Beacon Hall Golf Club members narrowly turned down a $250-million offer for the Toronto-area property that would have put more than $900,000 in each golfer’s wallet, the latest in a string of showdowns between urban course owners and real estate developers.
The 260 members at Beacon Hall, consistently rated among the top 10 courses in the country, voted 63 per cent in favour of selling the 200-acre property in Aurora, Ont., to developer Treasure Hill Homes. The club’s rules require two-thirds of members approve its sale, so the offer was turned down after falling eight votes short of approval. The club told members the results late Friday.
“As a community builder, Treasure Hill is very respectful of the legacy of Beacon Hall Golf Club and its significance both to the town of Aurora and the golf community,” Nicholas Fidei, president and founder of Vaughan-based Treasure Hill, said on Sunday. He said: “Our group respects the members’ decision not to sell the club at this time.”
A number of Beacon Hall golfers said the two-year sales process, which drew a number of potential buyers, has created a rift in the membership. In general terms, the debate over the club’s future was generational, pitting wealthy, older golfers against younger members.
Beacon Hall, which opened in 1988, draws heavily from the Bay Street financial community. Memberships cost $40,000 and $80,000, depending on when they were purchased, so the sale of the club represented a potential lottery-sized payday.
The minority of members who voted to keep the club going included retired or semi-retired golfers, many of whom live near Aurora and play upwards of 100 rounds a year at Beacon Hall. Many younger members, who might play 20 times in a season, pushed for a sale, knowing they could cash in, then join another club.
Aurora Mayor Tom Mrakas opposed plans to redevelop Beacon Hall when the proposed sale was first announced in November. After the results of the vote came out on Friday, Mr. Mrakas said, “This is welcome news as Aurora retains this world class golf course and the valuable green space that our community cherishes.”
Across Canada, a number of urban golf courses have been turned into neighbourhoods. However, these plans typically kick off battles that pit golfers and local residents against developers.
Members at the National Golf Club of Canada, a course in Woodbridge that’s considered one of the country’s top tracks, turned down a $120-million development offer last year. ClubLink, which owns more than 50 courses, faces opposition to its plans for redeveloping Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, site of numerous Canadian Open tournaments, and the Kanata Golf and Country Club in Ottawa.
The most recent statistics from Golf Canada, the sport’s national governing body, said 51 courses shut down between 2015 and 2018, including 19 in Ontario. In the same period, 22 new courses were either launched or under construction.
During the pandemic, golfers embraced the game as a safe way to play and the number of rounds played across Canada soared by 19 per cent in 2020 compared with the previous year, according to the National Golf Club Owners Association Canada. Club course revenue rose by 29 per cent, year over year, according to the NGCOA.
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