Drive Shack, Inc.
Some VIC readers are already somewhat familiar with Drive Shack (DS) because it up into
recently was known as Newcastle Investment Corp. Newcastle started out as a mortgage REIT
managed by Fortress Investment Group. Newcastle cratered during the financial crisis and
slowly worked its way back. Starting in 2013, Newcastle begun to spin assets off into more
focused companies. They include New Residential (NRZ), New Media (NEWM) and New
Senior (SNR). Assets now left at Newcastle include real estate debt and American Golf, a golf
course owner and operator. In December of 2016 Newcastle converted to a C. Corp., in order to
more efficiently invest in growth, and changed its name to Drive Shack. It has been selling its
real estate debt assets and will be largely out of that business this year. The company will then
be solely focused on golf.
I think the company is fairly valued today based on private market values for golf course assets
and net cash on the balance sheet (assuming liquidation of debt assets and liabilities) While
there is likely some opportunity to continue to create shareholder value in the traditional golf
course business through management and opportunistic purchases, I don’t think that in itself is a
compelling enough investment opportunity at this price. The larger value creation opportunity
likely lies with a new golf related concept that is part of DS’s growth plan.
Drive Shack Concept
Some may be familiar with Top Golf. DS plans to roll out a similar concept. Top Golf, a
concept born in England in 2000, is a modified driving range with a restaurant and bar. The
driving range extends roughly 200 yards and has various targets. People are able to play games
against each other, similar to say bowling. The balls have chips that allow shots to be scored
automatically. Top Golf has 33 locations with another 10 plus under development. Some of the
more interesting statistics are that 45% of guests play traditional golf once a year or less and 68%
of guests are 34 years of age or younger. This concept has proven to appeal to a younger
demographic at a much higher rate than traditional golf and to golfers and non golfers alike.
The economics of the facilities are very compelling. The cost to develop ranges from $15 to $25
million and they generate in the range of $3 million to $6 million in EBITDA. Not many retail
concepts today have economics this good. We can get an idea of the value creation at Top Golf
through looking at Callaway (ELY) a public golf equipment manufacturer. Starting in 2006
ELY invested $55 million in Top Golf for approximately a 20% stake. In 2015 Providence
Equity Partners acquired a minority stake in Top Golf that valued the company at $1.4 billion,
which marked ELY’s stake at approximately $280 million or 5X its original investment.
You can become more familiar with the concept here: https://topgolf.com
Drive Shack has a current pipeline of 25 sites and its first location is under construction in
Orlando, FL. The 66,000 square foot dining and entertainment complex is located in the 300
acre Sports and Performance district. It will have 90 outdoor driving bays, a restaurant, bar,
shops, lounge and a rentable event space. The facility is scheduled to open in late this year.