What do you do when you've sunk several hundred million dollars into a housing project and then, a decade later, still have plenty of inventory to unload?

Invite a national TV audience to tune in to a three-hour prime-time special featuring celebrities strolling around your project.

David H. Murdock, real estate developer and chief executive of Dole Food Co. Inc. and Castle & Cooke Inc., is essentially doing just that for free.

The first live golfing event ever broadcast during prime time, called "Showdown at Sherwood," will be held on Aug. 2 at his Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks a course set in the middle of an 1,800-acre development project where condominiums start at $500,000 and homes go for $1.5 million or more.

The event pits golf's top superstars, Tiger Woods and David Duval, against each other.

Murdock is paying organizer International Management Group $1 million to host the showdown, but that essentially will be offset because he gets to keep the proceeds from ticket sales, according to Carol Kellogg, tournament coordinator for IMG.

Only 3,000 tickets will be sold, but the prices range from $225 to $550, effectively enabling Murdock to recoup his costs.

"Obviously we'd love to make money," said Alexandra Castenskiold, general manager of Sherwood Country Club. "But it's more about exposure and P.R. value and prestige."

Exposure indeed. Television cameras will be showing all angles of the property, from both the ground and air (blimp) perspectives. Announcers will drop in facts about the 7,007-yard course, and its surrounding environment.

And a national TV audience will be right there to take it all in.

Murdock, estimated by the Business Journal to be worth $620 million, is looking to promote more than his homes of which only about 40 percent had been sold as of a year ago. He also hopes to sell country club memberships.

Around the time the project first opened in 1989, he was charging homebuyers $150,000 for a club membership and non-residents $225,000. Annual dues were $6,000 on top of that. But then the recession hit, and the membership rolls plummeted.

Castenskiold declined to specify how many members belong today, or what a membership costs. But she did say that memberships are up 50 percent from their early-'90s slump.

"It's an honor to have the No. 1 and 2 players in the world play on our course," Castenskiold said. "More people that learn about the show means more members, and spills over into the other areas."


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