The International set to host a Saudi Golf event in September. Will you go?
It's been quite a couple years for The International in sleepy Bolton (not Boston...), Massachusetts. It's tired bones were nearly laid to rest in 2020 via bankruptcy. However, Escalante Golf snapped up the property with promises to spruce it up and make it feel like new again. Coore and Crenshaw were hired in March of 2021 to redesign/blow up The Pines course, which was initially designed by Geoffrey Cornish in 1957 and then lengthened to a stout 8,325 yards from the "Tiger Tees." in the 1970s by Robert Trent Jones (The Fried Egg piece about the sale and Coore Crenshaw is worth reading).
After Escalante Golf purchased the club, membership initiations were going for 30k until November 2021 when they ballooned to 150k.
The plan is to turn The International into a 36-hole fun-land replete with all the fixings of modern day destination golf: a short course, lodging on property, great food, great golf courses, an escape from the real world (here is what I thought of The Pines after playing it in September 2021.)
In the next chapter of the International's story, LIV Golf announced that they would be hosting an event in Bolton, likely on The Pines course (such a brawny track feels appropriate to fit the ego of Greg Norman...).
Suddenly, professional golf will be back in the northeast. The U.S. Open is here in 2022, but otherwise, summer in New England is not a place one ventures to see the best golfers in the world.
There are some questions that still exist about this new Saudi Tour - Who is playing? Who will broadcast it? Will it actually happen?
Bay State Golf could release a memo with a fancy letterhead stating we're starting a tour and list some second-rate courses, dates, and purses to stir up some conversation, too.
Let's play this all out and assume that LIV Golf will run their eight events and visit Bolton on September 2-4.
Will Coore and Crenshaw still build the "new" course at The Pines?
The redesign was slated for fall 2022, one can only imagine this LIV event will be the last time the golf course will be used. Now, this situation is very different from Jack Nicklaus building courses in Saudi Arabia. But I do wonder how much C&C knew about this prospective event before signing on. I'd imagine very little given they came aboard a year ago.
It's hard to believe they would walk away from the project, but people have done crazier things to keep their hands clean. No matter where their payments are coming from, people will try to tie it back to Saudi money.
That's a pearl clutching reaction to two great designers building a new golf that hosts an event for 3 days a year, but I do think it's worth considering if C&C wants to be wrapped up in whatever drama could come with designing a course for Escalante Golf. Escalante owns two of the four courses on the LIV GOLF American rota, too. So this is a comfy relationship for Escalante.
Will C&C want to build a course that is both for a pro event and members? That strikes me as a tough needle to thread, and maybe one they'd rather leave to someone else.
Would you go to watch this event (or any of the events)?
Again, we're in a world where the field is a complete unknown. Jason Kokrak might be out there alone in September walking The Pines course. Or Phil might be there. Or Bryson. Or a bunch of guys that play on the Asian Tour and DP Tour in Europe.
It's easy to say you wouldn't go watch the event for any number of reasons - the course stinks, the field will be crappy, I don't want to reward the Saudis bad behavior with my clean, hard-earned cash.
I polled my Instagram followers and 66% said they wouldn't attend, which feels about right given the reactions I've seen across the media to the Saudi Golf League in general.
I live in Boston, an hour from The International. I don't think I'd spend part of my Labor Day Weekend at this event, though. I also wouldn't begrudge others who would want to go watch pro golfers on a course they have played in the past. That's a cool prospect. The palace intrigue of the entire tour could also lure folks to go check out an event.
If this event were somewhere like Essex or Myopia or some other historic site, that would be more alluring to me. But that's not how Greg Norman and the Saudi's work. They need second-rate courses with the desire for an infusion of cash, not golf courses secure in their past and future.
It will certainly be an interesting summer leading up to the event. The first tournament is slated for June, and The International will host the fourth event, right in the middle of the season.