The Week that was: June 2, 2013

One of the golf industry’s longtime benefactors is in trouble with the law yet again. UBS, the Swiss investment banking colossus, is formally being investigated in France for what the Financial Times calls “illegal solicitation.” The phrase suggests activities that are juicy and sordid and oh so very French, but the alleged misdeeds are unfortunately more mundane, as they involve tax evasion. These days, as you probably know, UBS is the principal sponsor of the Hong Kong Open. Before the Great Recession took a bite out of its marketing program, however, it put its name on the Asian Golf Tour, the Japan Golf Tour Championship, the Faldo Series Asia, and the Players Championship. And as I’ve previously noted, UBS isn’t golf’s only patron that engages in white-collar crimes. Barclays, the bank that puts its name on the annual tournament in New Jersey, has paid multimillion-dollar fines for conspiring with UBS and others to fix Libor rates, and HSBC has, among other things, been fined for laundering money on behalf of terrorists and drug smugglers. So the next time someone mentions all those cherished values that golf represents, remind them that we routinely do business with corporate scoundrels and ought to put an end to it.

• In the midst of a reminiscence about a recent golf vacation in China, Craig Tansley of the Australian Financial Review makes a startling observation. Over the course of two days at Stone Forest International Golf Club in Kunming, Tansley reports that he saw just “five other groups” on the 54-hole complex. “There are no other golfers around at all,” he happily notes.

Playing at Stone Forest may be, as Tansley believes, “like golfing through Machu Picchu or through Stonehenge,” but one has to wonder how long it can survive without more paying customers.

• Peter Kostis has identified the culprit responsible for modern golf and its wretched excesses: Robert Trent Jones. Our industry’s “Original Sin” moment, as Kostis calls it in an article for Golf magazine, came when Jones toughened up the Donald Ross-designed course at Oakland Hills Country Club in preparation for the 1951 U.S. Open.

“By the mid 1960s,” Kostis recollects, “golfers began to confuse a course’s difficulty with its quality,” and things quickly went downhill from there. “At some point,” he believes, “we lost sight of what a course should be: a fun, contiguous, walkable layout that can be played in a reasonable amount of time.”

The article breaks no new ground, but it reflects a growing sentiment that will ultimately be very good for golf.

• Two years after Minot, North Dakota’s premier kid- and beginner-friendly golf course was washed away in a flood, leaving so many future golfers up the river without a putter, Jack Hoeven Wee Links is back in business.

“The adults have found places to play,” a local golf pro told the Minot Daily News, “but the kids in the community have had to wait two long years.” This is a significant achievement and a major investment in the future of golf in Minot. Welcome back, Jack!

• The Hyderabad Golf Association isn’t accentuating the positive for golf in India. For the fourth time, according to the Times of India, the association has been accused of illegally felling trees on property where it’s building a golf course. The first three times it happened, the association got off by paying a fine. This time, authorities in Hyderabad are thinking about bringing criminal charges.

• Montenegro’s most ambitious golf developer has sold out to one of its minority partners. Boka Group, a Bahamas-based firm led by John Gvozdenovic Kennedy and John James, has acquired the assets of LPGD Company LLC. Boka Group’s investors are said to include members of “famous European aristocratic families” – among them princes from Monaco and Russia – as well as “people from the world of business who want to invest money in Montenegro.”

LPGD, a Dutch entity, had hoped to build golf properties in Kavac, Danilovgrad, and Seljanovo. So far, though, Boka Group has revealed plans for just one of them, the one in Kavac. (LPGD had named it Tivat National Golf Club.) Depending on how quickly Orascom Development Holding proceeds with its Gary Player-designed course at the Luštica Bay resort community in Tivat, Boka Group could produce Montenegro’s first golf property.

Some information in the preceding post first appeared in the April 2013 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.

Add new comment

If you enjoyed this article and would like to sign up for a FREE digital subscription, click here!