the nation in search of his next Atlantic
Beach. He’s looking for a distressed property with excess land in a robust real estate
market. He hasn’t signed one yet, but he’s
drawn interest from seven — in Florida,
Maryland, North Carolina and Texas — as
well as an ownership group with a multi-property portfolio.
The interest suggests that Revivalism
might catch on. For the better part of a
decade, pessimism has pervaded U.S. golf
operations. Without a recovery in sight,
legions of desperate owners have jumped
at the chance to sell their failing properties and escape from a dying industry. But
things are changing. As golf operations
stabilize, and as supply and demand come
into balance, hopes are being renewed.
Instead of taking a convenient way out,
some clubs and course owners might be
persuaded to stay in.
Last year, Pulte Homes proposed a
future for Wood Wind Golf Club in suburban Indianapolis that’s remarkably similar to the one Larsen gave Atlantic Beach.
Instead of razing Wood Wind’s 18-hole
track, Pulte wants to create space for
houses and a variety of recreational attractions. By moving just four holes, Pulte gets
to keep a valuable community asset.
A more elaborate conversion is set to
occur this year in Gladewater, Texas, at
the suffering Southern Hills Golf Club. Jeff
Brauer has been hired to move six of the
club’s 18 holes and overhaul the rest in an
effort to create a first-class venue, which,
with the addition of a banquet center and
a renovated clubhouse, should be able to
support the sale of 300 high-end houses.
If this is a trend, it’s a welcome one.
“We’re not proposing to shorten or elim-
inate any golf courses,” Larsen notes. “Our
approach will preserve, or even improve,
the character and quality of a regulation-
length, 18-hole course and put an owner
in a position to succeed.”
It’s hard to predict how much traction
Revivalism can get in an improving golf
industry, and it’s important to note that
Larsen doesn’t offer a permanent solution.
While Atlantic Beach may be operat-
ing in the black today, it will need good
management to stay there. But Larsen has
found a way to give struggling courses a
Robert J. Vasilak is one of Golf, Inc.’s
contributing editors and publisher of the
World Edition of Golf Course Report. He
blogs at WorldGolfReport.blogspot.com.
The smart range
BY JACK CRITTENDEN
Edwin Roald has a theory, and if it
proves accurate, a lot of golf course
owners could make big money.
The golf course architect, consultant
and sustainability expert has been in
the golf business for 15 years and currently is the sustainability chairman of
the European Institute of Golf Course
But few new courses are getting built,
so the Icelander is thinking outside the
“I believe simulators will replace
driving ranges,” Roald predicts. “The
technology is improving rapidly.”
Assuming that happens, Roald wants
to be the consultant to help golf course
owners make the transition and gener-
ate more revenue.
“This is a way to rescue the urban golf
facility,” he said.
The concept is simple. A golf course
owner sells or redevelops the 12 to 15
acres that make up the range. The owner
then uses part of that revenue to install
simulators in the clubhouse.
Depending of the location of the
course and the size of the lot, the old
range could fetch an owner into the
millions. And, Roald believes, golfers
may be happier with simulators.
Roald will help with the overall strategic planning, rework the existing course
if necessary and plan for the location of
“This could help transform the game’s
image,” he said.
But Roald doesn’t stop there. He’s also
promoting the idea of getting away from
18 holes as the standard for the game.
He points out that golf is 18 holes by
historical accident. Prior to the 1900s,
courses tended to have as many holes as
the available land would permit, ranging from nine to 22.
“We are failing to respond to the
changing times and meet the needs of
the modern man,” he said. “If you can
get away from 18 and allow for any
number of holes, then that would open
options for repurposing of the land.”
Roald said he is working with three
clubs in Europe that are considering
such a move.
The challenge, he said, is getting the
U.S. Golf Association to allow handicaps on courses with fewer than 18
holes. That would make it far less risky
for an owner to offer 13 or 14 holes.
“We need a paradigm shift on this,”
Roald said. “It’s really going back to
golf ’s roots.”