Ontario courses such as Canterbury Golf Club in Port Perry, Saginaw Golf Course in Cambridge, Glen Abbey in Oakville, York Downs in Markham, Saw-Whet in Oakville, Lionhead in Brampton, as well as Dorval Municipal Golf Club in Laval, Que., and Shawnee Slopes in Calgary all have one common denominator.
They are golf courses either being considered, beginning to be or underway on rezoning and/or development considered for re-zoning or development of some kind, residential in most cases, but not always.
In February, I wrote this blog that golf is perfect fit for developers.
A golf course produces revenue that offsets various costs over time and the land is easily converted into other uses. On the above list, only Dorval is scheduled for something other than housing.
That land is planned for an airport expansion, but for years, it was used as a golf course by people who fell in love with it. The golfers wish to continue enjoying their unique layout and the federal government is calling for deployment of its business plan. They both can’t win.
Mr. Kaneff built 36 holes at Lionhead using half the land in the valley and half as table land. During construction, he envisioned operating both courses for approximately 25 to 50 years until the table land was so valuable it could be developed.
He was wrong. It only took only about 15 years for serious consideration for that purpose to to become a reality.
The rest of the above properties have been purchased for incredible amounts of money for the sole purpose of re-zoning, a process that falls on the desk of the local politicians who will face some unenviable times deciding the outcome.
Of course, there are multiple stages whereby each party can present a case before the courts and committees, but the final ruling will usually favour those who can generate the most amount of money for the government coffers.
Take any one of the examples above and begin totaling the financial implications of a subdivision vs. a golf course. The golf course produces property taxes, HST on sales, payroll taxes and the all-important open space.
The subdivision produces property taxes on hundreds of homes, the cost of hundreds of building permits, lot levies, land transfer taxes on the sale of each property, HST on the sale of homes and building materials, payroll taxes, etc.
In other words, development wins hands down and it isn’t much of a fight, even when people protest the decision.
As strange as this might sound coming from a dyed-in-the-wool golfer, isn’t the reduction of courses exactly the goal? The golf industry has long lamented an oversupply of courses.
That has caused an erosion of revenue due to much-maligned discounting programs and partially full tee sheets. Not only that, but do owners of most properties who are offered mega-sized cheques for their courses rarely, if ever, reject them in favor of keeping the course open for the golfers out of loyalty?
Once again, if you study the above list you will see that some are development ready and have already seen huge earth moving equipment roll in and begin the facelift, but others will remain a golf course for a long time yet.
Glen Abbey is owned by ClubLink and while most think of that company as a golf course owner/operator, it is also a land developer.
I doubt they own one piece of golf course land that hasn’t been carefully studied to determine if it can one day be developed. This process might take 10 years or even 25 years, but along the way, certain things must take place, including the application for a zoning change.
These changes themselves might take several years or even decades but they will never happen without the developer making an application and following the process.
ClubLink owes it to its shareholders to begin the pursuit. That doesn’t mean Glen Abbey is going to be developed into a subdivision right away – it could take years. Yet, rumours persist that ClubLink has initiated the process.
In next few years, golf courses will come and go, as always. New ones will be built, replacing others that will be adorned with people’s castles.
It is my hope that my favourite courses remain as long as I live and some of the new ones follow some very basic rules. I hope they are fun to play and affordable for most people at least until they become victims of the inevitable.