PEI courses back up for sale — government struggling to find buyers

The 8th at Crowbush Cove -- the best of PEI's struggling golf properties

Interesting story out of Prince Edward Island, where the provincial government is still trying to get out of the golf business (source):

The provincial government is once again trying to sell or lease its four premier golf courses.

The announcement was made in Wednesday’s throne speech.

The courses are losing money because of a downturn in the tourism industry.

“Obviously golf has had a little bit more of an economic downturn recently,” said Tourism Minister Rob Henderson. “But that doesn’t mean that’s going to continue on.”

All four courses are tied to Rodd Resorts. They include Brudenell, Dundarave, Crowbush and Mill River.

Last year, the Department of Tourism invested $1.4 million into Tourism P.E.I. to help cover the losses, said Henderson.

The population is worried about the implications of a sale (source):

But McInnis said private ownership would not be in the best interest of the Island’s golf reputation, nor in the best interest of the golfers who use the courses. “If they sold them off to private situations they would never keep them in the condition they are now. Everybody loses then – the members, the tourists,” McInnis suggested. Cathy Bullied is slightly more optimistic.”It probably wouldn’t matter anything too much, one way or the other, as long as whoever buys it has deep pockets,” suggested the president of the Western P.E.I. Tourism Association. “I would hope whoever buys it would maintain status quo and life would go on.”

Another article says that the teaching facility and nine hole course at Brudenell didn’t find a buyer.

All of this makes me wonder if someone could take out the courses and the Rodd hotels (that have also been propped up by provincial cash) whether there’s a bargain to be had in PEI. However, the industry there is overbuilt with average to below-average facilities, with only two above-average courses (Crowbush and Dundarave). PEI needed to initially build in the dunes down the coast from Crowbush, where a modern-day Ballybunion is sitting waiting to be built. Environmental concerns kept them from building in the dunes, and likely kept the province from building a course that was world-class and would lure people from the Eastern U.S. coast.

Interestingly, according to discussions I’ve had with Ben Cowan-Dewar at Cabot Links, the Nova Scotia government is much more amenable to allowing golf course development along the ocean (though I’m not aware of many dunes in N.S.) If Cabot Links works as many anticipate, it’ll prove that great courses are a great lure for travellers.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently a columnist with and Ontario Golf, and a contributing writer to ScoreGolf, his blog, Going for the Green, was launched in 2004.

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I like the lady who thinks someone will buy the courses and run them status quo. Are there people out the who a really look for businesses to buy that lose money on and annual basis?…. Other than governments with business plans that only go as far as the next election

  • I don’t know that there’s enough family income to support a Clublink operation. Plus, there’s the issue of population.

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