10 Golf Inc. July/August 2015
to be further into the acquisition before
talking,” it said.)
The wedding guests included a number
of Myrtle Beach hotshots, including Mayor
John Rhodes. Dozens of Chinese guests
were also present. It appeared to be quite
the international affair.
“People here are used to outsiders,” said
Larry Gavich, who writes about Myrtle
Beach golf in his blog, Golf Community
Reviews. “They get visitors from New York,
the Midwest, Canada. So no one is overly
Some wonder if investment in golf is the
only reason for the purchases. A number of
wealthy Chinese are looking to move their
money from China and see the U.S. as a
There’s another factor in play as well — a
pathway to U.S. citizenship. Foreigners can
get green cards if they invest at least $1 million in the U.S. and create at least 10 U.S.
The Chinese, of late, have been flooding the so-called EB- 5 immigration program. Last year, they made up 90 percent
of those getting visas through the program.
This year, the number of applicants was so
overwhelming — again, mostly by Chinese
— that the program reached its 10,000-per-
year limit in May.
When an adult gets a visa, so do his or
her children. That is a big plum for the
wealthy Chinese, who are attracted to the
U.S. because of its lauded higher education
Marcus & Millichap brokered the first
Chinese investment deal in the Myrtle
Beach area, the acquisition of Sea Trail
Golf Resort & Convention Center in
Sunset Beach, N.C., by a Chinese investor
in 2012. That course was in bankruptcy. It
was a more typical purchase, said Steven
Ekovich, national managing director of
Marcus & Millichap.
He believes the current group is buying
because of the EB- 5 program.
“Remember the song, it is all about ‘bass,
no treble,’” he said. “It’s all about visas.”
These investors don’t really understand
golf assets, he said. “But they have heard
this is a good way to get your family out of
China and a safe place to put your money.”
Dou has denied that his group is inter-
ested in gaining visas.
“We don’t need EB- 5,” Dou told The Sun
News. “For us, it’s just for investment. ...
We’re just running a golf business.”
attract more investors.
This spurt of buying in Myrtle Beach is
not indicative of any kind of sea change
when it comes to Chinese investment in
golf either, Ekovich said.
“The hype about Chinese buyers is way
out of proportion to the amount of deals
they are actually closing,” he said.
Cassie Gao of Rhodium Group, which
tracks Chinese investments, agreed. This is
the only such cluster of golf courses being
bought nationally, she said. However, overall hospitality and tourism is one of the
fastest growing sectors for Chinese investment, she said.
There are other major buyers who are
backed by Chinese money. Pacific Links
International is a Canadian company
run by Bruce Simmonds, former CEO
C-BONS International Golf Group
acquired 22 courses from Walton Street
Capital in October. C-B0NS Golf is a
Nevada-based company with funding from
C-BONS, a Hong Kong investment group.
In Myrtle Beach, there has been word of
some friction when it comes to the Chinese
presence. One person, who wished not to
be named, said that after the wedding day,
some of the Chinese visited a local golf
course — owned by Chinese — and had
no idea it was damaging to drive over the
greens in their golf carts.
“When it comes to the game, they are
really neophytes,” the person said.
In December of 2014, Dou told The Sun
News that some local businesses were not
treating him well. “In a short time we invest
almost $40 million, which is good for local
people’s jobs and local government tax, but
we want to be treated back with trust,” he
said. “We are from outside. That’s why we
worry about it. For six months now we
feel something, so we might stop and pull
Well, the group did not pull back.
Beach is one
of the courses