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.