Tiger course worth $25 million?

Dave Perkins of the Toronto Star has a column that suggest word among golf architects is that Tiger Woods will receive $25 million for his first golf design. Perkins writes:

The largest fee for designing a golf course reportedly belongs to Jack Nicklaus, who will charge up to $2.5 million (all figures U.S.) to turn a piece of land, provided it meets his standards, into 18 championship-calibre holes.

Tom Fazio and Greg Norman command fees stretching to $1.5 million, depending on the size of the project, to lay out a new course.

Now comes Tiger Woods, who turned pro golf upside down and surely will do the same to golf architecture with his newly announced design business. Word is spreading among golf architects that Woods’s initial design fee will be $25 million 10 times the top rate for Nicklaus.

Don’t scoff at the idea. There can only be one first Woods design, hence the enormous fee. Given his success rate at every other endeavour, whoever gets him will think they’ve found a bargain.

Initial indications suggest Woods will be approached by builders from the United Arab Emirates or China for his first individual project. For now, Woods, along with Ernie Els, is involved in a billion-dollar golf and real estate project in Lyford Cay, Bahamas, on land that once belonged to Canadian business giant E.P. Taylor.

Perkins story is here.

$25 million? Now that’s big enough to sound wrong to me. I’ve heard up to $5 million, but $25 million would be more than the budget of most courses and their clubhouse, so it sounds high. But that doesn’t mean it is not the case.

Lawrence Donegan in the Guardian follows up with some significant questions about TW Design. Donegan says that just because Tiger’s fee is no guarantee his course design skills will be strong:

It does not, however, guarantee that the developer will get a brilliant course. Nicklaus may have won countless awards for his course designs but many of his early efforts were criticised, not least because they were too difficult for the average golfer to play. The assumption that a great player will automatically be a great course designer is misplaced, argues Greg Turner, a former European tour player who has embarked on a design career since retiring from top-class golf.

“Just because you’ve played thousands of courses around the world doesn’t necessarily mean you know what makes a good one for the average player,” Turner says. “When you play a course as a professional you are looking at it from a single-minded viewpoint – how does this fit with my game? Elite players need to be selfish if they want to prosper. They don’t have time to take in aspects of a golf course that might affect other people.”

Donegan’s article is here.

Funny, I would have thought Tiger would have charged far less — or better yet — made his first project a more budget-oriented public course. That would do wonders for his public image. Of course, you are only worth what people are willing to pay, so if someone thinks Tiger’s design skills are worth $25 million, well, then I guess he is.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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