A Course in Design: Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, and the Tavistock Group

Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, and the Tavistock Group- Three of the biggest names in the exclusive world of golf championships, have teamed up to bring a new resort community to the Bahamas that is raising the par, we mean bar, for luxury resort communities everywhere.

By Stephanie Wilson


 “I have a vision of creating something that is uniquely mine-from the detailed layout of each hole to the Mediterranean architecture to top-line gym equipment in the clubhouse- unlike anything else.”

When your hobby is your work and your work is your hobby, you have scored a pretty good life-some may even say you landed a hole in one. That is the sentiment that is expressed when one brings up Tiger Woods. A child prodigy, Tiger Woods first appeared in Golf Digest when he was just five years old. He went on to win six USGA Amateur Championships. In 2006, at just 30 years of age, he won his eleventh and twelfth professional major golf championships, and has more wins on the PGA tour than any other active golfer. But there is a good chance you already know that, being that Tiger Woods is well known for popularizing the sport of golf. What you may not know is that Tiger is revolutionizing the game all over again, this time by designing courses and investing in golf communities that are raising the level of luxury and play.

Tiger recently started a new venture, dubbed Tiger Woods Designs, launched in late 2006. His first project is designing an exclusive golf community in the United Arab Emirates called-what else? -Tiger Woods Dubai. This Woods-designed golf course, named Al Ruwaya, will be 7,700 yards, par 72 championship-quality course, and will embody Wood’s vision of the ideal design.

“Why Dubai?” asks Tiger in a statement issued by Tiger Woods Design. “Because I am excited about the challenge of transforming a desert terrain into a world-class golf course.” And what a challenge it will be. The landmark golf course community is scheduled for completion in late 2009 over an area of 25.3 million square-feet at ‘Dubailand,’ the region’s largest tourism and leisure project along Emirates Road.

“I have a vision of creating something that is uniquely mine-from the detailed layout of each hole to the Mediterranean architecture to top-line gym equipment in the clubhouse- unlike anything else,” says Woods. Tiger Woods Dubai will be an exclusive golf community that will also include a professionally staffed golf academy; a 60,000 square-foot clubhouse with the latest amenities and comforts; an 80-suite boutique hotel for VIP guests; 300 luxury villas; 20 mansions; and a community retail area.

Tiger is also investing into a brand new world-class resort community on New Providence Island in the Bahamas with two of the biggest names in golf: golfer Ernie Els and the Tavistock Group, a private holding company for Joe Lewis, a man ranked #486 on Forbes’s list of the world’s richest people. Tavistock Group is the only company to own two of the top 20 golf communities worldwide, both located within 25 minutes of each other near Orlando, Florida.

Named Albany Golf & Beach Club, this resort community is on course to be the best in all the Bahamas. Its centerpiece will be a championship 18-hole golf course, designed by Ernie Els. Christopher Anand, Managing Director for Tavistock Group says, “Together with Tiger and Ernie, [Tavistock Group] is investing considerable resources to ensure Albany is one of the finest communities in the world.” He continues, “We have assembled an extraordinary team of partners from land planners, marina engineers, architects, golf course designers and operations to create a new standard of luxury living in the Bahamas.” Albany will be a very exclusive haven, set to combine the best of island life with a relaxed casual elegance. The resort community will also feature an exotic family swimming complex; a state-of-the-art marina for boats and mega-yachts up to 240-feet in length; a beach club overlooking the water; a tennis and racquet center; a variety of water sports and activities; a boutique spa; and an equestrian center, among other spectacular amenities. Former Ritz-Carlton executive Horst Schulze has been brought on board to ensure the level of service is second to none.

The resort community, which covers 565 acres, will have many different housing styles and sizes, all tied together under strict architectural codes. Ranging in price from $3 million to $20 million, residences will be available as beach cottages, oceanfront homes, luxury apartments with water views, and beautiful interior homes. The community is expected to be open late next year.

In a statement from the Tavistock Group, Tiger Woods says, “We are excited to get started on Albany-Joe Lewis, Ernie and I share the ambition to make this community one of the finest in the world. With Albany, I look forward to spending time in The Bahamas and playing Ernie on our new golf course.”

This is not the only place where Tiger and Ernie go head to head. The two pro-golfers currently live in communities owned by the Tavistock Group in Central Florida, Isleworth and Lake Nona, respectively.

Isleworth and Lake Nona are the two world-renowned golf communities near Orlando, both of which are home to top-rated golfers from around the globe, as well as a plethora of other celebrities. Isleworth Golf & Country Club is a very private residential country club community, ranked third in a list of the Top 100 Golf Communities worldwide. Best known for being home to Tiger Woods, Mark O’Meara, The Miami Heat’s Shaquille O’Neal and Jason Williams, and other celebrities, the community is based around an exquisite course designed by Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay. The community was purchased by Tavistock Group in the early nineties, and brought up to the current pristine condition it is today. The Butler Lakes serve as the perfect backdrop for this luxurious community, where the rolling golf greens serve as the centerpiece for the ultimate in golf course living.

Lake Nona Golf & Country Club is home to top-ranked golfers Annika Sorenstam, Retief Goosen, Sergio Garcia, Ben Curtis, and Ian Poulter, among many others. Ranked #15 in the list of Top 100 Golf Communities, Lake Nona is a 600-acre private residential golf club and community set amidst freshwater lakes and a canopy of tall oaks, pines, and native cypress trees. The magnificent property features a Tom Fazio-designed 18-hole championship golf course. Prices in this exclusive community reach in excess of $10 million.

Being that both of these golf clubs are home to 12-15 of the world’s top-ranked golfers, it is no wonder that people would ask who might win if these professional club members were to play each other. Thus, the now world-famous Tavistock Cup began. The Tavistock Cup is in its fourth year; it was born out of a locker room conversation near Christmas 2003, and less than 90 days later, the first Tavistock Cup was played.

One of the most unique tournaments in all of golf, the Tavistock Cup is a private invitation only event that pits the touring golf professional members of Lake Nona versus the touring golf professional members of Isleworth. The two-day PGA sanctioned event is played in team-format, and players vie for purse of more than $2 million. There are also hole-in-one competitions that include prizes such as elite automobiles, yachts and more. Past participants include some of the biggest names in golf, such as Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Mark O’Meara, Sergio Garcia, Annika Sorenstam, Scott Hoch, Robert Allenby, Stuart Applebey and more.

The Tavistock Cup is an experience that no amount of money can buy-There are no tickets sold; only club members of Lake Nona and Isleworth, sponsors, and invited guests can attend. Andy Odenbach, Vice President of Sports Ventures for Tavistock explains the reasoning behind this, “Many times, it’s great to hear strong resonating brand names like the US Open, PGA Championship, Ryder Cup, but really [as a spectator] its you and 50,000 people… You are running five holes ahead, watching a player come through, and then running five holes ahead again. Trying to actually walk with a group? Forget it! So the leadership at Tavistock said, ‘Let’s look at what’s not working and see what we can do to make it work.” So Tavistock has limited the number of attendees to around 4,000, allowing for an intimate feel. “There are no ropes, people actually get to walk around with the participants as they compete… And the players themselves are receptive to it, because they are at their home clubs, they are on familiar turf, and they are comfortable with the spectators in attendance, because so many of them are fellow members and friends of theirs. This leads to a great, stress free competition, and that is some of the magic behind the Tavistock Cup.”

Tiger himself thoroughly enjoys the tournament, despite the fact that there is very little purse money involved: “It work’s because it’s a fun atmosphere. You look at the players involved, and you can understand why.”
Odenbach sums it all up perfectly, “The top players in the world are playing with their buddies and fellow club members against their cross-town rival, and it’s a great backyard ball game!”