The Local Knowlege

Golf pads

Check out this $200 million Florida listing that includes multiple practice greens and a miniature golf course

Sorry, make that "just under $200 million." That's what the Wall Street Journal reports a Florida island estate owned by the Ziff family is being listed at. Maybe that will change your tune about making an offer?

Related: 7 photos of Jordan Spieth's new Dallas mansion

Probably not, but you might enjoy seeing just how awesome this property is. Named "Gemini" (you know it's a sick property when it has an official name, especially one like Gemini), the family compound encompasses 16 acres on a barrier island just south of Palm Beach.

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The main house measures 62,200 (can't forget that extra 200!) square feet and sits on the Atlantic Ocean. There's also a guest house that faces the Intracoastal and the two structures are connected by an air-conditioned and furnished tunnel. That alone might make this the most jaw-dropping piece of real estate on the market, but there's more.

The compound also includes a seven-bedroom house, two four-bedroom "cottages," a pool, a pier, a basketball court, a tennis court, and a golf practice area with two greens.

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But while we've seen those type of amenities in luxury listings before, here's a new one: A miniature golf course. With a model train set running through it. Amazing.

Related: The best backyard golf holes

The Wall Street Journal describes that last feature as being "for children." Ha. That would be the first thing we'd check out if we ever visited.

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Business

Golf industry holds a hundred meetings on Capitol Hill during National Golf Day

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National Golf Day may not register on every golfer’s radar, especially in the middle of the week. But for Steve Mona, the CEO of World Golf Foundation and administrator of the industry’s We Are Golf coalition, the event that promotes the game on Capitol Hill signalled real progress this year in getting out golf’s message of economic and charitable impact to the nation’s lawmakers. 

About a hundred meetings with lawmakers and staff over the course of one day could have that kind of impact.

“I’m a little weary, but it was well worth it,” said Mona, back in his Florida office after the day-long D.C. whirlwind that included a meeting in the Vice President’s Ceremonial Office.

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Mona led a coalition of more than 100 industry representatives that descended on Washington to interact with lawmakers, including a series of events and exhibits in the foyer of the Rayburn House Office Building. The events included presentations by Presidents Cup captains Jay Haas and Nick Price, as well as instant lessons from Michael Breed and Karen Palacios-Jansen. 

While he sensed real support from established friends of golf like South Carolina Representative Jim Clyburn and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, Mona believes the dialog between lawmakers the golf industry has improved considerably since the first National Golf Day in 2008. He cites the We Are Golf coalition as instrumental and the very public National Golf Day as key elements in leading that change.

“The messaging has gotten much more refined and much more better understood by those we’re seeking to communicate with,” Mona said. “We made a stratetegic decision when we launched We Are Golf to go public and create a profile. Not all industries do that, and I would say that strategic direction wasn’t necessarily thought to be the right strategy in golf. Now that we’ve done it, everyone agrees that it was the right strategy.”

The group sought to make inroads yesterday in a number of specific legislative areas. One interesting item is an effort to get golf included as part of the proposed PHIT (“Personal Health Investment Today”) Act. This legislation would allow the use of pre-tax health spending account funds for “physical activity expenses.” Currently, golf is specifically excluded from the legislation.

Making that change requires adjusting some lawmaker’s perspectives about what golf’s impact is on the nation’s economy. We Are Golf cites a direct economic impact of golf of $68.8 billion and nearly two million jobs. Mona also estimates a charitable impact of nearly $4 billion. He notes the PGA Tour gets more attention for its contributions, but it’s local one-day events at golf courses that constitute the vast majority of those dollars. He estimates there may be as many as 144,000 charity golf events annually. 

“Almost all the money that gets raised from these events goes to causes outside of golf,” he says. “And almost all the money that gets raised locally stays in that area. So golf is really a community asset.”

He also believes real progress has been made in changing perceptions of golf’s role in environmental matters.

“We’re talking a lot about how golf course superintendents have gotten a lot more sophisticated about what acres on their property are intensely maintained,” says Mona, indicating that of the typical 150-acre golf facility only about 35 are intensely maintained. 

Getting those on Capitol Hill to understand golf beyond the lifestyles of the rich and famous perception is the ultimate challenge, he says. 

“The real backbone of the golf industry are people working in everyday kind of jobs,” he says. “It’s the person working on a golf course superintendent’s crew, somebody working for the club manager in the kitchen, or the person pulling bags from trunks for the club professional and shining up your clubs when you’re done. Not to mention, it’s also the people who are providing goods and services to the golf courses. None of those people are getting rich. We’re just trying to change the narrative or the mindset about who it is golf provides a living for. It’s not the 1-percenters.

“I can tell you unequivocally the narrative has changed, and the understanding clearly has changed, too, so we feel on that basis there’s been progress made.”

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Business

Under Armour CEO: 'Thanks to Jordan, our company grew up today'

There was more than one winner of the Masters on Sunday, Under Armour joining Jordan Spieth as the biggest benefactors of Spieth’s victory at Augusta National Golf Club

“Thanks to Jordan, our company grew up today," Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank told Darren Rovell of ESPN.com. Spieth has a 10-year contract with Under Armour, which outfits him head to toe with no other company’s logo allowed.

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(Getty Images)

“He was challenged by the greatest players in the world on the biggest stage, looked them straight in the eye and never blinked,” Plank said. “This is a global event and he's the leading trending athlete in the world right now.”

Under Armour is the anchor in Spieth’s endorsement portfolio that also includes AT&T, Titleist, Rolex, Perfect Sense Digital, NetJets and SuperStroke Grips. Sixteen Under Armour logos appeared on his clothes, hat and shoes on Sunday, eight on his shoes alone, according to the ESPN.com story.

Spieth earned $6 million off the course in 2014, according to the Golf Digest 50, Ron Sirak’s annual list of the highest earners in golf. Spieth, who ranked 16th in total earnings last year, could jump to fifth, Sirak wrote in the wake of Spieth's Masters victory. The top five currently are Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.

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Business

Reconciling Tiger's Chinese projects with China's course closures, ban on new courses

Last week, we learned that Tiger Woods reportedly will receive $16.5 million to re-design two golf courses in Beijing. Today, there is news that Chinese authorities have closed 66 golf courses built in violation of laws that protect arable land and preserve water.

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How to reconcile these disparate stories, as well as the fact that it has been illegal to build new courses in China since 2004?

“From the outside, China is very complicated like that,” David Lee, a consultant on golf course development in China, said.

No kidding.

Lee, who also consults with Golf Digest China, explained that the courses with which Woods reportedly will be involved, the first of which is Pacific Links International’s Tian’an Holiday Golf Club, are not new, but will be remodeled. The Tian’an Holiday Golf Club is a 27-hole facility that will become an 18-hole course, Lee said.

Pacific Links International plans to buy a dozen courses in and around Beijing, “so with one membership you can play all these reciprocal golf courses,” Lee said. “With Tiger’s name they think they will be able to sell a lot of memberships.”

Lee also believes that Pacific Links International intends to bring professional events there and that Woods’ fee likely requires his participation.

As for the closing of courses, the Tian’an Holiday Golf Club “wasn’t on the list of courses in trouble,” Lee said. The 66 courses closed were built after the 2004 ban that, Reuters reported, was “imposed to protect China's shrinking land and water resources in a country home to a fifth of the world's population but which has just 7 percent of its water.”

“It’s all very, very confusing,” Lee said.

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Business

American FootGolf League gets seal of approval from golf course owners group

Golf purists might object, but FootGolf, the relatively new hybrid soccer/golf sport, is here to stay and is growing to the extent that it has received what is tantamount to a seal of approval from the National Golf Course Owners Association.

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Last week, the NGCOA announced that it has recognized the American FootGolf League as the governing body for the sport of FootGolf in U.S.

“Some people think we’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid or doing something strange,” Mike Tinkey, deputy CEO of the NGCOA, said. “But what we’ve found since 2013 is that FootGolf has grown virally in our membership. It’s bringing in new customers, a lot of millennials, families and women, and they’re spending money. And their ancillary spend is very strong. It’s sort of energized a lot of facilities.”

The American FootGolf League was officially recognized, Tinkey said, for its history — it introduced the sport in the U.S. - and for “its support for owners,” Tinkey said. “We felt its heart in the right place and it provides tools to help owners understand it.”

It was welcome news at the American FootGolf League, obviously. “Our relationship with the NGCOA further validates the sport of FootGolf and the role of the AFGL in growing it in the United States,” Roberto Balestrini, founder of the league, said in a news release. “We’ve got great relationships with many of the leading golf course operators already and look forward to continuing to expand and introduce FootGolf to new golf facilities in 2015.”

The entry cost for FootGolf is relatively low, Tinkey said, “from under $3,000 to $5,000. And it’s bringing in tens of thousands of dollars up to a hundred-thousand dollars in one case at an 18-hole facility.”

There are two types of owners — those who would like to see the FootGolf players segue into golf and those who don’t care.

“I think in the main we’re interested in studying, as an association, whether there is a crossover to some form of traditional golf. I think we’ll be looking at that.”

Haggin Oaks in Sacramento is among those courses that have embraced FootGolf, as reported here.

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Business

Chinese investors buying up Myrtle Beach courses and 'they come with cash'

Myrtle Beach, S.C., renowned as a destination resort for golfers, has been attracting a different golf clientele: Chinese investors buying up its courses.

The Sun News reported recently that Chinese investors have bought 13 courses in the area, paying $47 million for them.

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International World Tour Golf Links

“Absolutely it’s a good thing,” John Draughn, a commercial sales broker for Coldwell Banker in Myrtle beach, said. Draughn has brokered some of the sales. “The alternative, in my opinion as a real-estate professional, is that you don’t want these things going to seed. We’ve had one or two down here go to seed.”

Myrtle Beach courses appeal to Chinese investors for a couple of reasons, Draughn said.

“A lot of these guys are coming out of New York and New Jersey and are buyers of commercial property,” he said. “Their kids are going to Harvard or Yale and such, and they understand the east coast. And Myrtle Beach is affordable and nice.

“One or two of these guys are just fanatical about golf. The man who bought Crown Park Golf Club [Shengwen Lan] played in the [Myrtle Beach] World Amateur a couple years ago.”

The Classic Golf Group sold its three courses — Founders Club of Pawleys Island, Indian Wells Golf Club and Burning Ridge Golf Club — to a group of Chinese investors for about $11 million.

“As far as selling a golf property now it depends on the purchaser, whether they can even get financing,” Ed Jerdon, a partner in the Classic Golf Group, told the Sun News. “The Chinese, they came with cash, and they continue to buy.”

Cokie and Steve Roberts, who write a weekly syndicated column for United Media, note that it isn’t golf alone enticing Chinese investors.

“The potential impact of this trend goes far beyond refurbished courses and rescued jobs,” they wrote. “Many Chinese investors want to establish footholds for their families in America, and have also bought at least 100 private homes in the area.

“A recent Barclays survey of China's wealthiest families found that almost half want to move abroad. According to the Wall Street Journal, 78 percent cite ‘better educational and employment opportunities for children’ as their main reason for emigrating.”

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Business

Two key players separately attempting to raise capital to revive Back9Network

Is it possible the Back9Network has a future after all, despite having ceased operations only 15 days ago?

It does seem a long shot, but two key players are, separately, attempting to raise capital to resurrect the fledgling golf lifestyle network, the Hartford Courant reported on Tuesday.

One is the founder and former CEO, as well as the largest shareholder, Jamie Bosworth, who if successful, might “offer him a door back into the CEO’s chair,” the Courant wrote. Bosworth, who resigned under pressure last summer, said he is attempting to raise between $30 million and $40 million, “which will allow us to produce the type of content that excited both investors and the golf lifestyle industry.”

The other is Bosworth’s replacement as CEO, Charles Cox, who is working with company executives who have “a couple of groups that have shown interest, and we're trying to push them to get to the finish line as quickly as possible,” he told the newspaper.

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The Back9Network debuted on Sept. 29 on DirecTV and was on the air fewer than five months. In January, it eliminated 35 full-time positions and delayed payroll payments to some employees.

What remains to be answered is whether there is room for two golf networks. We posed that question to Cox last September. His answer:

“I wouldn't have left a nice safe career at ESPN if I didn't think so. I think it's a no-brainer channel offering. You've got the only sport you can play until you die. You've got a 70-billion dollars annual consumer spend around the lifestyle. Look at other [sports] genres that have a lifestyle around it. There's only one, outdoors, hunting and fishing, and they've got several channels.”

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Business

Back9Network suspends operations, cites 'temporary shortfall in capital'

The beleaguered Back9Network announced on Monday that it has suspended operations, the latest setback for the golf lifestyle network that debuted Sept. 29 on DirecTV.

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No one at the Back9Network is speaking publicly and only this statement was issued:

“Due to a temporary shortfall in capital, Back9Network has suspended its operations. Management and the board of directors are planning next steps and will continue their efforts to secure long-term, operating capital. The company will keep the public informed with any new developments.”

This is the latest and most serious setback for the network. Last month, it eliminated 35 full-time positions, according to the Hartford Business Journal. Ten days earlier, the Hartford Courant reported the network had “delayed payroll payments to some employees…but made the payments on Friday and remains on track in its growth strategy, a company official said.”

It has been available only on DirecTV, meanwhile campaigning unsuccessfully to get other cable operators to add it.

It also had sued its founder and former CEO Jamie Bosworth, who had resigned in August of 2014, though the suit has been withdrawn with the parties "agreeing to resolve differences in binding arbitration," the Courant reported.

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Business

NFL owner, golf enthusiast eyes purchase of Rees Jones course in S.C.

Even as golf promotes the idea that the game is open to all comers, it still requires wealth at the ownership level and few are wealthier than Robert McNair.

The billionaire owner of the Houston Texans and an avid golfer, McNair is leading a group interested in purchasing the Golf Club at Briar’s Creek in John’s Island, S.C., which filed for bankruptcy last week. The club listed assets of $1.56 million and liabilities of $37 million, according to the filing.

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A founding member of Briar’s Creek, McNair, and his group are seeking to purchase the club’s assets for $11.3 million, and to “invest another $2 million into a new debt-free private club,” the Charleston Post and Courier reported.

Golf Digest named Briar’s Creek, a Rees Jones creation, the best new private course in 2002 and recently named it the seventh-best course in South Carolina.

McNair, 78, who has a home in nearby Kiawah Island, is worth $2.4 billion, according to Forbes magazine’s latest ranking of the 400 richest Americans.

The USGA’s Golf Handicap and Information Network (GHIN.com) shows that McNair plays to a handicap index of 8.7, He is a member of Pine Valley (N.J.) Golf Club, the Quarry at La Quinta (Calif.), the Everglades Club (Palm Beach, Fla.), River Oaks Country Club (Houston), Lochinvar Golf Club (Houston), the Kiawah Island (S.C.) Club, Castle Pines Golf Club (Castle Rock, Colo.) and the Floridian (Palm City, Fla).

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Business

Japan manufacturers endorse non-conforming clubs

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The Japan Golf Goods Association, the trade organization for golf equipment manufacturers in Japan, today announced that it would support the distribution of non-conforming golf equipment. 

“JGGA believes that it is desirable for the stimulation of the golf market to have a wide variety of golf equipment available in the market from which all types of golfers may choose in order to find one that really fits their respective purposes and needs, hoping that more and more golfers will enjoy playing golf as a result of such improvement in the golf equipment market,” an English translation of the JGGA statement reads.

“From this point of view, JGGA has left it to the judgment of each member company whether to manufacture and/or sell golf equipment that doesn’t fully conform to the specifications set forth in the Rules of Golf promulgated by R&A.”

A recent study by Golf Datatech and Yano Research Institute of Japan, the world’s two leading organizations studying the global golf retail market space, Japan is the No. 2 country in golf sales in the world with 24 percent of the global golf market. The JGGA sponsors the Japan Golf Fair, Japan’s version of the PGA Merchandise Show, which will be held Feb. 13-15 in Tokyo.

In its statement the JGGA acknowledges that an influx of non-conforming equipment “could create confusion among golfers and tournament organizers. JGGA considers it very important for the healthy development of the industry that all relevant parties make efforts to prevent consumers from buying nonconforming equipment without knowing that it is nonconforming, and to avoid any confusion or trouble due to the inability of tournament organizers to determine the conformity of each equipment at the tournament site.”

The JGGA is advocating that products be clearly marked as nonconforming, although it has not indicated what specific efforts or product labeling will be made. Its main motivation seems to be to cater to golfers seeking more enjoyment without performance limits imposed by the rules.

Several U.S. manufacturers contacted for this story have either declined comment or not returned inquiries. The R&A also has not returned an e-mail request for comment.

U.S. manufacturers have not embraced non-conforming equipment, and while the JGGA's Japan Golf Fair routinely has nonconforming equipment on display, no major U.S. company has introduced non-conforming equipment to date. Smaller companies have introduced non-conforming clubs and balls, like Hireko, which last year introduced a 515 cubic centimeter driver called the Juggernaut (above). After much talk about non-conforming equipment at the last two years' PGA Shows, fueled largely by former TaylorMade CEO Mark King who launched a grow-the-game, alternative rules golf initiative Hack Golf last year with great fanfare, there was very little discussion on the topic this year. 

This news from the JGGA clearly reopens the discussion.

“For the most of amateur golfers, nothing give[s] more pleasure than long driving distances and control of a golf ball on the green with a back spin as professional golfers do,” the JGGA statement reads. “That is why quite a few of golfers are still using and wanting nonconforming golf equipment and why nonconforming golf equipment is still available on the market in response to such demand. Some golfers may be using or buying nonconforming equipment without knowing that they don’t conform to the Rules.”

What’s not clear is just how much advantage non-conforming equipment might provide for amateur or recreational golfers, or whether there's expressed interest in playing clubs that don't adhere to the rules. A 2014 survey by Golf World suggested less than a quarter of golfers surveyed would be interested in "a nonconforming driver that promised an extra 15-20 yards." John Spitzer managing director for equipment standards of the USGA told Golf World last year, “To think nonconforming clubs would somehow increase participation, I don't see that. It's not 1,000cc drivers or a ball that goes 30 yards farther that's going to grow the game."

But it is clear that there are certain elements within golf equipment manufacturing willing to go down the road of selling clubs outside the rules. In that stame Golf World story, Bob Philion, president of Cobra-Puma Golf, told Golf World, "There is a sense of urgency in the industry, whether from our competitors or the PGA of America, to be less intimidating and more fun. Do I think nonconforming drivers will be out there in 10 years? I do. Three years? I do. I think the street signs for the game aren't positive enough for someone not to try it." 

The JGGA’s statement clearly is endorsing manufacturers be free to take a more relaxed approach to the rules.  It concludes, “Through a variety of actions and initiatives, JGGA is committed to providing a market environment where all golfers are able to choose and use the most appropriate golf equipment for every situation.” 

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