CLUBCORP’S TPC MICHIGAN TOP SALES OF THE YEAR BY MIKE STETZ he biggest sale of the year in golf? Hmm . . . That’s a tough one. Let’s see, let’s see, let’s see … Oh, how about this one? Apollo Global Management paid $1.1 billion for ClubCorp, meaning that more than 200 pri-vate clubs changed hands in a single transaction. In the golf industry, the sale was applauded because it indicates that a shrewd, powerful pri-vate equity firm has enough faith in the game to make a major investment in it. Indeed, head-lines such as this sang out: “Apollo Bets on Golf Revival with ClubCorp Buy.” Fortune magazine said Apollo “is betting on the favorite sport of President Donald Trump actually hacking its way out of the bunker.” Experts such as Steve Ekovich, national man-aging director of Marcus & Millichap’s Leisure Investment Properties Group, believe Apollo will stay the course with ClubCorp. “It’ll be business as usual,” Ekovich said. “Apollo has really, really smart guys. ClubCorp January/February 2018 ClubCorp went for a staggering amount in 2017, overshadowing what was a relatively lackluster period for course transactions. t 28 will continue to grow.” However, Ekovich isn’t quite as optimistic about the overall sales picture for golf courses. For the first time in years, he noted, sale prices for golf courses dropped. During the first six months of 2017, the average sale price fell by 34 percent, while the median price dropped by 24 percent. There are a number of reasons for the slug-gishness. For one, Ekovich said, fewer distressed properties are available, so finding enticing deals is becoming more difficult. Also, revenue at golf courses has been flat because the industry is still overbuilt, and owners can’t raise greens fees without losing customers to other courses, he said. Currently, there are three types of U.S. course owners, Ekovich said. The first group consists of owners who figure they’ve weathered the worst of the economic storm brought about by the Great Recession and see no reason to sell. The second group consists of those who won’t sell until golf course values climb. The third group Ekovich calls “lottery play-ers.” They are hoping to sell their properties way above value to developers who want to convert them to other uses, such as housing, which is in demand in many parts of the nation. Ekovich calls them lottery players because it takes a lot of luck to pull off such deals. Community protests could erupt over loss of green space. Zoning may be an issue. Environmental concerns triggered by chemicals used on courses could derail any kind of con-version. “Very few can do this,” Ekovich said. He also notes that the pool of buyers is shrink-ing, with just one large buyer — ClubCorp — and a few boutique firms. However, even with all that said, there continued to be movement in the industry in 2017. Here are 10 big-ticket deals that stood out. Golf Inc.