Mike Ryan still involved
The North Sound Golf Club, Cayman’s only championship 18-hole course, will not only remain open for the long run, it will get a major cash injection to improve the facilities.
Developer Mike Ryan said on Tuesday that a company affiliated with the Dart Group has invested in the North Sound Golf Club.
“After discussions and interactions that have been going on for more than a year and a half, we’ve come to an agreement for [the Dart Group] to make an investment in golf,” Mr. Ryan said. “This allows us to make the long-term commitment to move the North Sound Club forward.”
Mr. Ryan said he was not at liberty to discuss the overall capital structure of the deal with Dart, or the potential impact it would have on his Dragon Bay development.
“The first part of Dragon Bay was dealing with golf and to look at the development after that. For the moment, the focus is golf.”
Mr. Ryan has struggled financially with the course and has indicated in the past that he might have to close it without help from either the government or from an investor. He said high operating costs, particularly for water for the course, hinders the economic viability of golf in Cayman.
He has tried to get the government to agree to allow him to produce his own fresh water so that he wouldn’t have to buy it. He has also been trying to attract an investor for some time.
“We’ve really been on the cusp for the last couple of years about whether we could keep it going,” he said. “We were really looking at the practical reality of shutting it down.”
However, Mr. Ryan said he has always recognised the importance of golf to Cayman’s tourism product and to its development product.
“But it can’t just be golf for golf sake; it has to be world class golf to be able to attract the kind of people we’re trying to attract to Cayman,” he said. “On that basis, I’ve been struggling to make it work for years.”
The struggle is over.
“Fortunately for golf in the Cayman Islands and for the tourism product in the Cayman Islands, Dart shared the same view about the importance of golf for the Island’s tourism and development products, and for its competitiveness.”
The investment will allow for a host of improvements at the North Sound Club, including:
Renovating the clubhouse
New bathroom and locker room facilities
Renovating the bar area
Improved cart paths
Renovating the bunkers
Improving the landscaping by the clubhouse and on the course
General upgrades to the equipment and facilities
It’s possible the improvement might go even farther; Mr. Ryan said they were looking into the possibility of upgrading the course into a signature championship 18-hole course where major tournaments could be played.
The North Sound Club announced last November that it couldn’t renew its annual memberships because it couldn’t guarantee it would remain open. However, in April, it announced it was staying open and was taking memberships again.
Mr. Ryan said 60 per cent of the North Sound Club’s available gold memberships have been subscribed, as well as half its individual memberships.
“We have already hit our target for corporate memberships, but that was only our target and we can still increase that, so there are some available.”
The North Sound Club will remain open to the public for the foreseeable future.
“Maybe someday in the future we’ll have a capacity issue, but I’m looking forward to having that as [a problem],” he said. “Right now, I’m just glad I can pay the water bills.”