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.