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San Diego
Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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Virtual Golf Could Fill Vacant Offices

REAL ESTATE: Limited Acres of Land Drives Investor Interest

SAN DIEGO – Golf may soon come to the office, in the form of virtual country clubs.

There just isn’t much land left for new golf courses as interest in the sport has skyrocketed, but there’s plenty of vacant office space, and that’s got some investors thinking of combing the two, converting office space to virtual golf courses.

Jeff Woolson
Vice Chairman
CBRE Golf & Resort Group

So far, this is just a concept for San Diego, but a commercial real estate broker who specializes in golf and resort real estate, Jeff Woolson, vice chairman of CBRE’s Golf & Resort Group, said that it’s only a matter of time.

“They want to take like a floor, and they want to put in a really cool system of these virtual golf machines. The technology has gotten really good, and it’s getting better and better,” Woolson said, adding that with virtual golf, “everybody plays the same golf course in one of these virtual hitting bays and it’s becoming very popular.”

The idea is to install the golf machines in a setting that rivals what players could find at a conventional golf course.

“They want to put in these hitting bays and almost create a virtual golf club where you have a clubhouse and you have a lounge and you’ve got food and beverage, and you’ve got drinks and you’ve got everything that a country club would have, everything you find over on one of the higher end clubs like Rancho Santa Fe or Fairbanks Ranch,” Woolson said.

Instead of hitting the ball down a fairway outdoors, players hit the ball at a screen that duplicates what they’d find on a conventional course.

“They’re going to be able to replicate some of the greatest golf courses around,” Woolson said.

Office real estate is attractive because there’s a lot of it and demand for traditional office space has dropped as more people work from home or work hybrid schedules, spending two or three days in the office.

“They can almost not give away that space right now. It’s tough to find people to fill the space,” Woolson said. “It’s like if there’s a vacuum, somebody’s going to fill it, and when there’s this demand for golf that’s going on right now, I think you can see more of this virtual-type golf.”

Rising Interest in Golf Game, Courses, Resorts

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2019 and 2020, interest in golf has soared, particularly among younger players.

“It’s getting more and more difficult trying to get a tee time anywhere,” Woolson said.

The catch is that the places where people can play have dwindled, with few prospects in sight.

“I don’t see any new golf courses in the mix for San Diego ever. I think there will be some remodels. I think people will buy some and redo some golf courses, but I don’t know of any new ones,” Woolson said. “A golf course eats up a minimum of 110 acres, and ideally, you’ve got to have a 200-acre golf course to really have a championship length golf course. That’s a lot of land that, if it was residential, would be worth a lot more.”

Along with the pandemic, Woolson said that new forms of playing the game, like Topgolf, have accelerated interest in golf.

“Golf got cool,” Woolson said. “Somebody put it perfectly the other day. They said Topgolf was like a gateway drug to golf, and so now, you’ve got all these young millennials and Gen Zers playing golf like crazy.”

Woolson said that the business of golf has never been better.

“I’ve been doing these 33 years and I’ve never seen the golf business stronger,” Woolson said. “If there’s a golf course for sale in Southern California, it gets snatched up pretty quickly. It’s still a very desirable place to own a golf course because you’ve got 365 days of great weather.”

Woolson has sold nearly a dozen golf courses in San Diego County, including Eastlake Country Club in Chula Vista, Fairbanks Country Club in Rancho Santa Fe, Arrowood Golf Course in Oceanside, and Steele Canyon Golf Club in Jamul.

The Golf & Resort Group that he heads for CBRE in 2023 advised on the sale of seven golf and resort properties totaling more than $282 million.

They included the sale of Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz, Tijeras Creek Golf Club in Orange County, and The Grove in Nashville, Tenn.n

CBRE
FOUNDED: 1906
HEADQUARTERS: Dallas
CEO: Robert Sulentic
BUSINESS: commercial real estate brokerage
EMPLOYEES: 130,000 +
WEBSITE: www.cbre.com
CONTACT: 858-546-4600
NOTABLE: CBRE serves clients in more than 100 countries

 

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