Monday, February 27, 2012

The Week That Was, february 26, 2012

croatia Hollywood on the Adriatic

My research is still a little spotty, but I can’t resist reporting that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have apparently become investors in a golf resort that will be built along Croatia’s Adriatic coast.

The resort, to be called Barabriga, will take shape on the Istrian peninsula, probably in a municipality called Vodnjan. (It’s just north of Pula.) As best I can determine, the site is among the many that were identified as suitable for golf resorts before the Great Recession ended most of Croatia’s development dreams.

Barabriga will reportedly consist of villas, hotels, a marina, and an 18-hole golf course. It’ll be built on property owned by Danko Končar, who’s said to be the nation’s richest individual. (A Croatian news source estimates that he’s worth $3 billion.) Končar, who’s been described as “mysterious” -- probably because he lives mostly in London -- is said to own some 2,500 acres in Istria County, and some of his property in Vodnjan is said to have been planted with olive groves and vineyards.

Yes, Končar is in the wine business, but vino isn’t the source of his wealth. Končar reportedly harvests minerals -- chromium, platinum, iron, zinc -- from mines that he owns in South Africa. In some circles, he’s known as “the King of Chrome.”

Like other celebrities, international businessmen, and power couples -- Jay Z and Beyonce, Bill and Melinda Gates, Prince Harry, Bernie Ecclestone -- Pitt and Jolie have warm feelings for Croatia. Jolie’s travels as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations led her to write and direct a movie (In the Land of Blood and Honey) about the Bosnian War, and she’s said to enjoy vacationing on the Brijuni Islands, which are located just off Vodnjan. A Croatian newspaper wrote that the couple believes the islands are “a paradise on earth and ideal for children.”

I’m just guessing, but Pitt and Jolie probably met Končar through Rade Šerbedžija, a Croatian actor who’s said to be an investor in Barabriga. Šerbedžija has appeared in several dozen Yugoslavian movies as well as a few U.S. films and television shows, among them Mission: Impossible II, Eyes Wide Shut, season six of “24,” and In the Land of Blood and Honey.

cambodia Faldo’s Second Act

Later this year, construction is expected to begin on Nick Faldo’s second golf course in Cambodia.

The championship-length, tournament-worthy track will be the first of two 18-hole courses that Vattanac Properties plans to build at its eponymous, 1,250-acre resort in suburban Phnom Penh, the nation’s capital city. I can’t tell you anything about the property, but Faldo Design’s director of architecture, Andrew Haggar, says in a press release that the firm will “design a landscape and an identity for the site and at the same time create an iconic golf course.”

At build-out, Vattanac Golf Resort will include what’s been described as “extensive real estate,” at least one hotel, and a variety of sports, recreation, and entertainment venues. A date hasn’t yet been set for the groundbreaking on the resort’s second Faldo-designed course, but it’s expected to have a contrasting style.

Faldo’s first venue in Cambodia, at Angkor Golf Resort, opened in late 2007. The course sits at or near the top of the list of venues to which Cambodian tour operators send foreign golf travelers, particularly those who wish to experience the rich historical treasures of Siem Reap.

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

australia Golf Digest’s Top 10

Let the bragging begin: Australian Golf Digest has identified the nation’s premier golf courses, via the publication of its annual Top 100.

As in years past, the cream of Australia’s crop is dominated by courses designed, co-designed, or influenced by Alister MacKenzie. Greg Norman is responsible for two of the nation’s most elite tracks, and U.S. designers -– Tom Doak and the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw -– produced two others.

As we all know, top-whatever lists are created mostly to sell magazines. But Australian Golf Digest argues that it has a more noble purpose in mind.

“We hope this ranking encourages the proper custodianship of quality golf courses in this country,” writes Darius Oliver, the magazine’s architecture editor. “If we help a deteriorating club make a crucial decision on redevelopment, or equally prevent unnecessary change elsewhere, then we will have contributed in a small, but positive, way to the game we love.”

Here’s the top 10:

1. Royal Melbourne Golf Club’s West course in Victoria. Redesigned by MacKenzie. A true world-class layout. Doak once said that the West course “might be the place which has influenced my own design style the most.”

2. Kingston Heath Golf Club in Victoria. Designed by Dan Soutar and MacKenzie. Kingston Heath was the top-ranked track in 2011.

3. Ellerston Golf Course in New South Wales. Designed by Greg Norman.

4. Barnbougle Dunes Golf Links in Tasmania. Co-designed by Doak and Michael Clayton, an Australian architect. According to Oliver, some of the magazine’s evaluators “regard Barnbougle Dunes as Australia’s best golf course, while others are of the opinion that Lost Farm [#6 on the list] is an even better track.”

5. New South Wales Golf Club in New South Wales. Designed by MacKenzie. Down from #2.

6. Barnbougle Lost Farm in Tasmania. Designed by Coore and Crenshaw. Oliver: “By any definition this is world-class golf, and its best holes, such as the 5th and 14th, are among the finest in Australia.”

7. National Golf Club’s Moonah course in Victoria. Designed by Norman.

8. Royal Melbourne’s East course in Victoria. Designed by Alex Russell. He collaborated with MacKenzie on the redesign of the West course.

9. Victoria Golf Club in Victoria. Designed by William Meader and MacKenzie.

10. Metropolitan Golf Club in Victoria. Designed by J. B. MacKenzie. No relation.

And in Other News . . .

. . . united states What generates more money in Alabama, the golf business or crop production? The correct answer is crop production, but not by much: $818.7 million to $808.1 million. That’s the word from the first study of the golf industry’s economic impact on the state, courtesy of the Alabama Tourism Department and Golf 20/20. Notable factoids: More than half of the total revenue was provided by golf facility operations (252 golf courses, along with a few driving ranges and miniature golf courses, and the state’s golf industry supports 21,221 jobs. One other thing: In a story about the study, CBS News reports that the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, which features 26 golf courses in 11 locations, lures roughly 500,000 customers annually.

. . . wild card click I know what I'm watching tonight.
READ MORE - The Week That Was, february 26, 2012

Thursday, February 23, 2012

china Jones, Jr.: Back to Shanghai?

Sometime this year, the real estate affiliate of a powerful Chinese multinational hopes to start building an 18-hole golf course on an island along the Yangtze River in Shanghai.

The course has been designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., one of his profession’s elder statesmen and a familiar face in Chinese golfing circles. It’ll be the centerpiece of Shanghai Dongtan Jin Mao Noble Manor, a 290-acre community taking shape on Chongming Island, China’s second-largest island (after Hainan Island).

Franshion Properties (China), Ltd., a publicly traded, Hong Kong-based firm, describes Jin Mao Noble Manor as “a high-end, low-density residential project.” At build-out, it’s expected to include various forms of housing and some hotels, including an “apartment hotel.”

These days Franshion Properties is working on several development ventures in Shanghai’s central business district, including the Shanghai International Shipping Service Center and Shanghai Port, which it calls an “international passenger transport center.” The company has developed the Chemsunny World Trade Center in Beijing, and it owns several hotels (3,000 total rooms) in Shanghai, in metropolitan Beijing, and on Hainan Island, operated by such brands as Ritz-Carlton, Hilton, Westin, Grand Hyatt, and Marriott.

Franshion Properties is controlled by Sinochem Group, a state-owned entity that’s among the world’s largest multinationals -– number 203 in last year’s Global Fortune 500.

The course will be Jones’ seventh in the People’s Republic. The Palo Alto, California-based architect’s previous work includes Yalong Bay Golf Club on Hainan Island, Spring City Golf & Lake Resort in Kunming (Yunnan Province), and Enhance Anting Golf Club in Shanghai.

Some material in this post originally appeared in the November 2011 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.
READ MORE - china Jones, Jr.: Back to Shanghai?

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Week That Was, february 19, 2012

canada Revelstoke: A Job or a Snow Job?

Is it possible to read too much into a want ad?

I ask because Northland Properties is searching for “an environmental specialist” who can go to work on a “subdivision and golf course project” at Revelstoke Mountain Resort in British Columbia.

The original master plan for Revelstoke, whose ski area opened in 2007, calls for 550 single-family houses, 850 townhouses, 1,500 condos, 2,000 hotel rooms, a pedestrian village with retail and commercial space, and four golf courses. Way back when, the resort hired Nick Faldo to put his “signature” on the first of those courses, an 18-hole track that was supposed to be open by now.

I haven’t heard any golf murmurs from Revelstoke for years, but something is clearly happening with Faldo’s overdue course. Last summer, according to the Revelstoke Times Review, the resort began clearing property “in the area of the golf course” but was forced to stop because the work “infringed on some riparian areas.” Hence the need for an environmental specialist, presumably.

Unfortunately, Northland isn’t willing to shed much light on its construction plans. After what was described as “a brief conversation” with the company’s chief operating officer, the newspaper reported that “the job was posted so the resort could deal with the environmental issues before development of the golf course can begin.”

Small steps, apparently. Enough to keep hope alive.

Incidentally, Faldo was going to design the track with Brian Curley.

Some information in this post originally appeared in the September 2008 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.

united states Donald Trump, Now & Forever

I’m as tired of writing about Donald Trump as most of you are of reading about him. But after three weeks of operating this blog as a Trump-free zone, I can no longer deny the guy his keystrokes. He simply makes too much news.

Here’s a little of what the most polarizing figure in golf has been doing of late:

-- Trump’s on-again, off-again pursuit of the Point Lake & Golf Club in North Carolina is on again. A majority of the club’s members have come around to seeing things Trump’s way, and the Charlotte Observer believes a sale could take place “within weeks.” Trump, you’ll remember from posts in early and mid December 2011, has been trying to buy the Point and its Greg Norman-designed golf course for more than a year. He longs to make it “amazing” -- the best in the state -- and to give it a new name with real pizazz: Trump National Golf Club Charlotte. Like so many courtships, however, this one has had its ups and downs. Just weeks ago, when some club members got cold feet and went public with their reservations, Trump walked away from the negotiating table in a huff, fuming about “a lack of direction” at the club. Now, at least from his perspective, the members are clearly on the right track again. The club could hold a formal vote on the sale by the end of the month.

-- Trump has finally revealed why he’s so hell-bent on preventing Scottish officials from building a wind farm that would be visible from the fairways of Trump International Golf Club Scotland. “I am doing this to save Scotland,” he heroically acknowledged in a letter to a Scottish minister who’s capable of derailing the project. In other words, it’s patriotism, not profit, that’s led Trump to allocate what he calls “a substantial sum of money” (no sums were provided, alas) to underwrite “an international campaign to fight your plan.” Speaking like a true man of the people, Trump contends that “the people of Scotland will forever suffer” if the wind farm is built, largely because tourists who might have otherwise booked rooms in his high-priced hotel “will be going to other countries that had the foresight to use other forms of energy.” I’m not foolish enough to predict where Trump goes next with his vitriol, but I’m thinking his opportunity to win friends and influence people in the U.K. may be gone with the wind farm.

-- Trump wants to build a 1.5-acre cemetery along the fifth fairway at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in northern New Jersey. “At some point you have to think about this stuff,” one of Trump’s associates told the New York Daily News. Plots will be made available to the club’s well-to-do members, and part of the grounds will be reserved as a tasteful final resting place for Trump and his family. No prices have yet been set, and no, Trump hasn’t said when he’s planning to move in. Whenever the day comes, though, may he rest in peace.

And in Other News . . .

. . . japan Japan’s moribund economy, coupled with last year’s earthquake and fallout from the ensuing nuclear disaster, has claimed a victim in the nation’s golf industry: Taiheiyo Club, a course management firm, has filed for the equivalent of bankruptcy protection. The company may be familiar to some of you. Taiheiyo Club made its presence felt on this side of the Pacific back in 1992, when it bought the Pebble Beach resort from Minoru Isutani and his rumored yakuza financiers. Seven years later, Taiheiyo Club sold the iconic resort to its current owners, a group led by Clint Eastwood and Arnold Palmer. Today the company’s portfolio consists of 18 golf courses, most of them in the suburbs of Tokyo, Kobe, Sapporo, and Fukushima. The Financial Times says that Taiheiyo Club “embarked on an aggressive growth strategy during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s” but fell on hard times when financially squeezed corporations “stopped funding expensive golf junkets and the number of golfers in Japan began a steady decline, leading to a sharp drop in revenues.” The newspaper reports that Taiheiyo Club will be “rehabilitated with financial support from Accordia Golf,” a much larger management company whose finances are also nothing to write home about.

. . . china Here’s another chew-on-this tidbit from the interview with Ken Chu referenced in this blog last Sunday: When he was asked what golf means to him, the CEO of the Mission Hills resorts and their nearly two dozen golf courses said, “Golf is a business language, a social networking tool, a medium to link the East and the West.” Chu may have felt he was having a lost-in-translation moment, as he quickly added: “I didn’t think like this until I returned to Hong Kong from Toronto 16 years ago. Before then, I regarded golf as merely a retirement sport.”

. . . wild card click A lesson in how to conduct yourself at a job interview.
READ MORE - The Week That Was, february 19, 2012

Saturday, February 18, 2012

talking points Dana Garmany on Golf’s Future

Dana Garmany knows golf, particularly the management side of it, as well as anyone. His company, Troon Golf, reportedly manages more than 130 U.S. golf courses and something like 65 others in 23 foreign nations.

If you’re wondering, roughly a quarter of Troon Golf’s properties are part of private clubs -- and Garmany sees some trouble on the horizon for them. In a recent conservation with KPMG’s Golf Business Community, here’s what he had to say about the future of private clubs:

The days of big initiation fees are gone, and [private clubs] will need to find a new model. In the golf boom of the 1990s, golfers didn’t really play more golf, they just spent more money on it. They had two memberships, not one. They went on more than one golf holiday and bought more than one set of clubs. So private clubs will still need the annual dues (membership income), but they are going to have to find new ways to make money.

Obviously, private clubs make money by signing new members. But to do that, Garmany believes, they’ll need to make themselves attractive to younger generations that doesn’t necessarily do things the way their parents did.

It’s the next generation that is the challenge, Garmany told KPMG. How do we make golf fun for the under-40s, who do not have a competitive zeal and treat a day’s golf like a spa day? Their wants and needs are so different, and we have to recognize this. If a 38-year-old executive has managed to get away from the office to play golf on a Friday afternoon, you can’t then tell him he can’t use his cell phone or log onto the internet in the clubhouse. What chance is there of him becoming a member? If people quit the game, they don’t come back, so we have to keep people playing.

Garmany was also asked where in the world he believes Troon Golf’s best opportunities lie. His answer:

The USA market is going to remain flat for development in the next three to five years, so we want to expand internationally and build a profit base by getting to the right places, including Asia. . . . Morocco is a growing market for us at the moment. And while the Middle East has slowed down, it remains an important market.

And if you’re thinking about selling your golf course, you might want to reconsider. Garmany thinks golf courses are beginning to look like smart investments again.

There is probably a time coming again very soon that you do want to own a golf course, he said. When the market bottoms out, there may be some value. It may be risky now, but we think in 2012 and 2013, we will see more people taking a shot at it.
READ MORE - talking points Dana Garmany on Golf’s Future

Thursday, February 16, 2012

china The Sundance Kids

The crackdown on golf construction in China is starting to spread pain among course architects everywhere.

The latest one to feel the pinch is Bob Cupp, an Atlanta, Georgia-based designer who has three projects in the People’s Republic -– two in Yunnan Province and one on Hainan Island -– stuck on drawing boards.

“All projects are on hiatus until the central government can come up with new edicts,” says Steve Timm, Cupp’s partner and a former golf pro at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California. “There are a number of projects that are being scrutinized very closely.”

Once the pressure is relieved, Cupp and Timm are hoping to begin construction at Sundance Golf Club, part of a community (including houses, a hotel, and a spa) that’s being developed by Guo Linning, a Chinese construction manager turned developer. Sundance will take shape in Xian Dian, a rural town in the hills northeast of Kunming that Timm says has “no trappings of a city,” not even a sewer system. The partners will co-design 36 holes for the community, with the courses stretching to 7,400 and 7,600 yards.

Cupp, who’ll be 72 later this year, is hoping that he doesn’t need to wait too long for golf construction in China to resume.

“It’s still fun to design golf courses,” he says. “I like doing it.”

Some information in this post originally appeared in the December 2011 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.
READ MORE - china The Sundance Kids

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Week That Was, february 12, 2012

united states The Cliffs & Other Dangers

The first Tiger Woods-designed golf course in the United States is now officially on the endangered list.

Cliffs Communities, the course’s developer, has decided to file for bankruptcy protection and sell its portfolio of exclusive golf properties in North and South Carolina. The portfolio consists six operating courses, including two designed by Jack Nicklaus and two by Tom Fazio, as well as partially completed courses designed by Woods and Gary Player.

The prospective buyers, Steve and Penny Carlile of Marshall, Texas, have promised to finish the Player-designed course in Travelers Rest, South Carolina (it’s part of a community called Cliffs at Mountain Park) but have done their best to avoid talking about Woods’ course, which is to be the centerpiece of Cliffs at High Carolina in Swannanoa, North Carolina. The Carliles haven’t officially closed the book on the track’s future, but their current lack of commitment must be buzzing in Woods’ ears.

“I don’t want you to think we’re going to start the golf course immediately,” Steve Carlile told a reporter from the Asheville Citizen-Times. “We’re going to [study] ... and determine what’s the best way to develop High Carolina.”

A noteworthy factoid: The Carliles are among the precious few people -- 50, by most estimates -- who’ve purchased lots at High Carolina over the past few years. The community has been master-planned for 1,100 houses.

“This is the first step in an exciting, new future for the Cliffs as a leader among nationally recognized clubs and golf communities,” the sellers said in a letter to the communities’ members.

GSA Business reports that Steve Carlile is the son of the late Quinton Bond Carlile, a Texas oil man, banker, and patron of the arts. In addition to his inheritance, Steve is said to make his money from energy-related investments, commercial real estate, and a home decor supply company.

Steve and Penny, operating as Carlile Group, have so far agreed to buy only the Cliffs’ golf courses and other golf-related amenities. If their purchase is approved by a bankruptcy court, they say, they’ll begin buying the communities’ undeveloped real estate. Various reports say that roughly half of the 10,000 or so lots at the Cliffs communities have been sold.

These days, Steve isn’t the only Carlile looking to buy undervalued U.S. golf properties. His brother, David, the principal of Marshall-based Challenge Golf Group, has in recent years acquired nearly a dozen golf courses in Texas, North Carolina, and South Carolina. He made an especially big splash late last year, when he bought Balsam Mountain Preserve, a Cliffs-like 4,400-acre spread in Sylva, North Carolina that features an Arnold Palmer-designed golf course.

The Cliffs’ sale marks the end of a dream for Jim Anthony, a one-time telephone company lineman who did in the Carolinas what Lyle Anderson did in Arizona and New Mexico: create one of the premier multi-location golf clubs in the United States. Anyone who’s ever toured a Cliffs community knows that Anthony built them to exacting standards.

When Woods declared himself to be a course architect, everyone in our business speculated about where his first U.S. design would take shape. Very few people bet on the Cliffs. For a while, in the glow of the ceremonial groundbreaking, it seemed that High Carolina would be the ne plus ultra of Anthony’s career. Instead, it may be remembered as his coup de grace.

So today, we can again ask the inevitable question: Where will Tiger Woods’ first U.S. course be built?

united states Geoffrey Cornish, RIP

Geoffrey Cornish, one of the last surviving links to the Golden Age of golf architecture, died last week.

If you’ve never heard of him, don’t fret. Though he designed, redesigned, or renovated an estimated 250 golf courses, Cornish never became as famous as a few of his contemporaries or some of those who drew on his work for inspiration.

But that hardly matters. Even if his career as a course designer could be erased, Cornish made an enduring contribution to golf architecture, as he co-wrote (with Ron Whitten) two invaluable reference books on golf design, The Golf Course and The Architects of Golf.

What’s more, Cornish was a fount of first-hand knowledge about the golf business in the 20th century. To give you an idea of how far back he goes, consider this: He was already an industry veteran by the time Jack Nicklaus was born, in 1940.

Cornish was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba on the eve of World War I -- literally a month before the war began, in 1914. He got his start as a designer in 1935, when he went to work for Canada’s most famous architect, Stanley Thompson. I don’t know anything about the circles in which Cornish traveled, but in those days he very well might have rubbed shoulders with some true legends, people who are to most of us merely names in history books: Harry Colt, Donald Ross, C. B. Macdonald, Charles Banks, Wayne Stiles, William F. Mitchell, Devereux Emmet. They were all working when Cornish designed his first courses.

When you live to be 97, this is how far back you go.

Cornish reportedly died at his home in Amherst, Massachusetts. Some part of him will live on through his friends and associates, a group that includes Brian Silva, Mark Mungeam, and Tim Gerrish.

And in Other News . . .

. . . china Ken Chu wakes up every morning at six and, as part of his “golden rule,” goes to bed each night at 11. In between, he exercises for an hour and contemplates pearls of wisdom instilled in him by his late father. Among them: “No pain, no gain” and “You reap what you sow.” Of course, Chu also tends to the family business, which is activated by two of the biggest golf resorts on the planet, the Mission Hills spreads in Shenzhen and on Hainan Island. The latter, it appears, is the focus of Chu’s attention these days. Over the next two years, Mission Hills Group is going to sink nearly $800 million into various projects on Hainan Island, in an effort to make the place, in Chu’s words, “much more entertaining.” “I’m going to fulfill my father’s dream, and make his visions happen,” Chu explained in an interview with a Chinese news service. “That’s something that my father wanted to achieve, and I’m going to complete it.”

. . . canada Like their counterparts in the United States, Canada’s golf courses have in recent years been struggling to find golfers. Should they expect a golf rush to materialize this year? Unfortunately, the answer is no, says a principal of the nation’s largest golf consulting company. “We don’t see the golf industry as having a big decline,” notes Stephen Johnson of Global Golf Advisors, “but we don’t see it having a significant increase, either.” Such analysis may not be what the Canadians want to hear, but they should take heart: South of their border, flat is the new up.

wild card click It's a roll of the dice.
READ MORE - The Week That Was, february 12, 2012

Saturday, February 11, 2012

worth reading Is There a Path to Growth?

Jack Nicklaus may not play much golf anymore, but he still serves as an effective spokesman for the sport. Lately he’s been promoting Golf 2.0, the PGA of America’s latest plan to put golf on a path for growth. In his mind, the program “promotes out-of-the box thinking and details how we need to change in order to grow.”

To be sure, not everyone shares Nicklaus’ enthusiasm for Golf 2.0. Perhaps the harshest appraisal of the program has come from Wayne Mills, who calls it “just another expensive, misguided, tone-deaf initiative destined to fail just like all the others that came before it.”

Mills has written a blistering appraisal of Golf 2.0 for EXEGOLF, which describes itself as a magazine that “provides fast and comprehensive golf news from all around the world around the clock.” Here’s a little of his analysis:

Golf 2.0 is supposed to be an industry-wide effort to increase the number of players and the revenue generated by the golf industry.

Specifically, the Golf 2.0 vision is to go from 26.1 million golfers and $33 billion in consumer spending in 2011 to 32 million golfers and $35 billion in consumer spending by 2016. The 2020 vision is 40-plus million golfers and $40 billion in consumer spending.

The PGA intends to accomplish this by “re-training” their golf pros to package the game to be less time consuming and more affordable and to, once again, target families, women, and minorities. They will spend millions of dollars on Golf 2.0.

Newspaperman and philosopher H. L. Mencken once said, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” Apparently that extends to the 27,000 members of the PGA.

Golf 2.0 thinks they will increase the number of golfers from the allegedly 26 million today to 40 million in the next eight years? Seriously? Boys and girls, it is time to step away from the crack pipe, sober up, and consider a few realities.

In the past decade, the number of rounds played in the United States fell from 518 million to 475 million. They have declined each of the last five years. The number of golfers has declined from 30 million in 2005 to 26 million today. According to a survey done in the fourth quarter of 2011 by the National Golf Foundation, 60 percent of the respondents don’t expect their financial situation to improve in 2012 and 56 percent say they’ve adopted more “frugal” behaviors that they intend to continue even if things improve.

What in God’s name does the PGA see in this that makes them think they will get 14 million MORE golfers in the next eight years? . . .

The game of golf isn’t going to grow in the next eight years -- or for the next 20, for that matter. The boom that occurred was a one-time thing based on a confluence of circumstances.

The so-called Baby Boom generation in the United States, the largest by far, came of age golf-, income-, and leisure-wise in the 1980s and 1990s. The economy boomed and the housing industry took off, based on access to easy credit creating an enormous increase in equity and personal wealth.

Now the economy has gone bust and the easy credit has dried up and the equity has been severely diminished. The value of retirement accounts has been cut in half, and the Baby Boom generation has been replaced by the Baby Bust generation. The Boomers are retiring to fixed incomes and dying off slowly. The population numbers are not there

Golf is a great game and will survive, but the industry leaders need to stop fooling themselves and wasting valuable resources on programs doomed to failure.
READ MORE - worth reading Is There a Path to Growth?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

great britain Castletown Gets a New Owner

An ancient, historic golf club on the Isle of Man has found a deep-pocketed owner who promises to move its 18-hole course 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, arguably its most famous golf property: Castletown Golf Club in Derbyhaven, which has been in business since 1892, originally with a course designed by Old Tom Morris. 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.

Castletown’s captain, Steve McGowan, told the Isle of Man Courier that Vermuelen plans to “improve the club and invest money,” and a real estate agent involved in the sale said Vermuelen expects to make a “major investment in new facilities” that will take the course “higher in the top 100 listing.”

What Vermeulen didn’t buy (at least not yet) is what the 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. The hotel is in the hands of receivers.

Some of the material in this post originally appeared in the December 2011 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.
READ MORE - great britain Castletown Gets a New Owner

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Week That Was, february 5, 2012

Because it’s Super Bowl Sunday, America’s favorite non-holiday, here’s a collection of all-American news tidbits. Special bonus: This week only, my blog has been declared a Trump-free zone!

. . . the problem Americans don’t play enough golf. And when I say “Americans,” I mean Jack Nicklaus. The greatest golfer in history, the winner of more major championships than anyone who ever lived, recently confessed that nowadays he plays the game that made him famous only about once a month. Okay, Nicklaus turned 72 last month. He’s getting old. Maybe we should give him a pass. But what about the rest of his family? His wife doesn’t play at all. His son Steve, according to a news report, “doesn’t play much.” And his 22 grandchildren, Nicklaus said at a recent industry get-together, “play less than I do, and that’s not very much.” Is this really the first family of golf in America, the people who owe their fortune to golf? If they can’t gather the energy to play anymore, why should anyone else?

. . . the exhibit If you’re headed to Augusta for the Masters, you might want to plan a side trip to Atlanta. The city’s High Museum of Art has opened “The Art of Golf,” which is said to be “the first major art survey on the subject organized by a U.S. art institution.” The works on display date all the way back to the 1650s and include more than 90 paintings, posters, photographs, and drawings by artists as varied as Rembrandt, James McNeil Whistler, Norman Rockwell, and Charles Schulz. “We have a very wide menu,” said one of the museum’s curators. Five portraits of Bobby Jones are part of the collection, along with depictions of Old Tom Morris by George Reid and Jack Nicklaus by Andy Warhol. But the prime attraction, at least to most eyes, is golf’s most famous painting, Charles Lees’ seven-foot-wide The Golfers, which is making its U.S. debut. The show runs through June 24. When its time in Atlanta ends, it’ll make the rounds other U.S. cities through the end of next year.

. . . the obituary Even though many leading economic indicators are beginning to point skyward, two of the world’s most famous course designers remain sour on the prospects for golf development in the United States. Late last year, in a conversation with a reporter from, David McLay Kidd said, “The patient is all but dead in America. Everything is real-estate based, and the sort of big-budget facilities we saw open throughout the 90s and first part of this century won’t be coming back anytime soon.” Not to be outdone, during a recent appearance on CNBC, Greg Norman said, “The United States is dead in the water. We'll be dead in the water for quite a long period of time.” Such talk has got me wondering: What will life after death look like?

. . . the weather Here’s the feel-good story of the year so far: Last week, a municipal golf course in Omaha, Nebraska had to close as a result of “overuse.” According to a local television station, Johnny Goodman Golf Course was shut down temporarily due to “the high traffic it’s seen in the past couple of months.” Mind you, we’re talking winter play. It was so warm in Omaha in December and January that all three of the city’s 18-hole courses set revenue records. Without question, the U.S. golf industry needs more stories like this. But does the planet?

. . . the list Where do professional golfers really like to play? Here are their favorite PGA Tour venues, as compiled by Golf World:

1. Augusta National Golf Club, Georgia
2. Harbour Town Golf Links, South Carolina
3. Riviera Country Club, California
4. Pebble Beach Golf Links, California
5. Colonial Country Club, Texas
6. Muirfield Village Golf Club, Ohio
7. Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club, British Columbia
8. Aronimink Golf Club, Pennsylvania
9. Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead course), Florida
10. Congressional Country Club (Blue course), Maryland

. . . wild card click I don't know about you, but I'm watching football today.
READ MORE - The Week That Was, february 5, 2012

Saturday, February 4, 2012

worth reading Brazil 2016: The Road to Rio

February 3, 2012: This was the day that the deciders in Rio de Janeiro were supposed to announce the winner of the design competition for the Olympics’ golf course. Like so many of our days, however, this one ended not with a bang but with a whimper.

No decision was made. No winner was selected.

After sitting through presentations from the eight contestants vying for the commission, the selection committee has decided to sit a while longer. The committee now says it’ll announce the winner sometime next month.

So the waiting continues. Is this what it feels like to be pecked to death by ducks?

I hope the deciders don’t blow the next deadline. For now, let’s amuse and enlighten ourselves by reading the Wall Street Journal’s handicapping on the proceedings.

Designing and constructing championship golf courses is a major aesthetic and engineering undertaking. The courses are unique among sporting venues for the way they seamlessly blend competitive challenges into a natural, or natural-seeming, landscape. The best are considered by players and golf cognoscenti to be works of art.

This course bears an additional burden. Golf’s ruling bodies made a full-court press to get the game into the Olympics -– for the first time since 1900 and 1904 -– in the hope that the showcase will inspire a surge of interest around the world. Whereas roughly 100 million viewers tune in to all or part of each of golf’s major tournaments world-wide, the number for the 2008 Beijing Games was 4.7 billion, or 70 percent of the world's population, according to Nielsen.

Golf needs a global audience. The game's growth has stalled in the United States and Western Europe, but the industry sees a vast potential for expansion in the burgeoning middle classes of Asia, South America, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere.

Brazil is a case in point. For a country with nearly 200 million people and a booming economy (it’s now by some estimates the world’s sixth-largest and climbing), Brazil has very few golf courses -– scarcely more than 100. Soon it will open one with the whole world watching. . . .

The jury comprises representatives from Rio 2016, the city of Rio, the company that will run the course after 2016, and the International Golf Federation, whose mission in part is to foster the game’s global growth. The jury hasn’t publicly stated its criteria, except that after the Olympics the course must be operated as a public facility with a teaching academy.

Unlike many former Olympic sports complexes, which wind up as half-empty hulks, the course could have a popular afterlife. The hope is that it will become the locus for expanding the game in Brazil. The organizers also expect play from expatriates living in Rio and passengers from cruise ships that dock nearby.

Despite the secret criteria, some golf observers suspect there’s a front-runner: Mr. Nicklaus, primarily for political reasons. The Golden Bear was one of the earliest and most vocal advocates for golf as an Olympic sport, and in making his bid he shrewdly teamed with Annika Sorenstam, the former long-time women’s world No. 1 (and a European to boot, adding international appeal). That she is a woman is also a positive, since separate fields of 60 men and 60 women, including the game’s top pro stars, will compete on the course in the Olympics. . . .

Mr. Norman, not to be outdone, recruited Lorena Ochoa, the recently retired women’s world No. 1, to be his partner and co-marketer. Ms. Ochoa, from Mexico, plays well in South America but has limited hands-on design experience, even though her brother Alejandro is in the business.

Three other finalists also have international chops. Robert Trent Jones, Jr., whose father designed more courses around the world than anyone else, signed up a beloved Brazilian golf pro, Mario Gonzalez, as his partner. Gary Player of South Africa, a nine-time major champion and prolific designer, is a tireless health nut and promoter of physical fitness, which aligns with Olympic ideals. Peter Thomson, who won the British Open five times between 1954 and 1965, is teaming with his fellow Aussie and frequent design collaborator, Ross Perrett.

It’s entirely possible, of course, that political and promotional considerations qualify as cynical over-thinking. A knockout design could trump all, especially since golf’s future in the Olympics is not guaranteed. The vote to extend golf beyond the 2020 Games, when it will be included, will take place in 2017. So, in effect, the 2016 Games are a one-shot tryout.

This might play into the hands of the younger names among the finalists. Mr. Doak and Gil Hanse, both Americans, are best known for crafting quirky, inexpensive courses with wider fairways, fun-house green complexes, and an emphasis on giving golfers multiple options. The eighth finalist, Martin Hawtree of England –- he’s building Donald Trump’s new links course in Scotland –- works in a similar style.

Their courses are plenty challenging for the experts but tend to be easier for newcomers and high-handicappers to negotiate, as compared with the lusher, more heavily bunkered, penal-style courses that their elders in the competition are often known for. They also require less maintenance. That could sit well with the IGF representatives on the jury, who hope to impress upon the world how accessible and sustainable golf can be, contrary to its elitist popular image. . . .

Certainly whoever gets the job will not get rich from it, at least not directly. Rio 2016 will pay a flat design fee of $300,000, extremely modest given the man-hours and travel involved. The construction costs of the course, running into the low millions of dollars, will depend on which design is chosen and the necessary associated infrastructure.

But the legacy value will be immense, especially for the younger architects still seeking to cement their reputations. . . .

Groundbreaking is scheduled for October (a design turnaround time that is Olympic-sprint quick), with construction to be completed two years later and a big-time test tournament mandated on the course in 2015.
READ MORE - worth reading Brazil 2016: The Road to Rio

Friday, February 3, 2012

india Close Encounters of the Golf Kind

India’s golf industry has been invaded by aliens –- aliens who hope to have very close encounters with the nation’s upwardly mobile home buyers.

No, they’re not extraterrestrials. They’re Hari and Venkat Challa, the principals of Hyderabad-based Aliens Group. Since 2004, when they founded their company, the brothers have been committed to, in their words, “revolutionizing the urban landscape of modern India.” It’s a large, even other-worldly ambition that’s reflected in their motto: “We are young, we dream big.”

The Challas’ “alien” mentality is about to manifest itself in a golf community that will take shape on 1,500 acres in Shamshabad, a suburb of Hyderabad. Aliens Hub, the brothers say, will be a “city retreat resort” inspired by the “new-age cities of the world,” Singapore primary among them.

Though the Challas brothers aim to break India’s development conventions, Aliens Hub will appear familiar to earthlings from advanced golf nations. Its foundation includes villas, resort-style hotels, office space, an international school, and a 27-hole “signature” golf complex. What sets it apart -– what gives it “the edge of a modern developed city” -– appears to be its air strip (accompanied by fly-in houses) and its helipad. (Would it surprise you to learn that Hari Challa is a pilot?)

The brothers say that they’ve acquired a little more than half of the property they need for Aliens Hub, and they promise to open a three-hole practice course and a driving range by end of 2013.

Some information in this post originally appeared in the September 2011 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.
READ MORE - india Close Encounters of the Golf Kind