Golf courses could close due to Ottawa over-expansion

The rapid and continuous expansion in the number of golf courses in Ottawa could soon lead to closures, according to a national organization for golf club owners.

Residential developers' eyes light up at chance to build around or over struggling courses

Golf courses could close due to Ottawa over-expansion

CBC News: Ottawa at 6:00

8 years ago
Residential developers' eyes light up at chance to build around or over struggling courses 2:09

Some golf courses in the Ottawa area could close due to over-expansion and a sharp drop in people embracing the sport, according to a national golf organization.

There are currently six golf courses up for sale in the National Capital Region, CBC News has learned.

This comes as the number of courses in Ottawa has steadily increased over the last few years, according to Jeff Calderwood, CEO of the National Golf Course Owners Association in Canada.

Calderwood, whose group represents more than 1,300 golf courses across Canada, said he expects some local courses will close but not many due to over-expansion. It is something facing courses across North America ever since the recession in late 2008, he added, creating a golfer's paradise.

But the grass isn't very green for golf club owners such as Owen Severn who runs the The Rideau Glen Golf Club in Kemptville.

Baby boomers provide hope for resurgence

He has seen the jump over his 20 years with the Glen, first built in 1929, and now smaller courses are fighting against the larger clubs run by chains such as Clublink.

"People will tell you, if you're looking to invest in something, don't buy a restaurant or a golf course," Severn said with a laugh.

"I've heard over a large number of years that there's more golfing holes per population in Ottawa than anywhere else except South Carolina."

Some golf course operators are clinging to the hope baby boomers will create a new wave of avid golfers, but the "for sale" signs at area courses are sparking the interest of residential developers.

Golf clubs becoming developments

As often happens in the US near major courses, developers are looking to build golf communities where a course becomes the centrepiece of a residential neighbourhood.

In 2012, Canadian-owned League Financial Partners bought Club de Golf Tecumseh in Gatineau, which also opened in 1929.

Adam Gant, League's CEO, said he plans to scale back the course for a new home development, adding the fairways and greens could be completely overtaken by homes in 15 years.

That idea has perked the ear of Manderley on the Green general manager and head professional, Greg Chambers. He said times have changed and the course has seen a rapid increase in competition.

"We used to have nobody around us within 50 kilometres, now we have two (other courses) within 15 kilometres. It's a lot tougher, it's definitely over-saturated," he said.

"In the early 2000s we could fill two courses for the amount of people that were coming out here."

Manderley has offered free golf days to entice players in an attempt to make up the revenue through cart rentals, plus food and beverages.

Other golf courses have offered discounts on fees, memberships or added extra services to a round of golf seeking new regulars.