Global Edition

Could Donald Trump’s move on Turnberry herald a renaissance in golf business sales?

7.58am 13th May 2014 - Property

By Gordon King BSc FRICS, senior partner in the Edinburgh office of DMH Baird Lumsden

Gordon King BSc FRICS,
Gordon King BSc FRICS,

Donald Trump’s well-publicised acquisition of the Turnberry Hotel and Golf Complex in Ayrshire shines the spotlight on the global fascination for Scottish destination golf resorts and the huge value in their branding.

While Turnberry will be the only privately-owned venue on the Open circuit, other resorts such as Gleneagles, St Andrews Bay, Troon and, of course, Loch Lomond figure prominently in the international golfing consciousness as international brands or classic courses.

Conversely, nobody might ever have heard of Menie in North Aberdeenshire had Donald Trump not had the vision to identify the potential for, and then create, an ideal Scottish links on the North Sea dunes – even if others might not particularly welcome it.

Until the 1990s, Loch Lomond did not appear on the radar of the international golfing circuit –  but it is a now an instantly recognisable destination name and a highly marketable address overseas.

It is a feature of the global destination resorts that they must rely upon high net worth individuals, including the founder investors and those with corporate or personal memberships – but also upon the power of good, international marketing. This marketing can extol the virtues and attractions of Scotland, and its golf, that some of us might have stopped noticing.

The international dimension is crucial. The business plans of global destination resorts are not exactly transparent but, given the costs of development and purchase involved, it seems unlikely that they could survive on the strength of UK generated turnover or be underpinned Scottish property values.

And the absence of a highly sophisticated international marketing machine explains why some of the fantastic courses we know of in Scotland – such as Crail, Nairn, Dunbar and Ladybank – might not attract similar turnover and clientele.

Private members’ clubs or proprietor-owned commercial golf businesses, selling golf to the Scottish native golfer, can find the business a little tougher than Mr Trump. Some have struggled to maintain membership, and turnover, during difficult times in the Scottish economy.

Competition from other pastimes – from the more traditional, such as football, to snowboarding, skiing, mountain biking or even the more passive computer gaming – might rob some clubs of their natural marketplace.

Others are doing exceptionally well and the Scottish Golf Union has been carrying out sterling work promoting golf membership in Scotland, including the successful Scottish junior game. Clubs are also being urged to get behind National Golf Month this month (May).

So there could be a bright future for private members’ clubs and proprietor-owned commercial proprietor golf courses in Scotland, although they might not achieve the sort of values and budgets of a global destination resort.

Golf here remains a traditional pastime – an accessible, popular game open to all at affordable cost. The exclusive and expensive member clubs, though they have proliferated in recent years, are in fact the exception.

Some of the small nine-hole courses, in pretty locations, perhaps with an accommodation enterprise or with restaurant or catering offering – appealing to golfers, locals and visiting tourists – can make really attractive lifestyle businesses.

What’s not to like about buying and owning a property business, with a job for every member of the family, where you can spend your days cutting grass when the sun shines, or making tea and cakes when it doesn’t?

If it is a lovely summer’s evening finding somewhere to play your favourite game won’t be difficult and, if you can also build a home on your golf lifestyle property, then it is hard to beat.

We have seen quite a few sales of Scottish golf properties in recent years. Baird Lumsden has handled the sales of a number of local courses and businesses such as The Woll, Selkirk, CastlePark, Gifford, Dragon’s Tooth, Ballachullish, Strathmore Golf Centre, Brucefields Golf Centre, Kinloss and Craibstone.

So perhaps Donald Trump’s investment might herald a renaissance for all.

Gordon King BSc FRICS, is senior partner in the Edinburgh office of DMH Baird Lumsden.

DMH Baird Lumsden

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