Troon acquires Indigo Golf Partners in largest deal of its kind on record

Troon, the largest management company in the world, announced on Jan. 4 that it acquired Indigo Golf Partners, formerly known as Billy Casper Golf, in a deal that is the largest acquisition of a management company by another on record. 

With the acquisition, Troon now manages 630, 18-hole equivalent golf courses, more than three times as many as any other management company. It has a reach to hundreds more through its food and beverage division, caddie service and tennis management division. 

Billy Casper Golf was the third largest management company in the world with 170 golf courses. In November, the company changed its name to Indigo Golf Partners, after a dispute with Billy Casper’s widow, Shirley Casper. At the time, there was pending court actions to resolve the amount Billy Casper Management needed to pay to continue to use Billy Casper’s name.

Peter Hill and Bob Morris founded Billy Casper Golf in Northern Virginia in 1989. 

“Leaving the industry better than we found it has been a guiding principle of Indigo Golf Partners, and Bob Morris and I hope to have achieved that in our over 30-year history in the industry,” Hill said in a statement. “Troon aligns with our commitment to quality service and has a complementary course portfolio making it the right company for us to join. We are confident in growth ahead for Indigo and appreciate the dedication and commitment of all team members and partners who have made our great company what it is today.” 

The two founders plan to leave the golf industry and will have no role or ownership in Indigo Golf Partners. Troon plans to retain Indigo Golf Partners office in Reston, Va., and use it to support all Troon-operated clubs. 

“Peter Hill and I have been good friends for many years,” said Troon Founder and Executive Chairman Dana Garmany. “While we have been friendly competitors over time, we’ve always shared a mutual admiration for each other’s company. We share common values and a similar approach to putting our client’s interests first and foremost, and working to impact the golf industry in a positive fashion.” 

Indigo Golf Partners was the largest operator of municipal courses in the U.S., with a large number of properties on the East Coast. Troon, which was already the third largest operator of municipal courses, now takes on the role of leader, as it does in most other categories. 

Troon President and CEO Tim Schantz said there will likely be more integration with Indigo Golf and Troon than with prior acquisitions. OB Sports and Honours Golf have continued to act as separate brands since Troon acquired them. 

“We are thrilled to be combining two incredible companies and look forward to the future opportunities this acquisition presents our respective clients, associates, members and guests,” Schantz said. “This transaction supports our continued growth and reach in the industry, while bringing additional support, expertise and resources to associates as well as current and prospective clients.” 

Hill, who was the primary public face of Indigo Golf Parnters, was very active in the industry as a speaker, commentator and chairman of the National Golf Course Owner’s Association. He graduated from Georgetown University in 1975 and earned his MBA from Columbia University in 1982. Hill and Morris methodically planned for growth from the start and expected to be one of the largest management companies in the U.S. But it took the company 15 years before it was ready to manage a large number of courses. The company then grew quickly, exceeding 100 courses in 2009 and continued to grow since then. 

The company also ran its public relations division — Buffalo Communications — as its own company.

Rich Katz, who started in marketing and public relations with Billy Casper Golf in 1992, spun the in-house public relations and marketing department into its own division in 2001 and began representing external clients. 

In 2015, it renamed itself Buffalo Brand Invigoration Group, in an effort to appeal to clients outside of the golf industry. In January 2019, Billy Casper Golf announced that it was renamed Buffalo Groupe and had been recapitalized with outside investment that would be used to accelerate expansion plans. 

This was not Troon’s first acquisition of a former competitor. It purchased Honours Golf and its portfolio of 16 courses in 2014. It acquired Green Golf Partners in May 2019 and OB Sports Golf Management in April 2019, less than five months after Schantz took over as president and CEO. 

The company has also acquired several companies related to golf management. It acquired CaddieMaster, a provider of caddie services, in 2015, and Cliff Drysdale Management, the largest tennis club management firm in the U.S., in 2018. It acquired RealFood Hospitality-Strategy and Design in February 2019.

In 2017 Leonard Green & Partners, a Los Angeles-based private equity firm, acquired majority ownership in Troon from Kohlberg & Co. At that time, most observers expected Troon would need to grow to hit targets for its new owner. 

In addition to its global headquarters in Scottsdale, Ariz., Troon now has offices in Reston, Va.; Newton, Mass.; Chicago, Ill.; Irvine, Calif.; Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Birmingham, Ala.; Seattle, Wash.; New Braunfels, Texas; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. 

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