Tag Archives: Tom Fazio

Turnberry Deal Risky for Trump

Nothing catches the Top 50 by surprise, so we did little more than spray a mouthful of hot cocoa when we read that Donald Trump has bought third-ranked Turnberry Resort of Ayrshire, Scotland. On the advice of counsel we quickly snapped up some tee times on Turnberry’s famed Ailsa Course, hoping to get in a few rounds before The Donald installs his waterfalls and concrete cart paths. Otherwise, we’ve gone about our business, rating golf courses with scientific rigor and unshakable integrity.

But in the sub-basement of Catch Basin, our Kansas City headquarters, the excitement is palpable. We’ve fired all the cubicle cuties who handled consumer complaints and replaced them with a corps of hard-edged, Wall Street bond salesmen. These guys, veterans of various pump-and-dump schemes and penny-stock swindles, are already making cold calls to avid core golfers.

Why? I’ll tell you why. It’s because Trump — a so-called “business genius” who now owns and operates 17 golf properties — has made the worst decision of his storied career. He has acquired Turnberry’s elegant cliff-top hotel, it’s true, and he now owns the resort’s three golf courses, including the incomparable Open Championship links that hosted 1977’s legendary “Duel in the Sun.” But he didn’t buy Ailsa Craig, the muffin-shaped island that dominates the view from the Turnberry lighthouse.

Trump’s tailor, if he’s sharp, is already embroidering the word “SUCKER” on the lapels of The Donald’s tux.

Turnberry Resort

The Turnberry Resort before its purchase by Donald Trump. Miguel Angel Jimenez and his caddie were not part of the deal. (John Garrity)

If you’re a loyal reader of this post, you know that my Top 50 Charitable Trust plans to purchase Ailsa Craig with funds donated by loyal readers of this post. The eighth Marquess of Ailsa has priced the iconic rock at $2.4 million, which is more than reasonable when you consider that the island is the exclusive source of microgranite for Olympic-class curling stones. Imagine its worth if some genius entrepreneur — not Trump! — captures the international market for game-improvement curling stones.

It was not profit, however, but a desire to preserve the view from Turnberry and protect a hunk of Scottish heritage that motivated our fund-raising drive. But now, with Trump in control of the relevant strip of Ayrshire coastline, we see a greater opportunity. As owners of Ailsa Craig, we will point out to Trump how our property enhances the value of his property and, with that in mind, mention how the perceived value of his Open venue might decline if someone were to erect a giant curtain around the island,* spoiling the view. Knowing how much the Donald detests environmental degradation — proved by his opposition to an offshore wind farm near 51st-ranked Trump International Golf Links of Aberdeenshire — we’re sure he’ll embrace an annual fee of a million bucks for viewing rights to Ailsa Craig. Or, if he’s so inclined, he can buy the island from us at a modest markup — say, $20 million?

*Recognizing that it would be costly to erect an actual fabric curtain around a 1,100-foot-tall island, we envision a World War II-style smoke screen laid down by speedy patrol boats. On many days, of course, the Scottish weather renders the island invisible at no additional cost.

We still have some work to do. As of 5 p.m. Thursday we’re roughly $2.399 million shy of our goal. That’s why it’s so important that you answer your phone, even when the screen says “No Caller I.D.” It could be one of our boiler-room boys, calling to get your pledge to our TRUMP TRUMP FOR THE GOOD OF SCOTLAND campaign.

And remember: No contribution is too small.

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but the PGA Tour’s Wells Fargo Championship is winding up at the 51st-ranked Quail Hollow Club, site of the 2017 PGA Championship. Quail Hollow’s Tom Fazio course, recently renovated by Tom Fazio, has long been a personal favorite, although I have never had the pleasure of playing it. Next week’s venue, 51st-ranked TPC Sawgrass, has never been a personal favorite, but I have had the pleasure of playing it. Coincidence?


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Golfweek Rankings: Worth a Look?

The basement computer room at our Kansas City headquarters is listed as “unlikely” for the rest of November, due to the removal of the south wall by hydraulic engineers. Consequently, I am devoting most of my energies to paperwork, jigsaw puzzles and Rumpole of the Bailey DVDs.

18th Green at Pebble Beach

Pebble Beach: An obvious choice? (John Garrity)

I did take a few minutes this afternoon to review Golfweek’s “Definitive Guide to the Golf Life,” which dropped through the mail slot and landed on the floor with a resounding thud. Also landing with thuds, I’m sorry to say, are the magazine’s top-100 lists of resort and residential golf courses.

Hey, the Florida-based weekly made a valiant effort. The course photographs are attractive, the spine is well-glued, and it’s evident that the editors sent grownups to rate the various resorts and developments. Nevertheless, Golfweek’s procedures are ridiculously subjective, leaving their rankings open to second-guessing.* Their residential list, for example, cites only two courses from my Top 50, Castle Pines and Redlands Mesa, and totally ignores two perennial Top-50 standouts, Hallbrook C.C. and Medicine Hole G.C.. (It is possible, I admit, that Golfweek did not treat the Badlands course as “residential,” due to the lack of housing on its perimeter.) Even more damning: The magazine lists only 11 courses that I have personally played.

*No ranking can call itself “scientific” if it’s operating without a Bomar Brain.

That said, I won’t quibble with Golfweek’s top three — Mountaintop Golf & Lake Club (Tom Fazio, Cashiers, N.C.), Rock Creek Cattle Company (Tom Doak, Deer Lodge, Mont.), and Wade Hampton Club (Tom Fazio, Cashiers, N.C.) — except to say that cattle companies aren’t “golf courses,” per se. I played both Fazio courses with the architect last fall, along with his Bright’s Creek course in Mill Spring, N.C., No. 36 on the Golfweek list. All three of those courses were good enough to hold down the No. 50 spot on my list last year, if only for a week or so, as is another Fazio housesitter, Briggs Ranch of San Antonio, Texas (No. 28 on the Golfweek list).

Bathroom at CordeValle

CordeValle's plumbing is second to none. (John Garrity)

Golfweek’s resort course ranking is easier to defend, since nine of its courses also appear in my Top 50. That includes three of the magazine’s top-four resorts: Pacific Dunes, Pebble Beach, and Whistling Straits.* I can also endorse the high rankings for Pine Needles Country Club (Donald Ross, Southern Pines, N.C.), Caledonia Golf & Fish Club (Michael Strantz, Pawley’s Island, S.C., and CordeValle Resort (Robert Trent Jones, Jr., San Martin, Calif.), three of my personal favorites.

*I expect Golfweek’s second-ranked course, Old MacDonald (Tom Doak & Jim Urbina, Bandon, Ore.), to crack my Top 20 once we scrape the plaster dust and mould off the mainframe.

Coincidentally, I was about to release my own list of best resort courses when water started spilling out from under our basement baseboards. Needless to say, that list is on hold — although I guess you could describe my call to the foundation company as “a last resort.” Here’s a preview:

50. Dry Basement Company, Kansas City, Mo. (Otto Fleck) 8.17

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Tiger, Phil Lead Designers’ Flight

The Course Designers’ flight at the Masters may not get as much attention as it used to, but what a leader board! Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson share the lead at 6-under par heading into the weekend, and Tom Watson is three back after a second-round 74. Ernie Els survived the 36-hole cut despite a Friday afternoon run-in with Augusta National’s 15th hole; he’s at even-par and T21.

The twist at the Masters, of course, is that the designers are ranked according to their golfing ability, not their design proficiency. That leads to amusing results. Top-ranked designer Ben Crenshaw (Sand Hills Golf Club, No. 19, Kapalua Plantation Course, No. 34) shot rounds of 77-78 and missed the cut by eight strokes. But Woods, who has yet to complete a golf course after three years in the design business, gets to play on the weekend. It may not be fair, but that’s what makes it fun.

Anyway, here are the two-round cumulative results:

Position Player Total Cumulative
T-1 Tiger Woods -6 138
T-1 Phil Mickelson -6 138
3 Tom Watson -3 141
4 Ernie Els E 144
T-5 Bernhard Langer +5 149*
T-5 Mark O’Meara +5 149*
7 Vijay Singh +10 154*
8 Ben Crenshaw +11 155*
9 Ian Woosnam +20 164*
*Missed Cut

Top 50 on TV: The Course Designers’ Tournament is being played at Augusta National, No. 7, but the CBS cameras can’t get enough of the new Tom Fazio-designed Augusta National Practice Facility. The new range, which replaces a foreshortened lawn that ended in a 200-foot vertical net, is more than 400 yards long and lined with azaleas (reminiscent of my back yard). The short-game area, on the golf course side of the range, is roped for spectators and features white-sand bunkers and tournament-ready greens. I’ll review Fazio’s work in more detail in a subsequent post, but for this week only his Augusta National range cracks the Top 50 at No. 47, replacing Oakmont Country Club.

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Where’s the Post-Panic Golf Boom?

I’m not often wrong, but I definitely misread this Great Recession thing. “Hot damn!” I told my golf-architect pals last winter. “You’ll be up to your armpits in federal funds! You’ll go down in history for Pinehurst No. 12, Pebble Beach New and Bethpage Mauve!” I even advised one of my designer friends, Bill Amick, to invite New York mayor Michael Bloomberg to Tavern on the Green to discuss a new muni in Central Park. I told Bill, “You could call it The Links at Strawberry Fields!”

My mistake was in assuming that our current financial crisis would lead to a national consensus on stimulus spending and jobs programs. The Great Depression, remember, was good for golf. New Deal programs such as the WPA and CWA spent millions of dollars on ball fields, boat ramps, hiking trails and golf courses, which allowed taxpayer money to trickle down to the likes of legendary golf architect A.W. Tillinghast, who used it to build classic public courses like Long Island’s Bethpage Black (site of the 20002 and 2009 U. S. Opens) and Kansas City’s Swope Memorial (host to the 2005 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship).*

*For a thorough exploration of the New Deal golf boom, read Jeff Silverman’s terrific article, “Going Public,” in the June 15, 2009 issue of Sports Illustrated Golf Plus.

This time, however, a perfectly good Financial Panic will be wasted. The wimpy $787 billion stimulus package that Congress passed last year explicitly ruled out funding for “basketball courts, tanning salons, swimming pools, wineries, bordellos, puppy mills, sweat shops, cockfight arenas, sidewalks or paved areas within 400 yards of Keith Olbermann, and golf facilities.” Golf, in other words, will not be allowed to benefit from 10% unemployment and trillion-dollar deficits.

I raised this sorry state of affairs a few months ago in North Carolina during my six-courses-in-one-day golf outing with famed golf architect Tom Fazio. “Politically, it’s a different deal,” he said, choosing his words carefully. “You and I would like for this country to be like Ireland and Scotland, where every community has its own golf course. But there’s a lot of people who don’t play golf, and they don’t want that. And they don’t want an art studio, either. They want jobs for the industry that they’re in, or they want ‘economic development.’”

Tom, while searching his bag in vain for a driver that would hit the ball 290 yards with a two-yard draw, came up with an even better reason for our lawmakers’ indifference to golf course development: “The difference between now and the thirties, if you think about it, is we have enough golf courses out there.”

Enough courses? We have sixteen thousand of them, actually, in the U.S. alone. A non-golfer might argue that we have more than enough, given the fact that courses are going out of business, declaring bankruptcy or otherwise giving every indication that they might better serve their communities as dog parks or frisbee fields.*

*I would argue that we suffer from a golf-course shortage. That will become apparent in the spring, when the millions of golfers who normally stay home on weekends to watch Tiger Woods rush, en masse, to the links.

If a municipality really wants a golf course, Tom went on, it can acquire one for far less than it costs to build one. “But where are they going to get the money from? You look at every state and municipal budget — they’re broke! And if they’re not broke, they won’t spend on recreation. They’re shutting down recreation.”

The upside, Tom admitted, is that he can now play golf almost any day of the week. Which is easy to do, since Tom’s winter office in Tequesta, Fla., is right across the highway from the Jupiter Hills Club (No. 10), designed by his tour-player uncle, George Fazio.

For more of Tom Fazio on the plight of the golf industry, check out my feature, “Back to the Drawing Board,” in the February 2010 issue of GOLF Magazine. Or simply click here, saving yourself a few bucks and pushing my former employers that much closer to insolvency.

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