A Fresh Look – Is Now the Time to Sell?


By Larry Hirsh, President, Golf Property Analysts 

Back in January, I raised the same question. Six months later, the world has experienced some changes. The war in Ukraine has inflated gas prices and impacted the supply chain for all products and the COVID pandemic has made travel more challenging as staffing shortages not yet replenished has yielded a need for pilots, baggage handlers and more. Golf courses and clubs are also experiencing staffing challenges both inside and out on the course.

Now, as then, it’s about treating the patient, not the disease and each client’s goals and objectives are different. All sellers want to maximize price, but in some cases there are factors which may prioritize other considerations, such as:

  • Retirement Planning;
  • Personal Issues;
  • Imminent capital needs;
  • Closing between seasons;
  • Financial distress;
  • Fatigue;
  • Market considerations;
  • Debt;
  • Timing:

The last of these (timing) can often determine as much as anything how a golf property should be marketed and at what price, depending on when buyer and seller want to consummate a transaction. A seller has several options for marketing a golf property or structuring a deal. One can list with a specialty broker (like us), a commercial broker or a local broker. Some sellers market themselves and others choose the auction process. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

We haven’t yet seen enough sales in 2022 to measure a trend, but we have observed a few indications to consider:

-NGF and Golf Datatech have reported a decline in rounds played from 2021.

-Weather has been a negative factor.

-Buyers are taking a long-term look and observing the sustainability of the COVID surge.

Those with tax considerations may want to consider an installment sale, holding a note from the buyer for a period of time. Others (most) require a cash at closing sale. Some sellers, especially those seeking an expeditious sale but wanting to create competition, choose the auction route.

Others, who see the auction option as an indication of weakness, and who have the luxury of time prefer more traditional methods of marketing, typically involving listing with a broker and taking advantage of the broker’s network and marketing skills. Some transactions require creativity. If bank financing isn’t available, other means may be necessary. Installment sales with the seller holding a note, private equity and participation are just some of the methods buyers and sellers employ to complete a transaction. Rising interest rates may make an installment sale more attractive to a seller seeking a certain price and a buyer looking for more favorable financing terms.

As mentioned above, timing is of considerable significance given the seasonal nature of most golf operations, the considerable amount of due diligence necessary on the buyer’s part and maybe most importantly the objectives of buyer and seller. In most brokerage situations, working for the seller, we advocate developing an exit strategy that considers the desired timing of the sale in conjunction with the time required to prepare, market and close an acceptable transaction. Of course, such timing can always be impacted by pricing expectations which should be established in a realistic manner. A big part of the timing component is consideration of any deferred maintenance or capital the property may need. Now, at midyear can be a great time to start marketing a golf property because it’s a good time to show it in the best condition, with full parking lots and lots of golfers as well as the timing of a transaction can be scheduled to close on or around year-end, making pro-rations much easier and allowing new ownership to prepare for the next season.

Pricing is often the most important element to the seller. In many cases, their equity in the property represents life savings or profit from a long term business venture. Every seller wants the highest price achievable. This can be a “double edge sword” in that over-pricing a property for sale will discourage some legitimate buyers from even considering the opportunity. Proper (not too high and not too low) pricing is critical to a successful sale. With the current economic uncertainty, the question that has to be asked is whether prices/values are declining and if the seller wants to await the next upward cycle.

It’s often been estimated that golf properties can take a year or more to prepare, market and finalize a sale transaction. That’s true. But it can also be done in much less time. Pricing and method of marketing impact timing considerably. We’ve had properties take up to a year and a half and completed other transactions from listing to closing in less than 4 months. How the property is marketed can impact the time it takes. Seller concerns about confidentiality, business disruption and preparation must all be considered.

Every seller’s situation is different. To meet their goals and objectives often requires considering a variety of creative methods of marketing and preparing the property for sale, or the possibility of us joining forces with a local commercial broker, auctioneer or even a competitor golf broker to do what’s best for the client. The goal is a successful sale at the maximum price.

Having a strategy that enhances and emphasizes the property’s specific strengths and acknowledges its weaknesses and realistic market dynamics at the time will yield the best results. Combining these with the seller’s goals and objectives makes for a well-rounded approach. Many of our clients have been taking a “wait and see” approach to selling their golf properties and this may be counter-productive to their goals in some situations.

Is now the time to sell?



Larry can help you make an informed decision. Larry Hirsh, President of Golf Property Analysts, is a widely published author and frequent lecturer at industry events. He has done assignments on more than 3,000 courses in 45 US states and Canada. His latest book, The Culture of Golf – Isn't it Just a Game?, explores elements of golf that the golf world is reluctant to discuss but that impact the economic health and future of the game we all love.
** The views and opinions featured in Golf Business WEEKLY are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the NGCOA.**