Can golfers put a value on their love for the game? If they could, the price tag is about $1-million at one Toronto-area course, Beacon Hall Golf Club.
Beacon Hall’s members were poised on Friday to turn down a $250-million offer for the property, or about $960,000 each, opting instead to keep playing on a course in Aurora, Ont., that consistently ranks among the top 10 in Canada.
The club’s 260 members, a crowd that draws heavily from Bay Street’s financial set, voted this week on the offer from real estate developer Treasure Hill Homes to purchase the 200-acre property. The sale would represent a lottery-sized payday, as Beacon Hall’s owners paid $40,000 to $80,000 to join, and until recently, no one expected to sell. They pay annual dues of more than $5,000.
While the votes won’t be tallied until Friday evening at the earliest, a number of players at the 33-year-old club predict members will turn down the developer. The threshold for selling is high; two thirds must approve the sale.
In recent weeks, a group of passionate golfers at Beacon Hall ran a campaign titled “Return to Excellence” that advocated nixing the real estate play and investing several million dollars to improve the golf experience by replacing the greens, redoing some bunkers and expanding outdoor dining at the clubhouse.
Opting to keep Beacon Hall going, rather than cashing in, speaks to the appeal of playing golf at a top-tier course where you don’t need to call ahead for a tee time, you simply drive up and start swinging. It would also split the Beacon Hall community, as a significant number of members have pushed for a sale since the club first received serious overtures from developers two years ago.
Several long-time Beacon Hall players – retired executives who tee off 100 times a year – say the old guard resents about a dozen relatively new members who joined as an investment after learning the property could be sold.
At the other extreme, some members who are in favour of selling said the club’s board of directors handled the negotiations poorly, and could have got a higher offer for the property if they reached an agreement with neighbouring condominium owners who opposed development. Executives at Beacon Hall and Treasure Hill declined on Friday to comment before the result of the vote is announced.
Golf industry experts say Beacon Hall’s leaders will have work to do if the Treasure Hill offer is turned down.
“The first priority the Beacon Hall board must address is returning the club to the strong, vibrant golf culture they enjoyed prior to the development issue,” said John Usborne, president of golf club advisory firm ForeSight Consulting in Toronto. He said: “They must also develop a strategy to ensure the membership is not subjected to relentless efforts by developers to acquire the property for homes.”
Treasure Hill is offering Beacon Hall members $100-million up front and the remaining $150-million in five years – with golfers still able to play the course during that period. Privately owned Treasure Hill was founded in 2004 by 42-year-old entrepreneur and ardent golfer Nicholas Fidei. The developer has built more than 10,000 homes in the Toronto suburbs and Florida.
Treasure Hill says it would build homes on about 70 per cent of the course and turn the rest into parkland. When the potential sale was announced last November, Aurora Mayor Tom Mrakas said developing Beacon Hall “would be a tremendous loss for the town.”
Golf enjoyed a resurgence across Canada last summer as a pandemic-friendly form of recreation, with record numbers of rounds played in June, July and August, according to Golf Canada, an industry association.
In recent years, bulldozers transformed a number of urban Canadian golf courses into neighbourhoods, as residential real estate prices soared and the number of ardent golfers declined.
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