Troon continues strong growth in Asia with Korean course


The world’s largest golf course operator continues to grow at a brisk pace in Asia, inking a deal on Oct. 2 to manage the new Island Country Club in Korea. The site is on the island of Daebu in Gyeonggi Province, less than an hour from the Seoul city center. The 27-hole course, designed by David Dale of GolfPlan, will open in the spring, and be Troon’s sixth course in the country.

Its latest management deal in China is at the 18-hole Gaoligong Golf Club, a site surrounded by mountains with views of the town of Tengchong. The course by JFO Design and its clubhouse are under construction and scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2012. Troon is on the prowl for a new Chinese general manager and is expected to tap one in the next 60 days.

It’s the first of four golf courses as part of the overall Gaoligong International Tourist City project, which will include 72 holes of golf, an ecological residential area, five-star hotel, equestrian centre and theme park.

“There is still significant development opportunity in progress in specific parts of Asia. Clearly, China has slowed over the last few months,” said Ryan Walls, Troon Golf Australia-Asia-Pacific managing director and senior vice president.

Golf in China is, however, still a “growing game,” he says, when it comes to rising participation in the sport.

“Population and interest in golf is still new. There’s a tremendous amount of demand for golf in Korea,” he said. “A lot of governments are seeing the value in tourism locations like Vietnam and Malaysia. That will continue to grow.”

Many courses are financed through private developers and investment companies and international funds that are dumping money into tourism, as well as individual large-scale companies taking advantage of the real estate boom in China. The time it takes to ink management deals is lengthy, said Walls.

“The way you do business in Asia is to develop relationships with clients,” Walls said. “That takes a lot of time to build trust. Relationships are far more important than what a contract says.”

In March the company was tapped to manage 99 East Golf Club on Malaysia's archipelago of Langkawi, a resort destination featuring 99 islands.

The Ross Watson-designed course is currently under construction, and the 18-hole, 7,500-yard championship layout will be a focal point for Malaysia's famous tourist destination. Its first nine holes opened up a month ago and construction is wrapping up on the other nine.

The grandiose designs of some clubhouses in Asia set themselves apart in the golf world, said Walls, as more foreign designers and developers improve the quality of amenities.

“The size and scope of practice facilities are unique, if not over the top, in some cases,” he said.

The company won rights last month to manage Australia’s Stonebridge Golf Club, located two hours north of Sydney. The 18-hole course, which was formerly bankrupt, is getting a second life and design that’s expected to debut in 2012, to include an extensive new driving range and chipping and putting areas. A general manager will be placed in December.

Troon’s undisclosed contracts range in lifespan from five to 20 years, depending on the location and clients.

Walls travels abroad once a quarter but Troon plops employees on the ground full time, chasing new business and leads.

The company recently scored a job in the outskirts of London to oversee agronomy of the 18-hole Centurion Club in Hertfordshire, England will open its doors to golfers in 2013.

The deal came about because the course’s managing director, Scott Evans, used to work for Troon.

“He went from an employee to an employer,” said Bruce Glasco, managing director, Troon, Europe, Middle East & Africa. “There’s every reason to believe the venue may host some sort of tournament in the future.”

This summer Glasco nabbed a management deal for Troon at an 18-hole course in Morocco’s second largest city of Fes, known as its historic and cultural capital. The new Oued Fes course is part of a new development that will contain housing, shopping amenities and plans for five-star hotels.

“It’s one of the highest tourism generating locations within all of Morocco. It’s traditionally not known for golf but it has great weather,” he said.

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