An interesting article from Kurt Badenhausen on the Forbes.com web site about Tiger Wood’s struggling design business.
As previously outlined on PlanetGolf.com.au, Forbes reports on problems at Tiger’s existing developments and the likelihood that future assignments will be few and far between.
Badenhausen starts by saying that ‘One part of Woods’ empire is on the rocks without any help from the tabloids: his golf course design business.’
He continues ‘Three years ago Tiger Woods announced plans to design his first U.S. golf course on a high plateau in the Blue Ridge Mountains outside Asheville, N.C. The developer, Cliffs Communities, planned a 7,300-yard course, a wellness center, a spa and 1,200 homes spread out over 3,200 acres.
The carrot to sell all of those homes–where sites cost as much as $3 million apiece–was the chance to be a part of the community surrounding the first Woods-sanctioned course on U.S. soil. As the world’s greatest golfer walked the site 4,000 feet above sea level in August 2007, he admired the tranquility of the area. “You feel so much at peace with yourself when you are up here,” he said.
Peace and tranquility? That was then. Woods, 34, has since seen his life and sexual secrets laid bare by tabloids.
Scandal isn’t the only storm thrashing the Tiger Woods empire. The real estate meltdown, an oversaturated golf course market and bankers grown fearful and stingy have combined to stall out Woods’ ambitious golf course construction business. If it had boomed, it could have turned into his biggest revenue source.
Woods launched Tiger Woods Design in 2006 after ten years on the PGA Tour. Woods has said he waited to start his business until he had played at courses around the world (Woods was not available for an interview for this story). He was following in the footsteps of Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, who opened golf course design businesses while still competing and kept those businesses going for decades after their last PGA Tour wins. Nicklaus Design has put its name on 350 courses in 34 countries, while Palmer has 300 courses. The business looked like a cinch for Woods.
The first customer was to be the Al Ruwaya (Arabic for “serenity”) Golf Course in Dubai, attached to a development with 100 villas, 75 mansions, 22 palaces, a 360,000-square-foot hotel, a golf academy and luxury shops. Woods’ ample fee (said to be $20 million, plus a percentage of real estate sales) enabled him to hire Beau Welling, who had worked with designer Tom Fazio previously. Note that leading designers like Fazio and Nicklaus at the time were getting only $2 million per course.
With only six holes completed, the bulldozers came to a halt in 2009. Woods’ website lists the completion date as “pending.”
For his first U.S. course Woods partnered with Cliffs Communities, which has six golf developments open in the Carolinas and two more under construction. Cliffs gets the best names: Those eight projects include at least one course each from Fazio, Nicklaus and Gary Player. “We hired Tiger because our property owners wanted to lay claim to the number one golf experience in the world,” says James Anthony, founder and chief executive of Cliffs. Woods received a reported $10 million for his fee. Anthony won’t comment except to say: “He is not a partner, but our long-term interests are shared.”
The recession hasn’t treated North Carolina any better than it has Dubai. Three years after the project was announced, trees have been mostly cleared and the grading has just begun. One doesn’t know whether to believe the stated intention to push back the opening date (originally slated for the fall of 2011) by only six months.
Apparently only 44 lots surrounding the future Woods course at the Cliffs have been sold.
The article concludes with remarks about overseas opportunities, Nicklaus Design apparently says that 80% of the deals it secured in 2010 are in Asia while Tiger’s great rival Phil Mickelson has designed only one course in the USA but now has five clients in China.