Kinloch golf development for sale again

The troubled Kinloch golf resort outside of Taupo is on the market again.

The world-class Jack Nicklaus-designed course and surrounding residential development have been put up for sale by international tender by their owners, the wealthy Van Den Brink poultry farming family.  

If sold when tenders close on May 19, it will mark the third time the property has changed hands since the legendary American golfer and 18-time major champion Nicklaus helped open the facility in 2007.

Now, the future of the property is unclear, with the Van Den Brinks wanting out barely 12 months after buying the course and development land.

While Kinloch is rated by many judges to be among the best, if not the best, golf course in New Zealand, its brief history has been dotted with controversy associated with the housing development.

The course was sold by Hanover Finance for $26 million at a mortgagee sale in June, 2008, to Coromandel Investment Trustees (CIT) shortly before the development owners, Kinloch Golf Resort Ltd, whose shareholders included Nicklaus, went into liquidation owing $49m.

Hanover lent to CIT before it struck major problems itself and had a heavy debt burden when bought out by rural services company Allied Farmers. Allied Farmers, which inherited the CIT loan, in turn sold the development to the Van Den Brinks.

Although the stalled subdivision development has seemingly placed the course itself at risk, one senior golf industry insider and former real estate figure predicts the highly-rated, 6734m par-72 layout will survive.

"I cannot believe it would never be a golf course,'' he said today.

"It is too good an asset for it to go away.

"The problem is that when you are trying to sell a bunch of real estate around it - and I don't think they are even trying at the moment - people are not going to buy unless they are absolutely secure in the knowledge that the golf course remains because that is why they would want to buy there.

"You don't want to suddenly be looking out at a herd of cows, which is what used to be there.''

He said Kinloch course staff had been busy ensuring maintenance levels remained high as they prepared for an influx of visitors in New Zealand for the rugby World Cup in September and October.

"Every resort course in the country has been focused on getting tuned up in time for the visitors here for the rugby World Cup.

"Kinloch has already had bookings trickling in at this stage and I guess they are on the hunt for those international green fees.''

The course has attracted rave reviews in its short history, with US Travel and Leisure Golf Magazine including it among its top 10 new golf courses in the world in 2007, and New Zealand great Sir Bob Charles this year identifying it as the best course in this country.

"For those unable to play the great links courses of Scotland, Kinloch compares with the best of them,'' he said.

Michael Pleciak of selling agents Bayleys said the sale had generated plenty of domestic and international interest.

"We are generating local, national and international interest so it will be interesting where it ends up,'' he said.