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The 'world's most successful caviar entrepreneur' is the new owner of the acclaimed Troy Burne Golf Club in Hudson

April 12, 2022

When Troy Burne Golf Club in Hudson went on the market earlier this year, listing agent Chris Charnas predicted strong interest in the acclaimed golf course and predicted a new owner could be in place before the 2022 season opened, even at the eye-popping asking price of $7.5 million.

Congratulate the man on his crystal ball. And congratulate Bill Holst, the “world’s most successful caviar entrepreneur” as described by Forbes magazine, for adding Troy Burne to his considerable portfolio of businesses.

The sale of Troy Burne, designed by the team of Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry with PGA professional Tom Lehman, closed last week and head PGA pro Dave Tentis said Monday the course is getting ready to open for business as usual this month.

Tentis said the golf course, which has found a place on numerous best-places-to-play lists since its opening in 1999, will remain open to the public and operate much as it has in recent years.

“We’re just trying to get at the transition stuff right now,” Tentis said. "(But) everything’s going to stay the same.”

Holst, a Wisconsin native and still a state resident, already owns a handful of golf courses in western Wisconsin and in neighboring Minnesota, but none with the stature or reputation of Troy Burne. Charnas, of Links Capital Advisors of Wilmette, Ill, declined to reveal the purchase price but said the winning bid was the best of a number of offers from prospective owners.

“From my estimation this was the biggest transaction in Wisconsin since Erin Hills sold in 2009,” Charnas said, calling Troy Burne a “high-end, profitable property."

“The market is really turning around for the golf course owners and for sellers as well,” he said.

Tentis said Holst also owns Red Wing Golf Course in Minnesota, a now public but previously private course that he bought in 2016 when it was facing financial problems and needed new ownership, along with Gopher Hills Golf Course in Cannon Falls, Minn.; Clifton Highlands Golf Course in Prescott, Wis., and Lake City Golf Club in Minnesota.

But Holst’s colorful backstory goes well beyond golf. According to a profile in Forbes magazine, Holst, who lives on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River in the shadow of the Twin Cities, dropped out of college in 1968 to work the midnight shift in an insulation company for $2 an hour. In the 1970s he bought a quarry in western Wisconsin, and by 1995 he owned 11 of them. One had a spring-fed lake he stocked so his children could fish.

In 1999, after selling his excavation business for millions of dollars, Holst bought a bankrupt sturgeon farm in Hungary for cash and soon found himself in the caviar business under the brand name Desietra. Chinese investors later approached him about starting a caviar company in that country, and Holst obliged. By the time of the 2018 profile in Forbes, Holst was said to have 24% ownership in a sprawling sturgeon farm and caviar production operation in eastern China that controlled 30% of the global market. Holst was the only American investor.

What made it even more profitable for Holst, who the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal once dubbed the “caviar tycoon,” was that he also owned some of his company’s competitors, the profile said. His caviar, sold under the name Kaluga Queen, could be found in the finest restaurants in France and New York City, the story noted.

“I see value in things that other people don’t see value in,” Holst told the magazine. “I’m more of a risk-taker. I’m what you call an impulsive buyer. I look at something and I don’t take 10 years to look it over. If it’s a good deal I do it now because it will be gone tomorrow.”

Just a few years ago, that might not have been the case for high-end golf courses, but the last two years of pandemic-fueled boom times for golf has changed the market entirely, Charnas said when Troy Burne went on the market around the first of the year. After well-publicized struggles for the golf industry a few years ago, increased play during and continuing after the COVID-19 lockdown has led to course owners flush with cash and ready to spend on new operations, Charnas said.

Everyone knows about the storied courses at Kohler and Sand Valley and Erin Hills, he said, and Troy Burne, with its location in the populous Twin Cities golf market, “plays off of that,” he said in January.

While it has a Hudson address, the course is actually located in the Town of Troy. Burne is the Scottish word for creek, a name that correctly suggests water will be in play on many holes. Troy Burne boasts some 120 bunkers and features amber prairie grasses along the edges of fairways that give the course a bit of Scottish flavor.

The course opened for play in May 1999. On June 7 that year, Troy Burne was officially dedicated and hosted a match between Lehman, a Minnesota native and longtime PGA Tour player, and fellow pro Steve Stricker. It has been chosen as a top course by many national and regional golf publications, including multiple inclusions on Golf Digest’s Top 100 lists.

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