Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Anguilla may have new life

Thanks to a little money from the Middle East, Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Anguilla may have new life.

The club made a big splash in the spring of 2008, when, during a three-day sales event, its developers rang up deposits on more than $70 million worth of membership packages that included some prime real estate on Anguilla’s southern coast. There were 27 buyers, each of whom pledged $1.6 million or more to join what was arguably going to be the world’s most exclusive golf club. As it was conceived, Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Anguilla was to be one link in a chain of 25 ultra-luxurious private enclaves built on properties personally selected by Nicklaus. As they dreamed about playing golf on delectable courses in some of the planet’s most desirable locales – Tuscany, Patagonia, Scotland, and St. Lucia, among others – the buyers were most likely all thinking the same thing: Membership has its privileges.

Of course, just months later, as a spokesman for the club now puts it, “the world fell apart.” Money disappeared. Economies collapsed. Fairmont, the Canadian company that had signed on to operate the club’s hotel, bailed out. Those 27 deposits had to be returned. And Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Anguilla, like so many splendid and ambitious real estate ventures, sank into development limbo.

It has been rescued, however. Its white knight is Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts, the Dubai-based, government-controlled hotelier. Jumeirah, a division of Dubai Holding, has agreed to operate the 140-room hotel on Anguilla and become a part-owner of it. This is welcome news not only for the club’s developers, a group that operates as Conch Bay Development, Ltd., but for golf projects in need of revival all over the Caribbean.

Joyce Kentish and George Lake, Conch Bay’s principals, hope to break ground on the hotel this year, with an opening tentatively scheduled for 2014. At build-out, Jumeirah Anguilla Resort will also have 460 Jumeirah-managed houses, a spa, meeting space, restaurants, the usual recreational amenities, and two private beach clubs. The 370-acre site includes about two miles’ worth of beaches and offers views of nearby St. Maarten. Nicklaus has designed a 7,363-yard, links-style track for the property, with a few holes to be located along the water.

For now, Conch Bay says its course will simply be a Jack Nicklaus “signature” track. However, a source close to the negotiations tells us that the parties are trying to work out a financial arrangement that will maintain a Jack Nicklaus Golf Club on the property. If that happens, it would also be welcome news for Nicklaus and his partners, as their club could use a revival of its own. Though it was once viewed as a can’t-miss proposition, today there are barely a handful of Jack Nicklaus Golf Clubs in operation, and two of them – the ones at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio and Bear’s Club in Jupiter, Florida – were built before the idea for the club was hatched. A club in South Korea opened last year, but the Great Recession has claimed most of the others. The club has a website, JackNicklausGolfClub.com, but no news has been posted on it since 2009.

The marketing coordinator for Conch Bay tells us that work on the golf course could begin this year. The course will be just the second on Anguilla, joining the Greg Norman-designed layout at Temenos Golf Club. And if you’re wondering whether the Nicklaus club’s members will have to share their course with the hotel’s guests, the answer is yes.

This story originally appeared in the World Edition of the Golf Course Report, in a slightly different form. For a sample copy of the World Edition, call 301/680-9460 or write to WorldEdition@aol.com.

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