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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, June 3, 2004

Investor to buy Wailuku golf courses

By Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer

A real estate investor is buying two Maui golf courses for a fraction of what it cost to develop the Wailuku links originally planned as part of a 600-acre country club and residential community.

The Sandalwood Golf Course and shuttered Grand Waikapu Country Club are being acquired by an unidentified buyer in a deal that is in escrow and expected to be completed July 13.

Kevin Aucello, a vice president with real estate firm CB Richard Ellis Hawaii Inc., representing the seller — an affiliate of Japanese firm Fukuoka Jisho — confirmed that the acquisition is pending, but said he was not at liberty to identify the buyer or sales price.

The two courses, which include a $30 million clubhouse based on a Frank Lloyd Wright design, were most recently listed for $12.5 million, down from an asking price of $35 million.

An employee at the Sandalwood said a Japanese investor is buying the property and its sister course, closed since 1999, but was unaware of any changes planned for either.

Carved out of the West Maui mountain foothills, the Sandalwood and Grand Waikapu courses were developed on 335 acres in 1991 by a partnership of Japan-based Shimizu Construction Co., TSA International President Takeshi Sekiguchi (who was involved in building Maui's Four Seasons and Grand Wailea hotels), and local real estate developers Howard Hamamoto and Masaru "Pundy" Yokouchi.

They envisioned selling 100 to 140 home sites on 280 acres adjacent to the courses, with models based on unused designs by famed architect Wright.

But the residential development plan ran into county government objections, while the state's economic slump affected golf operations at Grand Waikapu, which was to be an exclusive private club, and the public Sandalwood course.

In 1993, Shimizu Construction pulled out of the partnership. Then Fukuoka Jisho affiliate HFJ Mauka Inc. acquired ownership of the two golf courses.

The 280 acres planned for home development was transferred to the other partners — Sekiguchi, Hamamoto and Yokouchi — who would like to sell the property for $15 million but have not found a buyer, according to Yokouchi.

HFJ Mauka closed Grand Waikapu in 1999 after continued financial troubles, though the clubhouse remains open for functions.

According to CB Richard Ellis Hawaii, golfers played about 57,000 rounds at Sandalwood in 2001. Current greens fees are $80, or $35 for kama'aina.

Reach Andrew Gomes at agomes@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8065.