By Assunta Ng
Northwest Asian Weekly
Chinese investment has transformed the skyline of Seattle, Bellevue, Renton, and Tukwila from old warehouses, churches, and abandoned lands to five-star hotels, mega office towers, upscale apartments and condominiums.
Recently, Kung Fu Panda (KFP), owned by a Chinese American, has struck a different path—acquiring a golf course owned by Scott Oki.
The Golf Club at Echo Falls is located in Snohomish. The new owner would not disclose the amount KFP paid. The sale price reportedly was under $10 million for Echo’s 155 acres.
Located about 20 miles outside Seattle, Echo, which opened in 1992 and was bought by Oki in 1994, is an 18-hole golf course with a lush green island surrounded by the colors of red and gold; the sound of two waterfalls; a calm lake with several small wild ducks playing and swimming; and the scent of fresh air. It’s like the countryside, a natural paradise with few people. Every hole is different in the Echo course.
“KFP likes this place because it makes people feel comfortable and relaxing,” said Chesil Thye, a real estate agent who represents KFP. “We have looked at quite a few golf courses and found this one to be the best and most beautiful. We have not consulted with any feng shui experts when (the owners) bought the golf club. However, everyone who came like the environment and has nothing but praise.”
Echo wasn’t listed for sale at the time. KFP made an offer and the rest is history. Oki Golf will manage for KFP its 50-staff club. Oki still owns 10 golf courses in the Puget Sound area, including Newcastle Golf Club.
Nancy Cho, CEO of Oki Golf, said the KFP development concept “is cool.” Her company accepted the offer. “We are not developers,” Cho said, “we are in the golf business.” Oki was out of the country and was unavailable for comment.
According to Forbes Magazine in 2014, operating a golf course is tough business. Its profit margin is low and many golf courses in the country are in the red. Washington state’s rainy seasons during winter and spring can last for months, affecting business and traffic for golf courses.
However, KFP’s owners, who also develop golf courses and hotels in China, have big dreams. Thye plans to turn the club into a resort. Thye said the company also brings Chinese tourists to Seattle, and Echo Falls will be a good place for them to stay and play golf.
An expensive sport, golf is very popular in China among middle- and upper-class people. A golf club provides recreation and networking opportunities for Chinese tourists.
John Boesche, director of Tourism Development with Visit Seattle, said at a conference in Beijing recently: “China is now Seattle’s largest overseas tourist market.”
KFP would like to build a 100-room hotel with a restaurant and remodel the current club restaurant to a much bigger facility, said Elaine Ho, another KFP representative. Echo is a popular site for wedding banquets.
Thye said many developers have built houses around the Echo golf club, and each house values over $1.5 million for the water view and the golf field. (end)
Assunta Ng can be reached at email@example.com.