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Buddy can you spare $180m? La Manga for sale

Dave BowersBy Dave Bowers,

The Spanish leisure resort of La Manga has been put up for sale at an estimated £100m (US$180m).

The sale offers the chance to buy an "exclusive" 1,220-acre resort on the Costa Calida with two hotels, three championship golf courses, a 28-court tennis complex and an eight-pitch professional football centre.

It includes 1,675 villas and apartments, as well as another 84 acres of land for further residential or commercial development.

The resort, owned by shipping giant P&O, also features swimming pools, a spa, shops and a casino, and has hosted the England football team for pre-season training, Spanish Open golf championships and international tennis tournaments, including the Davis Cup and the Federation Cup.

However, it has also a less glamorous reputation as a middle-management Faliraki where executives can loosen their slacks after a round of golf.

In the evenings, the critics say, the resort provides a ringside-seat from where one can watch sporting heroes go on the rampage in the close confines of its nearly all-male bars.

P&O bought La Manga in 1987 and spent £37m on new hotels and upgrading sports facilities over the past five years.

Expansion breeds optimism

Hotel chiefs hope a £1m expansion of their golf course will make it one of the best in the UK.

The Forest Pines Hotel has submitted a planning application to North Lincolnshire Council for 10 new holes at its golf course. The holes - one replacing the existing 27th hole at the club and nine new ones - will be built if the plans are approved.

A driving range, office and car park will also be constructed. The hotel hopes the new investment will make the course among the best in the country.

But a spokesperson for the hotel declined to divulge too many details about the prospective new development.

Forest Pines already has a 27-hole golf course and was established as a new championship course in 1996. It was designed by architect John Morgan, who is believed to be at the helm of the new 10-hole course.

A hotel spokeswoman said if all went to plan the new course could be open in 2006.

Earlier this year Forest Pines was named by the Yorkshire Tourist Board as one of the five finalists in the Hotel of the Year (30 bedrooms and over) category for the 2004 White Rose Awards for Tourism.

The hotel was runner-up for the same award last year, and in 2001 won it outright, as well as being one of the finalists for the Excellence in England Awards.

Not enough cover

Industry experts in Britain are recommending that golfers should have up to £2m of cover before they even set foot on the fairway as the blame-and-claim culture begins to invade the game.

More than 12,000 golf injuries a year require a hospital trip, according to Opus, the insurance broker, and the number of claims against golfers has tripled over the past five years.

Insurers are facing an increasing number of claims for compensation after incidents on Britain's busy fairways. Recent claims include injuries caused by runaway buggies and a claim from a farmer who sued a golf club because stray balls were injuring his livestock.

A High Court case in 1998 opened the way for personal liability claims against golfers after a lorry driver who was hit in the eye by a golf ball and subsequently lost his licence successfully sued for damages.

The High Court ruled "golfers are liable for shots that cause injury, no matter how slight the risk."

Many people believe that they are adequately covered by their household insurance but that is rarely the case.

A substantial return

A man who started a business from a £36 garden shed collected more than £21m ($37.6m) from the sale of his golfing empire in August.

Howard Bilton earned the bonanza from the sale of Cheshire-based chain American Golf Discount.

His business partner, Tony Norton, collected £18.4m for his share.

Both are retaining a minority stake in their chain of golfing superstores with the prospect of earning millions of pounds more as the business grows through its new owners.

Private equity firm LDC, part of the Lloyds TSB Group, has bought out the majority stakeholdings of the two friends for £40m.

After collecting his PGA badge in the mid 1970s, Bilton was given a job as golf professional at Ashton-in-Makerfield golf course.

There was no shop on the course so he and brother Robert clubbed together and paid £36 for a flat-pack garden shed. They build the shed themselves and it was the start of a business that was destined to grow and grow.

Now there are 61 stores, a headquarters in Warrington and an annual turnover of almost £64m. Robert eventually left the company and his share was bought out by Howard and Norton.

American Golf, which opened its first retail store in Sale, Cheshire, in 1981, sells branded equipment from manufacturers such as Titleist and Mizuno.

English duo on top of the world

The reigning English men's champions, Mark Phillips and Darren Bradford, were crowned inaugural International Pairs world champions at Marriott St Pierre in Wales.

Phillips, 29, and Bradford, 28, from Deangate Ridge GC, Rochester, in Kent, beat off the challenge of 23 other pairings from 18 countries to win the Ross Honey Cup.

"It's an amazing experience anyway. But winning it hasn't really sunk in yet," explained Mark, a four handicapper, who sunk the winning putt.

"I had an idea we might be ahead when we went on to the 18th. The TV cameras had been with us for a few holes and they obviously knew something. So we knew we were there or thereabouts, but I couldn't be sure my putt had won it for us until we came off the green."

And it was close. As Mark and Darren stood on the 18th tee with the penultimate group, they were on 59 points, with three pairs in the clubhouse with a confirmed 60 on their cards.

The U.S. representatives, Bobby Parish and 80-year-old World Ware II vet Wally Nelson, scored 48 points to finish a very creditable 14th.

A touch of glass

Recycled glass could come to the aid of struggling golfers if new research bears fruit.

The UK-based Sports Turf Research Institute found that replacing traditional sand on the golf course with sand derived from recycled glass improves the chances of those unfortunates drawn to the bunker.

The two-year project found recycled glass sand provides a better performance level with a firmer footing underneath. For golfers, it means less plugging of the ball, a steeper angle of repose and reduced slumping. Laboratory tests carried out during the trial showed that the recycled glass conformed to all necessary performance requirements and is capable of complying with United States Golf Association specifications.

The glass-sand also proves beneficial for greenkeepers when used as a top dressing around divots, as it can blend into the ground better than traditional sand.

Hole in one two

Golfing pals Chris Quinn and Julie Harris scored an amazing double hole in one at the same green within 15 minutes at Woodham Golf Club, Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.

Julie was the first to hit her ace at the eighth and Chris made it tee for two with the next shot from the same pin.

Julie, who lives near the club, said: "It was my first ever hole in one so when it dropped in I was absolutely thrilled."

Chris, of Seamer, North Yorkshire, was in the group of players who followed Julie's triumphant shot.

She said: "We had heard someone ahead had scored a hole in one so it was already an exciting match. "We all played our shots but the pin was placed behind a hump, so we couldn't really see where they had gone.

"When we walked over and I realised it had gone in, I just couldn't believe it. It's an amazing coincidence."

UK portfolio up for sale

American Golf Corp., the world's biggest golf course operator, has put its 23 clubs in the UK up for sale with a price tag of up to £50m.

The group, which operates more than 200 golf clubs in the U.S., is understood to have appointed Close Brothers Corporate Finance to find a buyer for American Golf UK with a price of between £45m and £50m.

The clubs for sale include St. Mellion, a Jack Nicklaus-designed course in Cornwall, and South Essex Golf & Country Club, near Brentwood.

Information has been sent to prospective buyers, including trade rivals, private equity firms and property investors.

The decision to sell the business comes after the acquisition of its Santa Monica-based parent company 18 months ago by a financial consortium led by Goldman Sachs and Starwood Capital.

The new owners are said to have decided that the UK division is too small to warrant keeping it.

St. Andrews Hotel posts a profit

The St Andrews Old Course Hotel has recorded a profit after two poor years in the wake of 9/11.

Visitor numbers have increased and its Duke's championship golf course has made its first profit.

The company, which is 99.8 per cent owned by Japanese company Kosaido, said it made a net profit of £241,000 in the year to March 31, reversing a £281,000 loss in the previous year.

Jonathan Stapleton, general manager of the Old Course Hotel Golf Resort and Spa, also predicted the business would more than double profits in the current financial year to take it back above the £500,000 profit level.

Cottage for sale - has own golf course

A Scottish Highlands cottage complete with a stunning golf course has been teed-up for sale.

Fraser McLauchlan's five-bedroom home overlooks the rolling nine-hole course set amid stunning scenery on the banks of Loch Leven.

The 45-year-old farmer and his wife Lorraine, 38, are looking for at least £595,000 (US$1.09m) for their golfers' paradise.

Included in the price is the practice area, licensed clubhouse and greenkeepers' sheds. The 2,519-yard, par 34 Dragon's Tooth Golf Club nestles near Ballachulish.

A local property dealer said: "Many foreign golfers would consider the opportunity to own a golf club in Scotland, surrounded by spectacular scenery, as a dream come true." The Dragon's Tooth course was completed in 2002. It is a mixture of par three and par four holes, plus a challenging par 5 at the eighth.

Parsinen plans another resort

A Californian businessman is hoping to create a new championship golf course and a hotel complex as part of a £20m development near Inverness, Scotland.

The proposals for Castle Stewart, near Dalcross, are the brainchild of the man behind the successful Kingsbarns golf club at St Andrews.

Detailed plans are expected to be on the table by the end of the summer. The Fife course is one of three created worldwide by Mark Parsinen, a former Silicon Valley computer executive.

He spent three years searching for a site for another similar development in Scotland. He believes the area between Castle Stewart and the Moray Firth is ideal.

It is proposed that the scheme would eventually include two 18-hole golf courses, a clubhouse and a 120-bedroom luxury hotel.

Dave lives on the south coast of England with partner Jackie and their three children. Originally a football writer in his homeland, he even rose to the giddy heights of public relations manager for an English professional Premiership side. But he'd been bitten by the golf bug and returned to his roots in journalism as executive editor for Golf Management Europe magazine and as a sports sub-editor/golf writer on one of the country's largest regional daily papers. Like all of us, he plays golf whenever he can - which isn't as often as he would like - and has even performed stand-up comedy in a top comedy club.

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