Michael Jordan’s dream golf course could be stymied by big-ticket reality

Will Michael Jordan's dream of having his own private golf course become a reality? 

Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for Michael Jordan

If you want to be like Mike, you have to have money like Mike. Especially if you want to own your own private little golf heaven.

Golf.com, citing sources in South Florida, reported that Michael Jordan is itching to build his own golf course. That way he won’t have to wait on players who are blocking his path. You see, in golf as in life, His Airness is used to having his own way, even with a caddie in tow and an entourage attending to his needs. He likes to keep moving on the golf course, and at a pace that pushes the players in front of him. Apparently, his tony club, The Bear’s Club in Jupiter, Florida, is too sluggish for his metabolic rate. Just because Jordan gets to share the practice tee with the likes of fellow members Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and Jack Nicklaus doesn’t mean he has to accept their version of acceptable pace of play.

Also, I have it on good authority from a club source that the current pace of play is four hours. The Bear’s Club does only 11,000 rounds a year. Apparently those numbers are too high for Jordan, which is why he is eyeing his own golf course.

Let’s hope that he also eyes the bottom line. It’s going to cost him big-time to build down there, and that’s just the beginning. He would have to staff and operate the club, plus maintain the course at a level that will be acceptable to him and his closest golf buddies, maybe 100 or so. Where’s Ahmad Rashad when you need him (or his money)?

Figure about $50 million, minimum, to get the place established, then at least $5 million annually to keep it open. That’s presuming no debt financing. It also presumes that he would never see the $50 million initial investment again because there isn’t a private club in the country that actually makes real money beyond operating expenses and debt payment. It’s pure vanity money: Spend it and kiss it goodbye.

Think Jordan can rustle up 100 friends and have them ante up $500,000 per year? Especially athletes who bristle at having to pay for golf?

If Jordan would want to be more cautious and finance half of the development and mortgage the rest –€“ no bank would approve more than 50 percent to build a golf course anyway –€“ he would be looking at an annual mortgage payment of $1.65 million for 20 years. If his course were to do 5,000 rounds a year –€“ anything more would be too crowded by Jordan’s standards –€“ each round would, in effect, cost $1,130. Good luck finding friends who will make membership numbers like that work.

Not to be a killjoy, but golf is expensive. It’s a great game but a lousy business. Where did all that money go? Try to buy 200 acres of upland (i.e., not swamp) in the area between West Palm Beach and Stuart –€“ somewhere around Hobe Sound. Then, he needs an architect, someone like Tom Doak, Greg Norman, maybe even Tiger Woods himself. Oops, there goes anywhere from $1 million to $10 million (presuming a discount on the part of Mr. Woods). Another $20 million to build. A clubhouse — minimum $5 million. Maintenance, equipment, cart paths, a guard gate. All of a sudden, the $50 million is gone.

But the dream lives on.

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