For years, Damon Hoover has taken his business clients to the Old Ranch Golf Club, a comfortable Seal Beach country club where he is a member.
But recently, Hoover, a vice president at Martin Brothers/Marcowall Inc., a Gardena construction company, has changed course, taking them instead to Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes.
The links, which cost $260 million to complete, feature stunning vistas of the Pacific Ocean and the mountainous Palos Verdes Peninsula, as well as pricey green fees that Hoover doesn't think twice about paying.
"Trump is definitely a place where I get a lot of requests to take clients. I can't think of anything that is missing there," Hoover said. "It's definitely a more challenging course with more prestige. The restaurant's great. They are developing a great wine list, and at every hole you have a spectacular view."
Throughout Southern California, privately-owned high-end daily fee courses open to the public, such as Trump National, Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla and the Jack Nicklaus-designed Angeles National Golf Club in Sunland have spent millions of dollars within the last two years redesigning their fairways and greens, adding amenities and polishing up their services.
Moreover, municipalities around the country, including New York, Atlanta and Long Beach have followed suit, investing in gold-plated facilities in an effort to better serve golfers' rising expectations and expand both golf and non-golf event related business.
Golf saw a resurgence in the late 1990s when Tiger Woods first appeared and tore up greens on the PGA tour. Now though Woods may have slowed down a bit an uptick in the economy has boosted golf's target demographic of players with large disposable incomes. These players, however, are not necessarily searching for the exclusivity and ultra-high high cost associated with private clubs.
"The growth in the marketplace is for high-end daily fee courses where people can play a quality course for a good price point," said Jeff Marks, managing director of Sports Business Group, a sports marketing and consulting firm.
Pricey bean patch
The Trump National course has had a tortured history.
The 200-acre site, originally a garbanzo bean farm, was developed into a golf course by developers Ken and Robert Zuckerman, who spent $130 million. But before it opened in 1999 the 18th fairway slid into the Pacific Ocean, also creating dangerous conditions at other holes. That limited the course to 15 playable holes when it opened in 2000. Construction on the other greens finished two years later.
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