential candidate.

The island isn’t a golf paradise, though, as it has just two golf courses: 18 holes at North South Golf Club and nine holes at the Greg Norman-designed Blue Tip Golf Course. And the future of the course at North Sound is in doubt.

For several years the courses’ owner, a developer named Mike Ryan, has been hoping to downsize North Sound. Specifically, he’s enlisted Norman to shrink it to a nine-hole track and combine it with the nine holes at Blue Tip, in an attempt to create what he hopes would be a destination-worthy golf venue.

But North Sound is bleeding money fast -– it reportedly loses between $60,000 and $100,000 a month –- and Ryan’s plans may have changed. Ryan is reportedly trying to sell the course to Dart Enterprises, a development group led by Mark VanDevelde.

“There’s only one other guy who has the interest and the money to invest in a golf course, and I’m talking to him,” Ryan told a local newspaper late last year. “Have we done anything? No. Do I hope we will do something? I hope so.”

So far, the parties haven’t been able to come to an agreement. It could be that VanDevelde is driving a hard bargain, because he has another option.

Last year one of Dart’s affiliates bought nearly 300 acres along the island’s western coast, a site that had been slated to become a resort featuring houses, a hotel, a marina, and an 18-hole golf course. At the time of the purchase, VanDevelde said that he had no immediate plans to build a golf course on the property. But he knows the game’s appeal.

“We recognise that golf facilities are very important, if not a necessary amenity to a world-class tourism destination such as Grand Cayman,” VanDevelde said last year. “We understand the need to provide our visitors and future home buyers with access to a golf facility.”

One way or another, it appears that golf will be a part of Dart’s future. The only question is whether the company will buy a course or build one.

Some information in this post originally appeared in the May 2009 and October 2011 issues of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.