In LA, golf can be a dealmaker

The city hosts the U.S. Open for the first time in 75 years, but the gentlemen’s game is anything but new for real estate

Clockwise from left: Hilton & Hyland's Stuart Vetterick, The Keystone Team's Cyrus Mohseni, Iconic Homes at Carolwood Estates' Harry Whelan and Amalfi Estates' Brian Bogulski
Clockwise from left: Hilton & Hyland's Stuart Vetterick, The Keystone Team's Cyrus Mohseni, Iconic Homes at Carolwood Estates' Harry Whelan and Amalfi Estates' Brian Bogulski

The last time the U.S. Open, one of golf’s premier events was played in Los Angeles, Harry Truman was president.

But this weekend, and in a world very different from Truman’s, about 45 of the world’s best golfers competed on the North Course of the Los Angeles Country Club.

Tickets have been hard to score, according to Jon Bronson, an agent with Westside Estate Agency. But serious golf fans found people who could extend an early invite to the Los Angeles Country Club for some previews of the U.S. Open’s action.

The business world has big presence at the U.S. Open. Major financial institutions such as Bank of America have taken hospitality areas at the Los Angeles Country Club. The course has long held the reputation where captains of industry go to tee off.

It’s not difficult to draw a nexus between real estate and the gentleman’s game.

It’s the best way to meet people, said Brian Bogulski of Amalfi Estates, who formerly worked as a caddy in his native Chicago.

“When I come to golf courses alone, I’ll be matched up with three people I don’t know. I will have the next four to five hours getting to know them since it takes that long to play 18 holes,” Bogulski said. “First you are playing golf, the next you know, you are working with a client.” 

In 2018, Bogulski traveled solo to Encino Golf Course, a fairway operated by the city of Los Angeles. He was matched with three strangers who worked in entertainment. They bonded over a carefree approach to the game and comedies such as “Airplane” and “The Big Lebowski.” 

A few months after the first meeting, Bogulski’s new friends referred an associate with a special request for a live/work situation. A friend who owned a special effects company sought a home attached to a warehouse where his business could store props. 

A few months later, Bogulski found a unicorn; a two-bed, one-bath ranch style home adjoining a warehouse, just under 4,000-square-feet, in the city of San Fernando. Since then, his golf friends referred more business to him. Bogulski and his golf buddies anticipate attending the U.S. Open this weekend.

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Golf also has long been known as a genteel forum to size up a prospective client or partner, said Stuart Vetterick, an agent with Hilton & Hyland who represented the buyer on The One, the megamansion which traded for $141 million, the biggest residential price tag of 2022.

“The game of golf helps reveal someone’s true colors,” Vetterick said. “Seeing someone at their best and their worst on the course gives you a good idea of how they’ll act during a deal or a negotiation.”

Cyrus Mohseni, founder of The Keystone Team in Huntington Beach, and a former professional soccer player, said there is no better sport for building relationships.

“You can’t have a conversation when you are playing tennis, or soccer,” Mohseni said. “In golf, you tee off, and you go from one hole to the next, and you’re talking. It’s unique.”

Mohseni estimates he’s made more than 15 deals stemming from golf games. He’s also used golf to recruit agents. 

“My old golf coach is my newest agent,” Mohseni said of Tim Johnson, who affiliated with The Keystone Team this year. If Mohseni knows an agent is a golfer, he forecasts a few rounds of golf are probably in the future.  

“It’s one thing to meet somebody at a place. It’s a better thing to get to know them on the golf course,” Mohseni said.

Don’t expect deals to flow from a few rounds of golf, said Harry Whelan of Iconic Homes at Carolwood Estates.

“The golf community is small, and one’s reputation is important. It’s very easy to tell if someone’s intentions are strictly business on the course. And if this is the case, that person risks getting labeled as a ‘business hustler,” Whelan said.  

“Golf should be enjoyed and conversations should be kept light,” he said. “Ask your playing partners about themselves, business and real estate conversations can, and will happen organically.”

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