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.