Monday, April 30, 2012

The Week That Was, april 29, 2012

 united states The Unlikely Number One

Bandon Dunes is the top golf destination in the United States.

Its golf courses, according to a recent ranking, combine “beauty and challenge,” and playing any one of them “is sure to be a memorable experience for any golfer.”

I recently stumbled across the ranking online. What struck me is that it didn’t come from Golf Digest, Golfweek, Golf World, or any other publication where golf cognoscenti gather. Nor did it come from Travel & Leisure, Condé Nast Travel, National Geographic Traveler, or similar publications that ferret out undiscovered places where the smart money is vacationing.

Instead, the ranking came from a website called It’s a website that tells you the weather. I have no idea why it decided to rank the top 10 U.S. golf destinations.

If you’re wondering, the website’s list of the top 10 U.S. golf destinations placed Pebble Beach as number two, then Pinehurst, Myrtle Beach, and “anywhere in Hawaii.” The second five: Williamsburg, Phoenix/Scottsdale, Las Vegas, San Antonio, and Ocean City, Maryland.

I cite’s list not to question its merits or to dispute the selections. I cite it because is in no way, shape, or form an insider’s guide to quality golf. My guess is that it is, in fact, as mainstream as online publications come.

And that can only mean one thing: After less than a decade of existence, Bandon Dunes has tapped deeply into the mass consciousness and, more important, the mass market. It’s no longer the secret preserve of the purists, classicists, and Golden Agers among us. A couple of years ago, a fellow who’d played Bandon earned instant cred. Today, he’s just another golfer with money.

The biggest development risk of Mike Keiser’s career has paid off in spades.

 And in Other News . . .

. . . uruguay Is Arnold Palmer’s design firm rewriting history? The company’s first course in Uruguay is under construction, with the initial nine holes (of a planned 18) anticipated to open in late 2012 or early 2013. The course will be part of a private resort community called Las Piedras -- the name translates as “the rocks” -- which is taking shape just outside Punta del Este, a popular vacation spot that’s been called “the St. Tropez of Uruguay” and “the Riviera of South America.” So who designed the course? A recent press release identifies Thad Layton as the course’s architect. But this news doesn’t jibe with previously published material from Palmer, not to mention an interview I conducted myself in 2010. The truth is, the course was designed by Eric Wiltse, who was let go from Palmer’s firm during a downsizing in 2011, just about the time that JHSF Participacoes SA broke ground on Las Piedras.

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

. . . canada A partially finished golf course in suburban Calgary, largely abandoned since 2010, will be completed this summer and may open by the end of the current golf season. It’s Blue Devil Golf Club, and it was begun by J. R. Shaw, the retired chairman of a Calgary-based cable television company, Shaw Communications. Shaw managed to build 13 holes on the Gary Browning-designed course, which was supposed to be the centerpiece of a private club that never found members. Scott Atkinson, the course’s new owner, plans to finish the remaining holes and, eventually, give Blue Devil a proper clubhouse. And if western Canada’s golf business ever revives, Atkinson aims to build Serenity Golf Club, a 36-hole complex in suburban Calgary that will also be designed by Browning.

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

. . . scotland When he isn’t huffing and puffing and threatening to blow Scotland’s renewable-energy strategies down, Donald Trump dreams of hosting a major tournament at his soon-to-open golf course in Aberdeenshire. Unfortunately, his relentless war of words with the Scottish government doesn’t appear to be winning him any friends at the Royal & Ancient, the gatekeeper of the Open Championship. When asked whether the Martin Hawtree-designed track at “the world’s greatest golf course” would be considered for the R&A’s top prize, the group’s CEO gave a decidedly non-committal reply. It is a spectacular golf course, Peter Dawson said in comments published by the Associated Press. As for an Open Championship being played there, we will have to wait and see. There is every indication the golf course is very strong, but let’s see how it matures. I would say it has a long way to go yet. Trump International Golf Links Scotland is scheduled to open in July. Weekend greens fee: $325.

. . . wild card click Why do the best things always disappear? I’ve been asking myself the same question a lot lately. Au revoir, Levon.
READ MORE - The Week That Was, april 29, 2012

Saturday, April 28, 2012

worth reading The Killers Elite

Now that economic sanctions are being lifted, will Myanmar emerge as a hot spot for golf development?

Agence France-Presse is trying to make a case for golf’s future in the police state formerly known as Burma, contending that “an influx of investment” is on the horizon, part of which will be used to build “plush new golf resorts.”

Let me lay my cards on the table: I hope AFP is dead wrong on this prediction. If there’s one place on earth that doesn’t deserve to have a vibrant golf industry, it’s Myanmar.

Myanmar is one of the poorest, worst-educated, most insular nations on earth, thanks to decades’ worth of repression by a brutal military dictatorship. The nation features a continuing civil war, a deplorable health-care system, and political leaders as beloved as those in Syria. Before it starts to build “plush new golf resorts,” it ought to build some decent highways.

Top 100 Golf Courses of the World summed my feelings nicely: “Myanmar is one of the few countries in the world that any potential visitor should consider long and hard from an ethical perspective before deciding to visit.”

No doubt, though, Myanmar has a golf culture. Golf has been played in thenation since the 1880s – a contribution to “growing the game” by British rulers – and AFP says that roughly 80 courses are currently in operation.

If you believe you must play some of Myanmar’s historic courses, or if you’re thinking about getting involved in a development venture, I’d advise you to keep your nose clean while you’re in the country. Myanmar’s most powerful people have proved themselves to be among the planet’s most notorious human rights violators, and old habits die hard.

After decades in the shadows, Myanmar’s sudden opening-up to the outside is shining a new light on the country -- and revealing, amongst other things, one of Asia’s most vibrant golf communities.

Behind Myanmar’s “bamboo curtain,” golf, a relic of British colonialism, has been an enduring pastime with scores of public courses -- often with green fees as low as $5 -- and a dozen driving ranges in Yangon alone.

According to Asian Tour executive chairman Kyi Hla Han, a highly successful Myanmar golfer who first represented his country at the 1980 World Cup, many visitors are taken aback when they see the extent of the country's facilities.

“People don't realize how popular golf is in Myanmar. They don’t know that we already have such a strong golf culture,” Han told AFP. “There are lots of public courses. It’s like Scotland or Australia. You don’t have to be a member, you can just turn up and play.”

Han estimated there were up to 80 courses in Myanmar, formerly called Burma, which borders Thailand and has an estimated population of 54 million. Its golf-playing history of 100 years is among the longest in Asia.

Now the relaxation of military-ruled Myanmar in politics and border controls is expected to bring an influx of investment, including plush new golf resorts, greater prize money, and more opportunities for the country’s players.

“It’s great news now that the country is opening up for business, and I think once the economy gets better and a lot of middle-class people are able to afford playing, I’m sure they’re going to pick up golf,” said Han. . . .

Golf was first played in Myanmar by the British military, who left behind several courses when the country gained independence in 1948. Since then, it has remained mainly the preserve of the military and business elite.

But Han said it was just a matter of time before Myanmar’s economy improves, swelling the middle class and leading more people to seek out golf, as has happened in other growing Asian countries. . . .

READ MORE - worth reading The Killers Elite

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

india Getting Served in Delhi

Will this be the year that the Delhi Development Authority finally breaks ground on its third golf course?

DDA Dwarka Golf Course, the first “international-standard” track in metropolitan New Delhi, is having a better-late-than-never moment. The Phil Ryan-designed course was originally supposed to open in 2012, but municipal agencies in India have never been described as models of efficiency.

The 7,208-yard course is to be built on 170 acres in Dwarka, a DDA-designed mini-city that’s rapidly spreading houses, shopping areas, office space, and even a “diplomatic enclave” over more than 14,000 acres. Ryan, the principal of Victoria, Australia-based Pacific Coast Design, has also agreed to provide the community with a nine-hole, par-3 course and a lighted golf academy.

New Millennium Company, the development company Ryan is working with, was awarded the contract to build the course in 2008. Ryan says he hasn’t been told when construction will begin, but he notes that “it would be a major issue for it not to go ahead as planned,” seeing as how the land has been allocated and the project approved.

Ryan and New Millennium have already built one golf course in India, an 18-hole track at Oxford Golf & Country Club in Pune, and they’re hoping to build another at Tourism City in Jaipur.

With other developers, Ryan has designed at least four other courses in India, including Eagleton Golf Village in suburban Bangalore, Poona Golf Club in Pune, and JW Golf Club in Mysore.

The DDA, which controls 70,000 acres in and around New Delhi, opened its first golf property, Qutub Golf Course, in 2002. These days it’s also at work on Bhalaswa Golf Course, which opened three holes in 2003 and currently has six. Bhalaswa is expected to eventually become a full 18, but the DDA doesn’t appear to be in much of a hurry to complete it.

Some information in this post originally appeared in the February 2012 and November 2010 issues of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.
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Monday, April 23, 2012

The Week That Was, april 22, 2012

First, the good news: The golf population in Vietnam may be growing.

A government official recently told the Vietnam Investment Review that the nation these days has as many as 8,000 players. This feels to me like a somewhat soft number, seeing as how the official didn’t cite its source. But that being said, if the number is solid, it represents a strong increase over the 5,000 golfers that the New York Times estimated were alive and swinging in Vietnam less than a decade ago.

Yes, I realize that 8,000 golfers is a minuscule number, especially in a nation of more than 91 million people. But you’ve got to start somewhere.

Which brings me to the bad news: The number appeared in a story headlined Golf Course Projects Face Growing Criticism.

The golf business in Vietnam has generated a lot of negative press over the years, and clearly, it continues to do so.

For this reason, some senior government officials have begun a media tour, in an effort to rehabilitate golf’s suspect image. Their message: Don’t blame the game. Blame the unscrupulous people who’ve approved and built golf courses on rice fields and, in the process, displaced the families who once lived on them.

“Bad programming is to blame,” one of them opined in a comment reported by Viet Nam News.

What’s happening in Vietnam is emblematic of the problems that golf faces as it begins to establish itself in nations wary of Western values. The plain truth is, a lot of people on our planet simply don’t trust golf and the affluence it typically represents. For them, golf development is just another front in a never-ending class struggle. Their argument: Golf’s economic benefits flow primarily to wealthy developers and powerful businessmen, while the poor and vulnerable are left to suffer from the game’s social and environmental consequences.

The ministers on the advocacy tour believe that golf in Vietnam will eventually be “vindicated,” and they contend that new, stricter regulations will make golf development “cleaner.”

But in Vietnam, there appear to be degrees of cleanliness. “Golf courses,” an official on tour said, “will be only allowed to develop on sandy or fallow land, barren hills, and in places that have really great potentials to develop tourism.”

That isn’t a squeaky-clean statement. It sounds as if agricultural land will be protected unless someone important believes it’s too valuable to be used for farming. If I’m interpreting the statement correctly, I don’t think the vindication tour is going to change very many hearts and minds.

And that’s too bad, because the stakes for golf development in Vietnam are relatively high. The government aims to stock the nation with 90 or more courses by the year 2020, and it can’t succeed if it has to battle with angry citizens every step of the way.

brazil What Happens to a Dream Deferred?

Is golf’s Olympic dream on the verge of turning into a nightmare?

The Associated Press reports that a land-ownership dispute “is threatening the construction of the golf course for the 2016 Summer Games” and that the city of Rio de Janeiro “might have to find a new site.”

And while I don’t wish to add to anyone’s emotional distress, the AP points out that “a final decision on who owns the golf course land could take months or several years.”

Talk about waking up in a cold sweat!

Can you imagine the embarrassment that will be suffered if it turns out that the site in Barra da Tijuca wasn’t fully secured and that the Olympic organizers will have to request a mulligan? We’re talking about one of the biggest Olympic blunders of all time.

Gil Hanse, the course’s designer, expects to break ground on the layout in Barra da Tijuca in October. He put on a brave face for the AP but acknowledged, “If they decided for whatever reason to make changes, you would have to start all over again. Our design is specifically for that site. You can’t just put it someplace else.”

Still to be determined, of course, is how serious the threat to the pending construction may be. Call me cynical, but my guess is that the company causing the hubbub, Elmway Participacoes, would drop its claim to the property in exchange for what might be termed “cash considerations.”

If I’m right, checks will be written and by this time next week all this sound and fury may very well signify nothing. But if Elmway Participacoes wants to give a few Olympic officials some sleepless nights, it’s off to an excellent start.

And in Other News . . . 

. . . united states  If your neighborhood golf course sold recently, this may be why: Since 2006, median prices of 18-hole, stand-alone U.S. golf courses have fallen by 33 percent. The median price through the first nine months of last year was $3 million, according to Marcus & Millichap, down from $4.5 million in 2006. Let me emphasize that these are median prices, and golf properties are selling for much less -- relative peanuts, really -- in cities from coast to coast. “Golf courses may never be as cheap as they are today,” one of the firm’s principals told Bloomberg. The ever-helpful news service used the opportunity to offer a comparable, cheerfully noting that $3 million “is about the threshold for a luxury apartment in Manhattan.”

. . . wild card click  How should we honor the memory of American's oldest teenager? Let's dance!

READ MORE - The Week That Was, april 22, 2012

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Following the Money

China, Brazil, Argentina, and India – those nations, Greg Norman believes, are golf’s future development hot spots. “We are really focused on emerging markets in developing countries,” the West Palm Beach, Florida-based designer said in a recent interview with KPMG’s GolfAdvisory Practice. “We see tremendous upside for the growth of golf in these developing countries.”

KPMG also quizzed Dana Garmany, the CEO of Troon Golf, on this topic. Garmany threw a passing nod at China while singling out Morocco as “a growing market for us at the moment” and the Middle East in general as “an important market.”

Like Norman, Jack Nicklaus believes China, Brazil, and Argentina are promising nations for golf development. However, during an interview withthe Golf Channel, Nicklaus added some other countries to the mix: South Korea, Russia, Cambodia, and Malaysia.

Add it all up and you get nine nations and one region – a wealth of choices. But remember this: When you hear golf-industry professionals talking about the nations that offer the best opportunities for growth, what you’re really hearing is the sound of checks being cashed. Money talks, and it can have a powerful influence on one’s perspective.

Some information in this post originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

england Harry Colt, Railroaded

A recently approved railway in England is going to destroy a Harry Colt-designed golf course.

The track is the centerpiece of Whittington Heath Golf Club in Lichfield, a northern suburb of Birmingham. A rail line linking London to Manchester, Leeds, and other northern cities will run through the middle of the course, right across its clubhouse. The course still has a little life in it -- the railway, known as HS2, isn’t likely to be built until 2018 at the earliest -- but its days are clearly numbered.

Whittington Heath got the bad news just a year after it celebrated it 125th anniversary. The 500-member club was created in 1886, to serve soldiers from the nearby Whittington Barracks. Its original course, a nine-hole track, was designed by an army colonel on what had been a horse-racing track.

Colt’s 18-hole, 6,490-yard course dates from 1927. The layout isn’t generally regarded as being among his best, but its loss will nonetheless be felt by those who appreciate golf’s design traditions.

“It has unique features,” John Tipper, the club’s captain, told the Tamworth Herald earlier this year. “It's almost like an inland links and always poses a challenge.”

Colt, who trained as a lawyer, is an iconic figure in the history of golf architecture, a designer of great influence. Born in Highgate, England in 1869, he was responsible for more than 100 golf courses on six continents, including Sunningdale Golf Club in England and Royal Portrush in Ireland, and he redesigned some perennial British Open venues, notably Muirfield in Scotland and Royal Liverpool Golf Club in England. With collaborators (including Alister Mackenzie and C. H. Alison), he produced nearly 200 other courses. He died in 1951.

Whittington Heath is currently trying to work out compensation with local government officials. The club will use the money to acquire a site for a new course and hire a designer who has big shoes to fill.

An earlier version of this story originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.
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Monday, April 16, 2012

The Week That Was, april 15, 2012

talking points The Coore of the Argument

The best golf courses, Bill Coore believes, bear a resemblance to the best songs, in that they reveal more of their complexity and depth during repeated play.

“It's like a really good essay or poem,” the Texas-based golf architect told the Wall Street Journal in a story published last week. “If you get all nuances the first time through, well, then it wasn’t very good.”

I’m not sure Coore would describe himself as a “minimalist,” but that’s what the Journal called him: a designer who believes that a golf course should, as the paper’s John Paul Newport puts it, “flow directly from the particular features of the landscape upon which it is built.”

Years ago -- back when Coore and his design partner, Ben Crenshaw, designed their celebrated course at Sand Hills Golf Club in Nebraska -- such back-to-nature attitudes seemed quaint and naive, applicable only at faultless sites where dirt hardly needs to be moved. But today, with money and water in short supply, Coore’s approach has become the prevailing style in golf design. Heck, these days Coore & Crenshaw -- along with Tom Doak, Gil Hanse, and other so-called minimalists -- are about the only golf architects who continue to work regularly.

I’m not one of those metaphysical people who rhapsodize about artists who can find bears hidden in blocks of wood or pieces of sandstone, and I always bristle when I hear a designer suggest that God surely must have laid out a landscape with golf in mind. (As Arnold Palmer once said about Tralee Golf Club in Ireland, “I designed the first nine, but surely God designed the back nine.”) If there really is a God, wouldn’t he (or she) find such conceits insulting?

That being said, it seems obvious to me that architects like Coore, who are determined to preserve the uniqueness of the properties they’ve been given, can potentially offer more to golf than architects who believe a site is merely raw material. If land really does tell a story or sing a song, a golf course should let us hear it. Wouldn’t it be nice if every golf course in the world expressed a distinctive sense of place?

“The human capability for imagination is vast,” Coore told the Journal, “but it’s nowhere near as vast as nature’s in terms of variety, randomness, and surprise.”

I can’t say why, exactly, but for some reason that sentence got me to thinking about Steve Wynn and Tom Fazio.

If we wanted to, we could literally build Wynn’s Shadow Creek Golf Club anywhere we’d like to, seeing as how it’s a completely artificial creation that bears only a passing relationship to the land upon which it was built. It’s the hand of man improving on the hand of God, who obviously didn’t intend for Wynn’s particular expanse of Las Vegas desert to become a golf course.

The question is, is Sand Hills inherently better than Shadow Creek?

I’m not talking about the quality of the golf experience. I’m talking about the process of its creation.

I once drove Robert Trent Jones, Jr. from downtown Washington, DC to Dulles airport, in the suburbs of northern Virginia. We talked about his work the whole way. At one point on the Dulles Toll Road, we passed a road construction site -- flattened, featureless property almost completely devoid of organic material. Jones quipped, “I’d design a golf course right here if somebody wanted me to.”

Of course he would, and I don’t begrudge his willingness to do so. Greatness comes in many shapes and styles, and it can be found in unexpected places. Sand Hills and Shadow Creek both have their admirers. When a golfer wants to have a good time, does he care if he’s been serviced by a “minimalist” or a “maximalist”?

Generally speaking, I prefer “natural” to “artificial.” But every golf course is a little of both, is it not?

italy KPMG’s Showtime in September

KPMG’s annual industry get-together is usually a springtime affair, but the ninth annual Golf Business Forum has been pushed back to the fall. The three-day event begins on September 17, 2012, at the Il Ciocco Tuscany Resort in Barga, Italy.

Why Italy? Well, KPMG believes that the Mediterranean region in general is ripe for golf development and that Italy in particular has undeniable upside.

But that being said, Andrea Sartori, the head of the firm’s golf advisory practice, clearly has mixed feelings about Italy’s potential. On the one hand, he says, “There is no doubt that Italy possesses all the key ingredients for the successful development of golf resorts and communities as well as stand-alone facilities.” On the other, “Obstacles have to be eliminated to encourage new golf and real estate projects.”

Sartori’s bottom line: “It is now a question of domestic and international economic recovery and the return of confidence of buyers and developers. I am fairly sure this will happen, but I cannot say when.”

My bottom line: At best, KPMG is offering a tepid endorsement of Italy’s golf-development prospects.

Lest I forget, the winner of this year’s lifetime achievement award is Dana Garmany, the CEO of Troon Golf. He’ll be on hand at the forum, presumably to talk about the future of golf in the Mediterranean.

. . . wild card clicks Love means never having to say you're sorry.
READ MORE - The Week That Was, april 15, 2012

Saturday, April 14, 2012

thailand Drive, He Said

A car nut and a golf nut -- that’s Prachin Eamlumnow in, well, a nutshell.

Prachin, the CEO of Bangkok-based Grand Prix International Corporation, publishes some of Thailand’s most popular car magazines and organizes Thailand’s biggest auto show, the annual Bangkok International Motor Show. He takes driving seriously, and these days he’s trying to persuade the capital city’s golfers and prospective home buyers to get into their cars and head roughly 120 miles northwest, to the city of Kanchanaburi -- the center of the nation’s gem industry -- where his Grand Prix Golf Club is expected open any day now.

The club is among the attractions at Blue Diamond Golf & Water Sports Club, a 790-acre resort community that will eventually include villas and condos, a five-star hotel, a spa, a lake, various recreational amenities, and, naturally, an auto race track.

Grand Prix’s 18-hole, 7,261-yard course has been designed by Prayard Chinaraj, but Prachin recently confessed to Thai Golf News that he “enjoyed adding my own personal touches as well.”

Prachin, who’s 69, has reportedly been playing golf for 40 years and has long dreamed of owning his own golf course. He hopes Grand Prix -- he calls it “our own piece of golf heaven” -- will eventually attract a professional tournament.

Some information in this post originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.
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Thursday, April 12, 2012

australia Virginia Will Get a Makeover

Wayne Grady, a winner of PGA championships in the United States and Australia, has been tapped to oversee a renovation of Virginia Golf Club in suburban Brisbane.

The club’s centerpiece is an 18-hole, 6,728-yard “championship” course that opened in two phases, in 1929 and 1933. In the late 1960s, Al Howard, a Sydney-based golf-pro-turned-architect, redesigned the original 18 and added a nine-hole, 2,582-yard course that’s said to be “an ideal track for beginners.”

Grady, who has a design firm in Coolum Beach, Queensland, is expected to complete a master plan for the club sometime this spring. Pending final approval by the members, the renovation could begin later this year. The nature of the work hasn’t yet been announced, but it won’t involve an irrigation system, as the club recently installed a new one on the 18-hole course.

These days Grady is also said to be working on renovations at two other courses in Australia, Urunga Golf Club and Wyong Golf Club, both in New South Wales.

He had an edge in the competition for Virginia’s commission, as he’s a former club champion. In fact, he’s one of two former club champions who’ve gone on to win major championships. The other: Greg Norman.

Some information in this post originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.
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Monday, April 9, 2012

The Week That Was, april 8, 2012

united states Looking on the Bright Side

Bloomberg has taken the temperature of the U.S. golf business, and it believes the patient is recovering.

The industry is “growing for the first time in five years,” the news agency reports, based on its analysis of golf’s leading economic indicators -- factors that include the number of rounds played, retail sales to golfers, and purchases by golf course superintendents. “It will probably be the strongest year since the recession,” the president of Nike’s golf division believes.

Here are some snapshots from Bloomberg’s review:

-- This year, for the first time since 2007, sales of clubs, balls, shoes, and other equipment is expected to increase. Citing data provided by Golf Datatech LLC, Bloomberg says that these sales will hit $2.41 billion in 2012, an increase of 1.3 percent over the number posted in 2011.

-- Course managers and operators have begun to write checks for equipment, giving a boost to the bottom line at companies such as Toro, Jacobsen, and John Deere. Partly due to increased golf-related sales, Toro estimates that its revenues will increase by 7 percent in 2012. “We’re seeing a lot of pent-up demand,” says a marketing manager at Jacobsen.

-- ClubCorp bought four golf courses last year and plans to continue buying golf properties. Also last year, the company sold more memberships than it had in any year since 2005. Eric Affeldt, the company’s CEO, told Bloomberg, “We are rebounding and like what we’re seeing in terms of the recovery.”

-- Through February, the number of rounds played at U.S. golf courses had increased for four consecutive months. Four months do not a trend make, especially when those months are part of what will almost certainly be among warmest winters on record. Nonetheless, after so many dreary years when cash registers hardly rang, nobody is complaining.

“We were bouncing along the bottom and expect we’ll see a modest recovery in 2012,” a spokesman for the National Golf Foundation told Bloomberg. “The signs since the beginning of the year have been positive.”

spain Sheldon Adelson’s Spanish Flyer

One of the world’s casino kings aims to extend his reign to Spain, and a trio of golf courses will be part of his royal entourage.

Sheldon Adelson, the chairman of publicly traded Las Vegas Sands Corporation and the sugar daddy of Newt Gingrich’s comatose presidential campaign, wants to build a “mini” Las Vegas Strip at a to-be-determined location in Spain. It’ll be called EuroVegas, and it’ll include six casinos, a dozen hotels, nine entertainment venues, convention and meeting space, shopping areas, restaurants operated by celebrity chefs, and other attractions designed to attract high rollers and assorted easy marks.

EuroVegas has its detractors -- “We are going to become a nation of waiters and prostitutes,” a critic complains -- but elected officials in Madrid and Barcelona, the primary targets of Adelson’s interest, have rolled out the red carpet. In an attempt to deliver jobs (Spain’s unemployment rate has climbed well past 20 percent), they’re reportedly trying to figure out how they can deliver on Adelson’s demands, which include free land, tax breaks, and an exemption from laws that prohibit smoking in public spaces.

Las Vegas Sands operates a pair of casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, the Venetian and the Palazzo, plus others in Singapore, Macau, and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The company is expected to settle on a site for EuroVegas sometime this summer.

If things don’t work out in Madrid or Barcelona -- unlikely, considering the desperate state of the nation’s economy -- the powers that be in Valencia and the Costa del Sol have already told Adelson to them a call.

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

And in Other News . . .

. . . england On Howard Swan’s plate for 2012 are renovations of two 18-hole golf courses in metropolitan London, England. The Essex-based architect has begun to oversee an overhaul of Gerrards Cross Golf Club, in the city’s western suburbs, and he’s preparing a master plan for a future makeover of Bentley Golf Club, which is located northeast of the city. The work at Bentley is essentially part of the family business, as the club features a 40-year-old track designed by Swan’s father, Alex. Some modest design changes are in order, as big hitters are no longer challenged by several holes on the 6,703-yard layout. The 6,243-yard course at Gerrards Cross, which opened in 1922, has been similarly outmoded by technological advances, a situation that Swan is addressing via a bunker renovation. Work on two holes is said to be in progress.

Some information in this post originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.

. . . brazil Question: How does a golf course architect’s life change after he wins a coveted design commission? Answer: He starts talking with reporters from Forbes. At least that’s how things have gone for Gil Hanse since he won the contest to design the golf course for the 2016 Olympics. The Q&A published last week by the famed magazine for One Percenters is completely forgettable, but Hanse did offer this tidbit about the course he’s designed in Rio de Janeiro: The courses that I’ve thought about are the Sandbelt courses in Australia -- Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath. I want to combine something like that with something like the Old Course in St. Andrews. The site in Rio is pure sand, and there’s not a whole lot of elevation change, sort of like the Old Course. If we can somehow craft something that looks like a Sandbelt course and has some of the characteristics of the Old Course, then I think we’ve done our job.

. . . wild card click If it sometimes seems that miracles are beyond belief, we can at least appreciate small wonders.
READ MORE - The Week That Was, april 8, 2012

Thursday, April 5, 2012

slovakia Creating a Golf Destination?

A Bratislava-based developer aims to build a 27-hole golf complex in the foothills of the High Tatras mountain range near Kezmarok, in northeastern Slovakia.

The complex will be the featured attraction of Royal Valley, which will include 66 single-family and vacation houses, a hotel, meeting space, a spa, a wellness center, and the usual recreational amenities. WBA Property Development hopes to break ground on the community in 2013 or 2014, with a nine-hole course set to be built in phase one of construction and an 18-hole course in phase two.

Royal Valley will emerge on 375 acres in the village of Maly Slavkov, near Tatras National Park. WBA hopes the area will eventually become what it calls “a new regional golf destination,” as Royal Valley will be just a short drive from the recently opened Black Stork golf community in Velka Lomnica. As it happens, WBA also plans to build some houses and a hotel in Velka Lomnica.

WBA was established by Marek Morgenstern, an English-speaking residential developer. In suburban Bratislava, it’s already developed the first of what it hopes will be a national network of communities for seniors (called Seniorville), and it aims to redevelop a brownfield in Nitra.

The company is an affiliate of WBA Holding, which has offices in Cyprus and Malta.

Some information in this post originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.
READ MORE - slovakia Creating a Golf Destination?

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Week That Was, april 1, 2012

morocco Tony Jacklin’s Marrakech Express

A year or so from now, Tony Jacklin expects to debut his second golf design in Morocco, at a U.S.-style resort community in suburban Marrakech.

Jacklin’s 27-hole complex will serve as a drawing card for Argan Golf Resort, which is being developed by the home-building arm of Groupe Addoha. Argan’s marketers have promised that the community’s 18-hole course will be “a jewel on par with the most prestigious professional golf courses.”

“We have designed the course in a desert style to minimize water consumption and have used plants and fauna that are indigenous to the area,” Jacklin reports in a press release. “The fabulous views of the Atlas Mountains provide the golfer with a stunning backdrop. This will undoubtedly provide players of all abilities with an experience to remember.”

Despite the exotic setting, the master plan for Argan mimics a familiar model. At build-out, the 550-acre community will consist of villas, apartments, a hotel, a spa, and an upscale shopping area. Jacklin has also agreed to produce a nine-hole, beginner-friendly track, and in the future he may be enlisted to add a golf academy.

To U.S. eyes, Argan’s only out-of-focus attraction is a polo club.

Groupe Addoha is a publicly traded company that was founded and is majority owned by Anas Sefioui, one of Morocco’s richest people. Bloomberg estimates that he’s worth $2.7 billion.

Groupe Addoha has reportedly built something like 190,000 houses all over Morocco, some of them at its Plage des Nations Golf Resort in suburban Rabat. In addition, the company is said to be building an 18-hole, Colin Montgomerie “signature” course at Marrakech Golf City in Marrakech.

In fact, Jacklin also has a little history with Groupe Addoha. Last year, construction began on a Jacklin-designed 18-hole course at Bouskoura Golf City in suburban Casablanca. Presuming the developers maintain their construction schedule, the course’s front nine will open later this year, the full 18 in 2013.

For those too young to remember Jacklin’s professional career, he won both a British and a U.S. open championship and was a member of seven Ryder Cup teams. He and Jack Nicklaus shared one of the best-remembered moments in Ryder Cup history, the famous “concession” putt that ended the 1969 matches in a draw. To commemorate this expression of sportsmanship, Jacklin and Nicklaus later co-designed Concession Golf Club in Sarasota, Florida.

Jacklin, who’s based in Bradenton, Florida, has also designed or co-designed courses in Spain (San Roque Club in Cadiz), Turkey (Klassis Golf & Country Club in Istanbul), and the Channel Islands (St. Pierre Park Golf Club in L’Ancresse).

His “ghost” designers for the courses at Argan and Bouskoura are a pair of Spanish architects, Blake Stirling and Marco Martin, who operate as Madrid, Spain-based Global Golf Company.

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

And in Other News . . .

. . . united states For better or worse, Donald “the Persuader” Trump’s sphere of influence in the golf business continues to grow. Last week, after months of spirited debate, the members of Point Lake & Golf Club in Mooresville, North Carolina voted to sell their property to the New York City-based developer, self-promoter, and reality TV star. When the transaction closes, possibly later this month, the Point will be known as Trump National Golf Club Charlotte. Improvements to the club’s Greg Norman-designed golf course, its clubhouse, and its other amenities are in the cards, to provide the lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous cachet that Trump-owned golf venues require. Eric Trump, the son who’s sounding more and more like a chip off the old block every day, told the Charlotte Observer, “There is no doubt that when completed, Trump National Golf Club Charlotte will be the best club in North Carolina and beyond.” I hope it isn’t too much to ask, How far beyond? The results of the vote haven’t been published, but Eric Trump claims that his family won the vote “overwhelmingly.” The price: $3 million.

. . . south africa The financially ailing Durban Country Club has been bailed out, at least temporarily, by a half-dozen trustees and deep-pocketed members. The rescue squad put up 45 million rand -- more than $5.8 million, presuming my currency calculator is working properly -- to fend off a possible foreclosure for DCC, which has been a home away from home for Durban’s high society since 1922. The amount of the loan reflects the depth of the hole DCC is in, and it may not be enough to keep the club’s doors open, as a trustee has confessed to the Durban Mercury that the club is “insolvent.” These troubling money issues have put the fate of the club’s showpiece course into question. DCC features one of the continent’s top tracks, a layout co-designed by golf pros George Waterman and Laurie Waters that’s hosted 16 South African open championships. A management group has been hired to attract new members, but the trustee fears that he’ll “probably see more members leaving.” To secure the loan, DCC had to offer its second 18-hole course, the Beachwood course, as collateral.

. . . cuba The number of vacationers heading to Cuba may be increasing -– it was up by 7.3 percent last year -– but the number of golf courses planned to serve them is not. Last week, during a press conference called to tout the nation’s recent successes on the tourism front, a minister reported that his nation aims to open 13 golf courses by 2020. As the Cuba Standard dutifully notes, the number is down by three from the one tourism officials were shooting for in 2010. Not that it matters, since all of Cuba’s pie-in-the-sky predictions regarding golf development have so far proved to be nothing but hot air. It’s no sweat off my back -- or off any U.S. resident’s -- but I think it would be nice if Cuba’s all-talk, no-action government could manage to build just one course. For me, that would be reason to call a press conference.

. . . wild card click My salute to opening day.
READ MORE - The Week That Was, april 1, 2012