With the real estate recovery still slow, the property is relaxing—somewhat—restrictions on access to its exclusive Fazio course and using its relationships with Troon and Auberge Resorts to promote visits to central Oregon for five-star lodging, dining and spa amenities, as well as golf in a spectacular setting.
Pronghorn, an exclusive, gated residential community in central Oregon between Bend and Redmond that was built 10 years ago around a Tom Fazio Championship Course and Jack Nicklaus Signature Course, is redefining itself as a high-end, stay-and play destination resort that offers luxury accommodations as well as golf in a spectacular setting, an extensive feature article in the Eugene (Ore.) Register-Guard reports.
Under new ownership since early 2012, Pronghorn is seeking to remake itself in the same dramatic fashion, the Register-Guard article said, as hole No. 8 on the Fazio course, which features two huge, symmetrical lava caves below the green that weren’t in the original design, but became signature features after they were unearthed during construction.
“I think that’s a good analogy, actually,” Pronghorn’s General Manager, Spencer Schaub, told the Register-Guard about the comparison. “I think that’s a very good analogy.”
While the residential component remains integral to the Pronghorn property and is showing some signs of resurgence, the Register-Guard reported, Pronghorn is now seeking its place as a high-end, stay-and-play destination resort for golfers who will be afforded the luxury of accommodations managed by five-star resort operator Auberge Resorts, which was retained earlier this year.
Additionally, guests will now have the opportunity to take lessons from nationally prominent teacher Tim Mahoney, International Director of Education for Troon Golf, which manages Pronghorn’s golf operations. Mahoney arrived in June, having never seen the property in person, and now plans to spend summers at Pronghorn “forever,” he told the Register-Guard.
As part of its new strategy, Pronghorn is now making the previously exclusive Fazio course available for public play for the first time, the Register-Guard reported. (The Nicklaus course had been available to the public on a daily-fee basis since 2010.) Playing the Fazio course will require a commitment to a two-night stay and to playing the Nicklaus course as well, for a total cost of $1,199 per person.
Pronghorn was originally developed by a California investment group on a 640-acre site surrounded by public land, the Register-Guard reported. The property features just under 400 homesites, with roughly 55 homes built so far. The Nicklaus course opened in 2004, followed by the Fazio course in 2006.
Membership at Pronghorn first requires the purchase of a homesite or a fractional investment in a condominium, the Register-Guard reported, and then selection from a variety of membership plans. A premier golf membership, with access to both courses, requires a deposit of $115,000 and monthly dues of $990.
Accommodations for resort guests now are limited to the 48-unit Residence Club, a number well below the roughly 190 destination resort rooms that Pronghorn must provide to meet state land-use laws that allowed it to build the residential community outside of the urban area, the Register-Guard reported. The issue has been an ongoing controversy in Deschutes County, the Register-Guard said, with the original developers contending that the economic downturn between 2008 and 2010, which caused sales of homesites to falter, had left them without the funds to add resort rooms. One extension of the development agreement had required a hotel on the site by last year.
Pronghorn is now under new ownership, after The Resort Group, a Hawaii-based company, purchased $43 million in the property’s debt from a European bank late last year and assumed ownership earlier this year. Since that time, The Resort Group has signed a contract with Auberge Resorts — whose list of high-end operations includes Napa Valley’s Auberge du Soleil, Calistoga Ranch and Solage Calistoga — to run the resort, restaurants and spas.
Schaub, who has been General Manager of the resort since 2010, told the Register-Guard that the Auberge stamp —high culinary standards, first-class lodgings and other touches —won’t be fully evident until next year. Meanwhile, the resort is planning to build 16 “golf bungalows,” each with eight rooms, to attract visiting golfers, and a “boutique hotel” with 30 to 40 rooms, the Register-Guard reported. The timeline for both projects has yet to be announced.
“Any sort of remote-style secondary residential community certainly went through its difficulties in 2008 and ’09 and ’10,” Schaub told the Register-Guard. “Pronghorn was no different. But we’ve come out of that on the other side with an ownership group that owns the property free and clear of any debt, which gives them endless opportunities in what they can do.
“When you look at that, and the fact that they’ve signed a very long-term management agreement with Auberge Resorts, and they’ve signed a long-term agreement with Troon Golf as their golf manager, all of that really shows stability for the property,” Schaub added. “I’m very confident today that we’re going to have a very bright future.”
However, Pronghorn still must deal with a lawsuit, the Register-Guard noted, that was filed in May 2012 by a former Bend, Ore. city councilman. The lawsuit seeks to require The Resort Group, as the new owners of the property, to honor terms of a 2002 agreement in which the original developers promised 20 years of free golf privileges, commencing when the Nicklaus course opened in 2004, to buyers of Pronghorn property who invested $350,000 or more in the resort in its earliest stages.
More than 20 other early investors sought to join the suit in June, the Register-Guard reported, including Mike Bellotti, former head football coach of the University of Oregon Ducks. A hearing on the matter has been scheduled for September 17.
Still, Tim Mahoney, who will now make Pronghorn his summer base while continuing to work as Troon’s Director of Education out of Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Ariz., expressed confidence in the future of the property.
“This place will make it,” he told the Register-Guard. “One, there’s a core group of membership that will not let this thing fail. Number two, you have The Resort Group that owns it … [they’re] not going to let it fail. The Auberge people are not going to let it fail. The Troon people are not going to let it fail.”