Dallas Travel Guide
Eric Affeldt has lived all across the country, and now he calls Dallas home. The CEO of ClubCorp, the largest owner of private clubs in the world, Affeldt was voted the most powerful person in golf by Golf Inc. magazine in 2010. He heads up more than 154 golf and country clubs, business clubs and sports clubs in 26 states, the District of Columbia, Mexico and Beijing—which explains why he gets on a plane once a week and flies in excess of 100,000 miles a year.
Before taking his current job, Affeldt was a partner at KSL Capital Partners, a private equity firm that specializes in travel- and recreation-related companies. “We bought ClubCorp at the end of 2006, and since I [used to be] an operator as well as a principal at the private equity shop, I was asked to come down and be the CEO of the company.”
That’s when Affeldt headed to Dallas from Denver. His initial impression? “I call it topographically challenged,” he says, laughing. “But there are so many great things about Dallas that overcome and outweigh the fact that it’s flat.”
Known for his aggressive business style—he’s more likely to buy a new golf property than to lay low and play it safe—Affeldt exemplifies what he likes best about his adopted hometown. “The best part of the city is the people. They are the friendliest people I have ever been around.”
The executive also views Dallas itself as vibrant. “It was far less affected by the recession than others,” he explains. “It’s very diverse. It is not as energy dependent as Houston would be, for example. I am very bullish on Dallas. Hosting the Super Bowl didn’t hurt, either. It was tremendous exposure nationally and internationally.”
If you caught the Super Bowl only on television, Affeldt highly recommends a visit to the new Cowboys Stadium—the largest domed structure in the world. (It’s so big that it could fit the entire Statue of Liberty underneath its roof.) He suggests taking the VIP tour, which includes an inside look at the entire stadium, to learn all sorts of facts and figures about the stadium and how it was constructed.
Getting to the Big D shouldn’t be a problem either: The Dallas– Fort Worth airport (situated between the two cities) is the fourth busiest in the U.S., with more than 2,000 flights daily and 60 million passengers annually. “Dallas has a great airport. It’s easy to get coast to coast, probably as easy as from any city in the United States,” Affeldt says. “Dallas offers that ease of travel with its central location and accessibility. You can get to so many places from DFW airport in two hours. I just got back from Cabo San Lucas, and it was a short two-hour flight.”
But even though he often visits the airport, you won’t find him running through it. When asked for his best travel tips, Affeldt replies that “I am not a rush guy when it comes to airport travel. I prefer to be at the airport early and not put myself in situations where I am likely to be frustrated.” And, he adds, “I am big into convenience. If a hotel is close to the airport and I am going to be arriving late or leaving early, I’d rather stay closer to the airport—even if there is somewhere that is nicer 40 minutes away.”
Dallas is also a great place to run a business, the executive says. “The government is very pro- business. From a hiring standpoint, there is a great base of people to choose from. We have highly technical people who work at Texas Instruments and EDS [now HP Enterprise], both headquartered here. We have a wide variety of professionals and skilled labor. I think it has become one of the fastest growing cities for Fortune 500s to relocate to as a result. And, of course, not having state taxes is appealing to everyone who lives here.”
Affeldt also points out numerous other benefits to living in Dallas. “There is tremendous healthcare and excellent higher education, with Southern Methodist University (SMU) being based here, Texas Christian University (TCU) over in Fort Worth, and the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) in Richardson [a suburb of Dallas].”
You may not think of Dallas as an art town, but the city’s urban arts district is the largest in the United States. The most popular venues include the Nasher Sculpture Center, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Meyerson Symphony Center, the AT&T Performing Arts Center, and the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House. Affeldt also thinks everyone who comes to Dallas should visit the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, where you can view photographs and artifacts chronicling the assassination and legacy of president John F. Kennedy.