Pinnacle managing former IRI courses

Pinnacle Golf Properties has doubled the size of its portfolio during the past year,with six facilities in and around Charlotte that had formerly been owned by Jeff Silverstein’s defunct IRI Golf Group. 

The company recently introduced an à la carte service that officials hope will lead to another doubling.

Pinnacle’s mission is to deliver “a premier golf experience at a truly affordable price.” Today, the company offers turnkey management, consulting and related support to 14 properties in the Carolinas, all of them located within a two-hour drive of the company’s headquarters in Charlotte, N.C.

Company President David Taylor describes the group as mid- to high-quality venues that cater to golfers who play on a regular basis.

Unlike many of its larger competitors, Pinnacle doesn’t own or lease any golf courses. It currently manages 13 daily-fee and municipal properties, all but one of them in the Charlotte and Greensboro/Winston-Salem areas. 

The courses are owned by an affiliate of Toronto-based Romspen Investment Corp., the group includes five clubs in North Carolina (Birkdale, The Divide, Highland Creek, Skybrook and The Tradition) and one in South Carolina (Waterford).

 “They were a perfect fit for us,” Taylor said. “In terms of quality, they match the other courses in our portfolio, and they’re in the right geographical area.”

In addition, Pinnacle recently signed a private club, River Hills Golf Club in Lake Wylie, S.C., to its new Financial Services Division. Pinnacle created the division to provide bookkeeping, payroll, expense benchmarking and other accounting functions to public courses and private clubs looking to trim expenses without turning over their entire operations to a management company. Taylor believes the division’s services will be particularly attractive to properties that ring up between $2 million and $4.5 million in annual revenues.

“We feel like it’s a really good opportunity,” he said. “Most courses in this market segment spend more than is necessary to perform these tasks, and with our help they can focus on growing instead of accounting.”

Taylor and Kim Worrel, both of whom formerly worked for the Robert Trent Jones Trail in Alabama, founded Pinnacle in 2002. They believe in measured, deliberate growth and say they have no aspirations to become national operators. Taylor is willing to travel a little farther to add new properties to the company’s portfolio – say, a four-hour drive from Charlotte – but he’s reluctant to assume contracts on courses he’d have to fly to.

“If you have to fly,” he said, “you won’t visit as often.”

Besides, Taylor thinks he can find a significant number of prospective clients in the Carolinas.

“We’re a small management company and want to remain so,” he said. “We don’t have anything against large management companies, but it’s not our model. Our goal is to be a regional company that can make a difference for our clients.”

So for now, at least, Taylor and Worrel expect to continue working close to home, on short-term contracts that typically come and go. They briefly tried to become buyers in 2011, when they entered into a partnership with Greensboro-based Weaver Investment Co., but the parties couldn’t agree on any acquisitions and eventually went their separate ways 

“We’re comfortable with the management model because we’re confident in our abilities,” Taylor said. “We understand the risks, but we believe we can prove our value to clients.”

Ideally, Taylor said, Pinnacle will grow to about 20 properties under management and perhaps 20 more in the Financial Services Division.

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