Bahamas on Upswing?

On Grand Bahama Island the GINN Company has started construction of two courses and 4000 potential housing units of varying prices, including condos, houses, resorts. Their project is the whole western end of the island, surrounding the town of West End, the same town where Joseph Kennedy and the Bronfmann families made millions during Prohibition, running good Scotch into the US during the evening hours. Something very similar still happens every night, it’s still illegal and the end users aren’t all high society. Ginn will have a Palmer and a Nicklaus course (unsure at this time which Palmer and which Nicklaus will be sending in the plans). Jack’s old company, Paragon, met its end on the same site not so many years ago. Nicklaus has so many new courses in the works now, it appears he is keeping track of the business, personally.

Yesterday, an Irish company bought the former Princess Hotel, Casino and two golf courses. Both courses are closed right now, they were renovated in 2000 by a Fazio (Jimmy) and are great layouts. Unofficially (the same person told me about Anna Nicole) the Irish company (Harcourt) will be using PADRAIG HARRINGTON to help with their golf courses, and possibly Robert Von Hagge (former member of Dick Wilson’s company, the original designer).

Our two courses, the Reef and Lucayan are fine, I’m trying to get Jeff Mingay involved in redoing the Lucayan because it is really one of the best Dick Wilson courses still basically the original layout. Our mission will be to regrass Lucayan and restore it to 1964. The Tour played in 1971, we don’t need to add length because they are not coming back, the guys I see teeing off every day look like 6900 yards is long enough.
Down the road near the closed Shannon Course, two new projects are planned for 2009, both have courses.

In the Exumas, a fine Greg Norman design (hard for me to say that) has been open for a couple years, being run by Four Seasons, a Canadian Director of Golf, the enthusiastic Phillip Ferrari (his dad-Pro John lives in Timmins). Tremendous construction boom going on there, condos, hotels, homes.

On Abaco, the Carnegie Winding Bay Course designed by Donald Steele and Company (UK mostly) is a great test. Darren Clarke lives there. Lorne Rubenstein said its the best of its kind, a tropical links course. I know some members, one is a 2 handicap and the course is too tough for him, not sure how the people who can afford to play there can handle the challenge but often in golf the object is to get whacked while on the course so you can talk about how tough “your” course is while sipping in the 19th. A new Ritz Hotel offers lower priced accomodation so they’ll soon become more crowded on the tropical links, maybe two groups a day!

Not too far away, also on Abaco, a Fazio course is being built at Guana Cay, the Baker’s Bay Resort. Jimmy Griffin is building the course, expected to open in 2009. I’ve known Jimmy, former Atlanta native, since he built Mad River (he worked with Bob Cupp in Ontario and Oregon previously). They just won a six year battle over environmental issues.

And in Nassau, where they really need some public golf, several new private courses are being planned, with Ells and Woods both being tied to separate courses. There is a Tavistock (Orlando ) connection, the Albany Club has started in the past two weeks. ATLANTIS Resort has their Weiskopf course and are looking to build another 18 on the mainland, close to the airport. Greg Norman has renovated South Ocean but the opening has been delayed, possibly they are trying to find out which bank really owns the course (E.P.Taylor’s company owns the land but not the course). At Cable Beach, the original course has been renovated but is being redone again this summer, details keep changing. The Bahamas Golf Federation has been given land to build a course on but I can’t imagine that happening in my lifetime, and anyway, how long will it stay open if everyone plays for free?
The new salt-tolerant grass, Paspalam, has allowed all this new activity in the absence of fresh water (using it all for iced cubes). It requires less water, less fertilizer, is greener, is tougher, is the godsend that golf needed in the islands.

Now, where are all the golfers going to come from? or do they need golfers?

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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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