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

Thursday, March 15, 2012

europe KPMG on Europe’s “Stagnation”

Given the state of the world’s economy, it was predictable: Last year, the number of golfers in Europe decreased. The loss wasn’t large -– just 46,000 “registered” players in a market of 4.4 million -– but it was nevertheless the first decline in Europe’s golf participation rate in more than two decades.

Stagnation, KPMG’s Golf Advisory Practice calls it in “Golf Participation in Europe 2011.”

What we don’t yet know, of course, is whether this 1 percent deterioration is a portent of dreadful things to come or merely a minor fluctuation that will be reversed when good times again begin to roll. After all, as KPMG’s study notes, the number of golfers in Europe has more than doubled over the past 25 years. Clearly, the trend is -– or at least was -– in favor of growth.

What’s more, most of last year’s decline was registered in just three areas of the continent: the U.K. and Ireland (down by 42,700), Sweden (down by 21,000), and Spain (down by 9,700). While those nations were losing players, other nations -- Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, and the Czech Republic -- registered growth of between 1.8 percent and 7.6 percent.

As far as the future goes, KPMG predicts “a tough year” for golf in 2012 but believes growth will pick up in concert with Europe’s overall economic recovery. The nagging problem: “The timing and nature of such a recovery,” the study concludes, “is obviously difficult to forecast.”

To read the report, visit
READ MORE - europe KPMG on Europe’s “Stagnation”

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Week That Was, march 11, 2012

brazil Rio 2016: The Reaction

The biggest news of the week, obviously, was the selection of Gil Hanse to design the golf course for the Olympics in 2016. Here’s a little of what’s been said in the wake of the decision:

Brad Faxon, the touring pro who consulted on Hanse’s redesign of TPC Boston: I’m so proud that the Olympics did not go with a P.R. statement and instead chose Gil, because he’s the right choice.

Phil Mickelson, a golf pro and course designer: I give [Rio 2016] a lot of credit, because it would have been easier to go with a big name. Instead, they went with the best.

Jack Nicklaus, one of the finalists: I am sure he will do a fine golf course. The Olympics, and the legacy that golf course will have the opportunity to create, will be in good hands.

Robert Trent Jones, Jr., a finalist: My feelings are mixed between the personal disappointment of not being selected but also happiness that a worthy golf architect was selected.

Brad Klein, in a Golfweek commentary: The decision to hire Hanse . . . represents a powerful endorsement of a post-modern, links-inspired orientation to golf at the highest level of international competition. Beyond what this means for Hanse’s own career, it is a powerful step in the emergence of a more naturalistic, more traditionalist and ecologically sensitive approach to golf and golf-course design.

Annika Sorenstam, Nicklaus’ design partner in the Olympics bid: This is an exciting time for golf.

Jeff Mingay, a Canadian architect: The powers that be at Rio have made a very wise decision. . . . The Olympic golf course at Rio will be everything we expect it to be, including a catalyst that (should) positively affect people's understanding of golf and course architecture worldwide.

Bill Coore, a U.S. designer: This is fantastic news. I don’t like to show prejudice, because they were all qualified [finalists], but if the goal is to showcase really interesting, quality golf architecture . . . then I must say, they made a very wise decision.

And finally, Gil Hanse himself: I had all I could do to hold back the tears.

And in Other News . . .

. . . india Later this year, Nicklaus Design expects to open its second golf course in India. The 18-hole, 7,200-yard layout will be the featured attraction of Kalhaar Blues & Greens, a 500-acre community in suburban Ahmedabad that’s being developed by Navratna Organisers & Developers. As I’ve mentioned previously, I find it odd that Nicklaus’ high-swagger, internationally famous firm doesn’t have more courses in India. It opened a “signature” track at Classic Golf Resort in New Delhi in 1998 but then went dry for a decade, until Navratna and its water-drenched community came along. And it’s not as if Nicklaus isn’t trying. A couple of years ago it hired an Indian representative to drum up some business, without anything to show for its trouble. Hard to figure where Nicklaus goes from here.

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

. . . egypt Despite political instability and economic uncertainty, golf construction continues in Egypt. Galalah for Touristic Investments has opened the first nine holes of a planned 18 at El Ein Bay, a resort community that’s taking shape along the Red Sea roughly an hour’s drive from Cairo. “We have a really great golf course that we’re confident people will have a lot of fun playing,” says a spokesman for El Ein Bay. The track has been designed by Tim Lobb of Thomson Perrett Lobb, who said in a press release that it would be “playable by the widest possible range of golfers.” The course is one of two that TPL has in the works in metropolitan Cairo. Galalah’s parent company, GRID, has hired the firm to produce an 18-hole track for New Giza, a 1,500-acre community in Mehwar.

Some information in this post originally appeared in the January 2009 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.

. . . united states Donald Trump may still be collecting U.S. golf properties, but he’s having trouble filling the membership rolls at his posh golf club in West Palm Beach, Florida. The reality-TV star and erstwhile presidential candidate has of late been offering initiation-free memberships at Trump International Golf Club, much to the displeasure of members who paid $150,000 for their places at the town’s most glittering table. “He just pissed off a lot of members,” one of them groused. Trump’s tactful response: “That’s called luck. Welcome to the marketplace.” Trump says the discount has attracted 70 new members and given him enough confidence to boost the club’s initiation fee by 60 percent, to $250,000.

. . . wild card click When I come home feeling tired and beat, I go up where the air is fresh and sweet.
READ MORE - The Week That Was, march 11, 2012

Friday, March 9, 2012

brazil Gil Hanse: Good as Gold

The verdict has been rendered, and it’s a pleasant surprise: A golf course designed by Gil Hanse will serve as the stage for the men’s and women’s golf competitions at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janerio, Brazil. The Malvern, Pennsylvania-based architect has promised to create “a joyful” and “environmentally sustainable” track that will “set the standards for this emerging golf market.”

Hanse won the commission over a slate of celebrity and “signature” designers, a group that includes Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Robert Trent Jones, Jr., and Peter Thomson. His body of work is unquestionably not as deep as theirs, but his reputation is growing and his design chops are evident. He was Golf magazine’s architect of the year in 2009, he was identified as one of the most influential architects in the United States by Golf, Inc., his redesign of TPC Boston has been extremely well-received by PGA pros, and his three-year-old Castle Stuart Golf Links in Scotland is already ranked among the world’s top courses. The selection committee should be congratulated for giving the gold medal to the best-laid plan instead of the best-known name.

More important, the committee’s decision is a landmark moment in the history of golf design. What we have witnessed is the official changing of the guard.

The track in Rio is the most important golf course that will be built in this decade, maybe in this century. The committee could have done what it was expected to do: take the safe route and award the contract to one of the aforementioned old-timers. But it didn’t. Its choice of Hanse indicates that the old guard’s time as the most vital contributors to our business is over.

The future of golf design has been turned over to a new generation.
READ MORE - brazil Gil Hanse: Good as Gold

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

talking points Asia: The Uncertainty Continues

The top execs of Asian Golf Business aren’t convinced that China and other Asian nations will continue to serve as the golf industry’s gravy train.

“Most everyone is flying by the seat of their pants and holding on for dear life in the hope that Asia will be the savior of the game,” writes the magazine’s publisher in the current issue. “We think this is one big pipe dream!”

I’m not sure why Mike Sebastian ended that last sentence with a screamer. Maybe he’s trying to suggest that his disagreement with prevailing sentiments is a happy one. Or maybe he’s simply opposed to the dour finality of a period.

Be that as it may, the magazine and its associated trade show have a vested interest in golf development in their part of the world. So when you hear one of them acknowledging a slowdown, it may be time to look carefully at other potential markets.

Here’s more of what the publisher had to say about the future of golf in Asia:

Japan, by far the most mature golf market, is lethargic, to say the least. South Korea seems to be following the Japanese trend of decline. China -- who knows? There seems to be a halt to the once-frenetic pace of golf course development in the middle kingdom as the industry awaits a definitive “white paper” decision from Beijing. Your guess is as good as ours!

As we wait, China’s once-booming property market is going frigid, and this will definitely impact the future of golf course development, because most projects are property driven. While all this negativism sweeps China, the China Golf Association is reported to have put out a bold claim that by 2020 the nation will boast more than 2,500 golf courses and a playing population of 30 million golfers. Hey, where is this growth going to come from?

The magazine also took the opportunity to bring up one of its favorite subjects, the need to grow the game in Asia. Philosophically speaking, I’m on board with this initiative. But attitudes about how to spark growth may be changing at Asian Golf Business. It appears that the magazine’s chief executives have grown weary of proposals offered by golf associations. They seem eager to ditch the conventional ideas and hitch up with the no-holds-barred mentality promoted by club makers and other equipment manufacturers -- the corporate sugar daddies that just happen to fill the magazine with ads.

Here’s a taste of the magazine’s new imperative:

Forget all the grow-the-game initiatives that the powers that be keep making reference to. Get down to brass tacks -- follow the example that equipment manufacturers are taking to change and introduce new technologies that make the game more fun to play. Throw out the growth-shackling rules that govern the game for club players and amateurs -- keep the rules for the professionals. Speed up the game. Reduce participation costs. Just make it bloody simple and FUN to play.

You know, that last sentence could use an exclamation point.
READ MORE - talking points Asia: The Uncertainty Continues

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Week That Was, march 4, 2012

northern ireland Taking Aim at David McLay Kidd

After more than a decade of trying, Alistair Hanna has finally won approval for his resort community in County Antrim. And he’s given it a proper name: Bushmills Dunes Golf Resort & Spa.

Hanna, a New York City-based developer who grew up in Northern Ireland, plans to build the community on 356 acres outside the village of Bushmills, the home of the world’s oldest distillery (Old Bushmills). At build-out, it’ll consist of a 120-room hotel, a 75-room condo/hotel, meeting space, a spa, an 18-hole, David McLay Kidd-designed golf course, and a golf academy featuring a beginner-friendly nine-hole layout.

Kidd’s course will be “the first golf links course to be built in Northern Ireland for almost 100 years,” according to a press release.

It’ll be built on property that’s drawn raves from most everyone who’s seen it, including Kidd, a proponent of “purist” golf who’s responsible for two of Scotland’s most noteworthy links-style courses of recent vintage, Machrihanish Dunes outside Campbeltown and the Castle Course at St. Andrews.

“The very best golf courses in the world rarely owe their acclaim to the architect but instead to the landscape,” the Bend, Oregon-based designer said in the press release. “This will never be more true than at Bushmills Dunes.”

Hanna, who’s been trying to secure approvals for Bushmills Dunes since 2001, has a 125-year lease on property. He believes the course will attract golfers from the U.K., Europe, and North America, seeing that their vacations could include rounds at some of the neighborhood’s more famous layouts, notably those at Royal Portrush Golf Club, Portstewart Golf Club, and Castlerock Golf Club.

“I know this is a difficult time economically, but times will get better,” Hanna told the Ballymoney Times. “We are not building for today. We are building for tomorrow. Golf in 2020 will be in a different place from where it is today, and I want this place to be among the top 10 golf destinations in the world.”

Some blood may eventually be spilled over the golf course, seeing as how Kidd once told Hanna, “If I can’t get your course into the top 50 of the world, you should shoot me.”

The comment has been repeated in recent news accounts but has not been sourced. So just for the record, let me note that Hanna said it to me and that it was originally published in the World Edition of the Golf Course Report and later by Golf, Inc.

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

united states The New, Improved Donald Trump

Again this week, Donald Trump made news that cannot be overlooked: The New York City-based developer announced that he expects to complete his acquisition of the Doral resort in Miami, Florida. He’s agreed to pay $150 million for the 800-acre property, which includes a 692-room hotel, meeting space, a spa, four golf courses, and a Jim McLean Golf School.

But here’s the part of the story that intrigues me: Trump has tapped Gil Hanse, a proponent of “minimalist” aesthetics and Golden Age values, to oversee a renovation of Doral’s golf courses. The first to get the Hanse-on treatment will be the Blue Monster, which hosts an annual event on the PGA Tour.

I believe Hanse’s hiring is a reflection of just how much Trump has evolved as a golf developer. When he’s purchased golf properties in the past, Trump has usually made design tweaks on his own, or in consultation with Jupiter, Florida-based Tom Fazio II. I’m thinking that those days may be over.

“As you get more seasoned in golf, you tend more toward rustic, Tom Doak-style golf courses,” says a source familiar with Trump’s properties who asked to remain anonymous. “Little by little, Trump has chipped away at the glitz he used to put into his courses. He’s definitely grown as a developer.”

My source could be mistaken, of course. Ron Whitten of Golf Digest doesn’t seem to think that much has changed in the way Trump does his business.

But the way I see it, working with Martin Hawtree on Trump International Golf Club Scotland has had a beneficial effect on Trump. He’s broadened his horizons. He’s willing to entertain new ideas. Heck, he’s rumored to be drawing up plans for a third golf course at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey, and Links magazine recently suggested that Jim Urbina, one of Doak’s former lieutenants, is in line for the commission.

For years, serious students of golf design have scoffed at Trump’s taste, at his Disneyland-style excesses. They’ve mocked him mercilessly. And for all I know, they may continue to crack jokes at his expense.

But I don’t think Hanse will be laughing.

And in Other News . . .

. . . australia The effort to add nine holes at Bicheno Golf Club has paid off: Planning officials in Tasmania have approved the club’s plan to extend its golf course toward the waterfront and signed off on a land swap that will see 61 houses built adjacent to the original nine. Five of the new holes, to be designed by Alister MacKenzie disciples Neil Crafter and Paul Mogford, will take shape on what’s been described as “natural coastal sand dunes.” As previously noted, the coastal holes will be connected to the club’s 60-year-old nine-hole track with heathland-style holes. The club, on the island’s eastern coast, aims to break ground on the addition later this year. Greg Ramsay, who helped to conceive and build Tasmania’s most famous course -- Barnbougle Dunes in Bridport -- is serving as the club’s project manager. So how long before the inevitable comparisons begin?

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

. . . singapore Greg Norman and Tiger Woods aren’t the only course designers who float really big boats. Jack Nicklaus owns a 130-foot yacht, Sea Bear, that apparently serves as one of his

promotional and marketing vehicles. The vessel, a so-called floating museum, carries three dozen pieces of memorabilia from Nicklaus’ personal collection as well as from the Jack Nicklaus Museum on the campus of Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. If you’d like to check his advertisement for himself, it’ll be attracting crowds at Boat Asia, a big boat show that will be held in Singapore next month.

. . . wild card click To see clearly, sometimes you have to look at the big picture.
READ MORE - The Week That Was, march 4, 2012

Friday, March 2, 2012

puerto rico Jones’ Western Initiative

Now that his 18-month nip-and-tuck of the East course at Dorado Beach Resort has been completed, Robert Trent Jones, Jr. will turn his attention to the property’s West course. The renovation of the 6,975-yard track, designed by Jones’ father in the mid 1960s, begins later this year.

Dorado Beach truly was a world-class vacation destination during the Age of Aquarius, when Puerto Rico was chic and exotic and courses designed by Jones Senior -- the resort has four of them -- could lure celebrities from all over the planet. Today, to snare globe-trotters who might otherwise be tempted to chill out in Ibiza, Montenegro, or Mallorca, the owners of the 1,400-acre waterfront property on the island’s northern coast are adding a top-of-the-line Ritz-Carlton hotel and Ritz-branded housing and smoothing the wrinkles off their aging golf courses.

If the work on the East course is any guide, the West layout will be lengthened, its greens will be rebuilt, regrassed, and restored to their original sizes and shapes, its bunkers will be rebuilt and relocated, and its irrigation system will be replaced. Our guess is that Jones also plans to erase some of the changes that Raymond Floyd made to the layout in the early 2000s.

Still to be revitalized, presumably, are the resort’s Sugarcane and Pineapple tracks, both of which opened in the early 1970s.

Some information in this post originally appeared in the December 2011 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.
READ MORE - puerto rico Jones’ Western Initiative