American Golf sells Seascape, more sales to follow

American Golf is in the process of selling the 26 golf courses that it owns, with the latest sale being Seascape Golf Club in Aptos, Calif. 

SAR Enterprises and The Holcomb Corp. formed a new partnership to acquire the 18-hole course, which is expected to close on Nov. 1.  American Golf had asked $12 million for the 139-acre property, down from the $13.77 million it paid in 1993, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported. The club, which is 8 miles south of Santa Cruz, opened in 1926. 

American Golf was once the largest golf course management company in the world, with 294.5 courses at its height in 2001. Newcastle Investments, which is managed by Fortress Investments, acquired American Golf from Goldman Sachs in late 2013. Goldman Sachs had owned the company for 11 years in which time it sold courses and exited underperforming management contracts. 

After seeing a decline in traditional golf participation and watching the success of the Topgolf concept, Newcastle Chairman Wes Edens decided to adopt a new name and a new approach to the game. Newcastle became Drive Shack Holdings and shifted its focus to offering golf-oriented leisure and entertainment activities, similar to Topgolf. It set up two divisions — Drive Shack and American Golf — that work closely together but have separate management teams. 

“Topgolf is a great company and first to market,” said Jim Hinckley, CEO of American Golf. “But there is plenty of opportunity for a competitor. We are trying to take the entertainment experience we are developing at Drive Shack standalone facilities and bring it back to the golf course.”

American Golf manages 70 golf courses, but hopes to sell off most of its 26 owned golf properties to generate cash to pay for the construction of Drive Shack facilities. Still, it hopes to keep operating the properties under leases or management deals, and to add Drive Shack facilities to those properties where possible. 

The new owners of Seascape Golf Club, however, hired Monterey Bay Golf Management Group to run the course. General Manager Gary Nelson, who has been at Seascape since 2007, and many of his staff will stay. 

The new owners are both local companies. Robert Ridino, owner and CEO of SAR Asset Management, Inc., runs his commercial real estate investment firm in Aptos. Mark Holcomb and his family developed the adjacent four-diamond rated Seascape Beach Resort and Conference Center, with 283 suites.

Drive Shack opened its first standalone facility in April in Orlando and additional facilities are under construction in Richmond, Va., Raleigh, N.C., and West Palm Beach, Fla. The facilities include multiple-story hitting suites where participants can play games while enjoying food and beverage service. 

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