“With the current land shortage in
Southern California, under-performing
golf courses provide developers an oppor-
tunity to secure a large amount of land
needed for a large-scale development,”
Arimitsu said. “This is a great opportunity
to satisfy a housing need in a thriving com-
Arimitsu said the Empire Lakes deal was
a perfect example of the niche his group
provides: extracting the maximum value
of the underlying land in underperforming
golf course facilities.
“It’s very rare when you can close on the
whole thing and get it rezoned and rede-
veloped,” Arimitsu said. “It’s far more com-
mon to extract out 10 to 20 or 30 acres out
of these situations. This has really been my
core business and something I think will be
more of the norm.”
It is one reason why Arimitsu is a lead
sponsor of the California Golf Course
Owners Association, educating the orga-
nization’s members about what affects the
future value of land and what truly is the
In March, Escalante Golf acquired the historical Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg,
Va., for $30.7 million. It was the biggest
single-asset sale in more than a year, with
the exception of the in-house sale of Troon
North Golf Club in December for $50 million.
Robert Silva, senior vice president of
business development, is the man who
secured the deal for Escalante. While a
high price, it was still lower than the $40
million Philip Anschutz’s Xanterra Parks &
Resorts paid Kingsmill’s original developer,
Anheuser-Busch, in 2010.
The 1,270-acre property hosts the LPGA
Tour’s Kingsmill Championship and
includes 414 condominiums and cottages,
three championship courses, numerous
restaurants and tennis courts, a full-service
spa, a fitness center, a marina and 260 acres
of developable residential and commercial
land approved for 762 homes and hotel
The Kingsmill purchase came just a few
months after Silva picked up the 36-hole
Gallery Golf Club in Marana, Ariz., for
$7.1 million. That high-end golf property
pairs with The Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain facility, which Escalante acquired
in 2012. The Fort Worth, Texas-based
Escalante now controls 25 18-hole-equiv-
alent courses, including nine purchased
YHB HOSPITALITY GROUP/
L.A. KOREANA INC.
For several years, Pacific Links International was one of the country’s most active
buyers, especially in Hawaii. Now that the
company has reversed its strategy and liquidated most of its holdings, Y.S. Kim is
filling the void.
Kim is president of YHB Hospitality
Group, which is owned by Koreana Hotels
& Resorts in Seoul, South Korea.
Kim’s latest move was the lease-purchase
of Ko‘olau Golf Club on Oahu in January.
The course, known as one of the toughest
in Hawaii, was owned by the First Presbyterian Church of Honolulu. YHB Hospitality, which owns numerous hotels and
resorts in California, Hawaii, South Korea
and Japan, signed a 10-year lease with four
The Ko‘olau deal comes on the heels
of YHB purchasing Pacific Links’ Royal
Hawaiian Golf Club in nearby Kailua
last October. That makes YHB the largest owner and operator in Hawaii, with
five facilities. Kim also controls New Aiwa
Miyazaki Resort in Miyazaki City, Japan.
Adam Dornbush of Dornbush & Co.,
Hawaii’s leading golf course broker with
more than 10 closings in the past few years,
has been involved in several YHB transactions.
Dornbush said YHB is “primarily a hos-
pitality company, but they’ve found a niche
in golf. They’ve gained some economies of
scale since their first acquisition back in
2005 (Ewa Beach Golf Club), and they’re
looking for the right opportunities. They’re
typically an acquisition rehab group, where
they invest in the property, improve the
asset and add value.”
Kim reportedly looked at some acquisi-
tion opportunities on the U.S. mainland
but concluded that the golf economics are
better and the golf market is more stable
in Hawaii, with its limited number of golf
courses and strong local economy.
BROWN GOLF MANAGEMENT
A growing player along the eastern seaboard, Brown is president and chief executive officer of Brown Golf Management.
Based in Harrisburg, Pa., and Bluffton,
S.C., Brown, a PGA master professional
with 30-plus years of club management
experience, owns or operates 22 facilities
(with 29 18-hole-equivalents) in Florida,
Pennsylvania and the Carolinas.
The most recent addition to the Brown
portfolio is Palmetto Hall Plantation Club
in Hilton Head Island, S.C., in October.