C-Bons looks to make a bigger splash in industry

In the five-plus years since it was founded, C-Bons International Golf Group Management has deliberately kept a low profile. But the company checks in at No. 30 on Golf Inc.’s list of the world’s largest golf operators, on par with Lindsey Management Co. and Brown Golf Management, and these days it’s eager to make its presence felt. 

“We’ve survived our growing pains,” said Dale Folmar, the Gilbert, Ariz.-based company’s vice president of operations. “We aren’t trying to make a big splash. We just want to raise our profile in the industry.”

The management entity is an affiliate of C-Bons International Golf Group, which owns 26 public courses and private clubs (29 18-hole equivalent tracks) in the United States. Though the majority of the holdings are in Texas (14 properties), today C-Bons operates in markets from coast to coast, from Connecticut to California. According to Folmar, it generates annual revenues of just over $100 million.

He candidly acknowledges that C-Bons’ properties “aren’t blue-blood clubs.” He calls the collection “a mix of quality mid-level daily-fee courses and private clubs.” 

C-Bons was established, according to its marketing materials, “with a goal of opportunistically creating a golf and hospitality platform all over the U.S.” 

The company arrived on the golf scene in 2012, when bargains were plentiful, with the acquisition of four bankrupt properties in Arizona and Nevada, and in 2014 it made headlines by buying 22 properties from Walton Street Capital. The purchases – $50 million for the former, $250 million for the latter – were funded by Hong Kong-based C-Bons Group, a conglomerate that’s engaged in a variety of businesses, among them pharmaceuticals, tourism, and real-estate development.

Randy Jones, the management division’s chief operating officer, describes C-Bons Group as a family-owned “billion-dollar business” whose owners are “very private” and “don’t like publicity.” He declines to identify the company’s principals.

Like many Chinese investors, however, the owners of C-Bons Group aren’t out to make a fast buck. They preach a gospel of patience, and Jones and Folmar have adopted it.

“Every decision we make is geared to long-term results,” said Folmar. “We aren’t looking to buy and flip assets all over the United States. We value long-term effects.”

Though C-Bons hasn’t made a purchase since it completed the Walton Street transaction (it has, however, signed its one and only lease), Jones describes the company as being “in acquisition mode.” 

Over the next few years, he says, C-Bons will ideally make purchases in metropolitan areas where it already has multiple properties, including Baltimore, Buffalo, Dallas and Houston. The company has no immediate plans to add to its portfolio, but Folmar said he has at least three properties on his radar and Jones said he has a soft spot for Las Vegas and Phoenix.  

Location, however, isn’t C-Bons’ sole consideration. The company seeks properties that offer a combination of “opportunity, experience and location” that it believes can be successfully leveraged by its leadership. 

“The properties we’re looking for don’t have to be distressed,” Jones said. “We want properties that we believe can perform at a higher level.”

And while C-Bons currently has no management contracts, it might sign one if the right opportunity arises. “We don’t want to close the door on management,” Jones said, “but it’s not what we’re currently pursuing.”

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