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The golf ticker: Golf destination stock market watch

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

Bulls and bears are all well and fine, but isn't it the birdies and eagles we really care about? From time to time, the Travel Golf Guy brings you golf destination investment advice, free of charge. Temperatures reached the low 70s in the Southeast this week and the ice even thawed a bit up north. So now's the time to review your golf travel prospectus for 2004 before the season hits full-on.

TGG Investment Guide

Scottsdale (SCT) HOLD - One of golf travel's blue chip stocks. Still paying big dividends due to outstanding core group of courses that command top dollar in the high season, but approaching build-out and imminent competition from lesser developed areas of the Valley.

Hilton Head (HH) SELL - Once the high-end, daily fee capital of the East Coast, the Hilton Head golf market is now dominated by private courses. The island is built out and neighboring Bluffton is reaching its capacity for pay as you play courses. Holding is an option, but dumping and saving face is the best bet.

Myrtle Beach (MB) HOLD - Market is over saturated with 117 courses - three courses have actually closed over the past three years and two course conglomerates have filed for bankruptcy. Inventory is still outstanding, with three courses ranked in almost everyone's Top 100 and a solid second tier. Standing as a drive market with affordable golf options should lead to a renaissance in next 3-5 years.

Orlando (ORL) BUY - Long-term performance has been solid and the magic golf kingdom continues to improve it's net worth by adding high-end luxury resorts (Grande Lakes) and high-profile semiprivate courses (Eagle Creek Golf Club), and by refurbishing its existing stock (Grande Pines, formerly the International Golf Club).

Gulf Coast (GC) BUY - Stock is poised to split into Mississippi and Alabama and then grow exponentially. Mississippi stock will be grounded in gaming and golfing in the Gulfport/Biloxi area. Alabama's earnings will hinge on the success of the Gulf Shores and Mobile areas. Overall, a high growth option.

Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail (RTJ) BUY - The addition of two new courses should increase the value of this bargain stock, and the recently remodeled Lodge at Grand National adds a much needed luxury accommodation component to America's greatest public golf endeavor.

Hawaii (HAW) SELL - Americans fear of flying dissipates but so does their disposable income. Hawaii becomes a "belt notch" golf destination for the common golfer - see it once, pinch yourself, notch it in the belt, never go again. Tough stock to part with due to the sheer volume of incredible layouts.

Ireland (IRE) HOLD - The U.S. dollar has struggled vs. the EURO of late, making a golf vacation to the Emerald Isle that much more expensive. Desire for every serious golfer (and beer drinker) to at least visit once should buoy the stock for the foreseeable future.

Scotland (SCOT) HOLD - See Ireland. Currency of choice in the mother land is the pound, which the U.S. dollar still isn't faring well against. But a number of European resorts, Scotland included, are sensitive to exchange rates and desirous of Yankee visitors.

Palm Springs/Palm Desert/La Quinta (COH) HOLD - See Scottsdale. With the addition of Trilogy at La Quinta, the daily fee/resort golf market showed some signs of life. Increasing cost of water delivery could cap both the private and public golf markets in the near future. Coachella Valley already has enough golf courses to carry it to long term prosperity.

Gaylord Michigan (GAYL) BUY - The 04 Ryder Cup and the "Big Break" are making golf in Michigan all the rage. It is always risky investing in a golf destination that is only open half the year. But the Canadian golf nuts will always pay visit, and Southerners will eventually grasp the concept of driving north to golf in the summer.

Las Vegas (LV) HOLD - One of the worst droughts in the history of the world has Vegas courses ripping out acres of turf. The stock is inflated in the high season when greens fees soar above $250 at a handful of area courses and is artificially low in the summer, due to the scorching temps. Overall earnings should never be an issue, what with over 30 million visitors a year. If nothing else, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas - what's better than that?

Santee/Cooper (SC) SELL - A penny stock that once trumpeted itself as a competitor to Myrtle Beach lacks the quality and quantity to do battle with the big boys.

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of TravelGolf.com from 1997 to 2003.

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