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Mystic Golf Course owner responds to criticism

In order to present as balanced a view as possible (and a blog allows me to post pretty much everything), I wrote Mystic GC owner Roland Berger a series of questions about the issues at the club. To be clear, I have been contacted by an increasing number of individuals close to the club about the current plight of the staff and am simply trying to report on what is going on at the course. I have no issue with Berger personally — I’ve only met him once.

The following is the e-mail exchange between myself and Mr. Berger. My questions are first:

> Roland: I received your note through my publisher about Mystic. I confirmed the information with a couple of members of your staff and an outsider who was in direct contact with your staff. I also know you were in negotiations with Jack Grant to sell the course, but that those negotiations have fallen through.
>
For the time being I will remove the post. I don’t wish to damage your business; to the contrary, I’d love to see you succeed. However, those close to the operation and directly involved with it continue to paint a bleak
picture.
>
> In fact, I’m willing to print your remarks on the subject, so if you’d be so kind as to answer these questions, hopefully we can resolve the matter:
>
> 1) Is your superintendent remaining with Mystic as staff after next week? Is the assistant super retaining his job as well? What about Mr. Wilson?
>
> 2) Have winter preparations been undertaken? Are they being undertaken?
>
> 3) Have grounds crew been let go without being paid bonuses they were promised (I’ve had several notes on this from staff reporting this problem)?
> 4) What are your plans for Mystic GC? Are you trying to sell it? Do you plan to continue funding it? How would you characterize the year at the club and how do you explain all of the personnel changes (head pro, GM,
> superintendent, assist. Superintendent)?
>
> I look forward to your responses and best of luck.
>
> Robert Thompson

Mr. Berger’s response, in an edited only to remove a potential libel on a former employee (his native language is German):

Robert:

let’s focus on the part of public interest first:

Mystic is open and will stay open depending on the weather, in fact we had a very busy day yesterday, lots of walk ons.
Mystic has fund its audience during this season:
“the avid golfer who is looking for a real challenge”.

The problem I have with your way of publishing:
You talk to frustrated ex staff member (s) who have done all kind of damages and as a matter of fact: I believe the club would have done better in not having them to begin with.

I have not been in negotiations with John Grant and believe I do not even know John Grant , at least dont recall without more information.

The course is in good shape and will be in even greater shape next year, everything what needs to be done has been done in a professional way.
There is no doubt in my mind: MYSTIC WILL BE RECOGNIZED AS ONE OF THE GREAT COURSE UP NORTH! I’m talking form a North American point of view.

[Section removed for libel concerns…]

Robert, this is not professional and for me it is not acceptable, if a writer who makes a living in and of the golf business, takes information of such a person and publishes this even before getting confirmation.

After all, Golf is (or has become) a competitive business. It is simply not feasible to have to many staff members om a year around employment in a seasonable business.
Unfortunately, last year Mystic did not adapt its cost structure to reality. The (revised) plan was counting on an opening in June 2005. Staff was hired for this opening and goods ordered and other expenses as the opening would happen in June 05. Again, my advise in this situation was not accepted even by the end of the season.
When I stepped in by end of April 06, as an owner with no previous experience in the golf business, I learned the missing lessons in a crash course and corrected whatever could be done in shortest period of time.
After all: Golf is a business an no secret reserved to those born with a golf ball in their mouth. My corrections were good enough to get Mystic trough the first season and reach an acceptable result. Be ensured, I did not spare any expense to built Mystic to the highest standards in golf and I will continue to get the finished golf course to the best conditions. Saying this, everyone needed to do what needs to be done to accomplish this goal is today working at Mystic. This includes Superintendent Brian Taylor his Assistent and Head Pro and Director of Golf Operations Ryan Wilson. At least to my knowledge, all of this people are comitted to their work. I rely on them and enjoy working with them.

You permitted to published insults and defamation on Ontario Golf, I’m not to familiar yet with Canadian standards, but in some countries this could be a serious problem for the publisher and those associated.

I’m looking forward to a successful season for Mystic in 2007.

Personally I’m a very strong believer on the values of a free press but I dont believe that a serious publisher should supply a plateau for course language, insults and defamation, even more so for unidentified accusers.

Please publish this response in full text on the same publication: OntGolf.
I do not agree to any form of manipulation of this text.
If you have comments wright them in your own article.

Best Regards.

Roland Berger

Let’s hope this is the last time the business issues of Mystic are discussed. Now back to the golf….

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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 Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

24 CommentsLeave a comment

  • “You permitted to published insults and defamation on Ontario Golf, I’m not to familiar yet with Canadian standards, but in some countries this could be a serious problem for the publisher and those associated.”

    I wonder what countries he is talking about here?? On this Remembrance Day I give a warm thanks and remeber all of those who have given their lives so we here in Canada can have freedom of speach without the threat of repercussions.

  • I dont get it…what do I care who owns Mystic. I want to play golf and I dont mind to get a reality check…what a challenge!
    played MYSTIC yesterday again the pro told me they would stay open as long as weather permitting. By the way there were quite a few golfers and staff was working out on the course
    great deal for $ 65 fall rate which includes the cart and driving range
    great experience

  • I am reading the last comment at 10:58 Toronto time and “Franks” was at 11:42. What time is he on?

    The point, I believe, Robert is trying to get to, is that Mystic is a very good golf course and with the proper management it will be a success.

    Too bad this Mr. Berger is being so self righteous.

  • Hello Curious!!!
    All respect for those who lost their lives and health for good cause…and those who were ordered to risk it.
    Whom do you mean…Are you talking about the Indians…
    As far as I recall my history lessons the only ones attacking this wonderful country were the Americans…and yes, we showed them the way home.
    You have a misunderstanding of freedom.
    Freedom of speach does not give you the right to insult or circulate lies. Freedom of speach ends when other rights are violated.

  • Frank:

    Then what was my grandfather doing in the trenches in France in WW1? Was he not fighting for our way of life? And tell me who’s rights were violated in this article?

  • This is pretty funny.

    Click on “Smith” and you go to Mystic’s webpage.

    Sick!! Imagine a golf course to stoop this low!!

    As Robert says “Lets get back to golf”

  • Sure Staff Member sure! From what I’ve read on here I’ll wait until the dust settles and I know the ownership of mystic is on the up and up before I put my money down to play.

  • Smith’s email address would appear to belong to Mystic’s owner. That’s fine. If the weather is good, why not try out Mystic? For $65 it is a pretty fair deal, actually. That’s probably about the price the club should have started at. See for yourself and let me know whether issues like the lack of services, conditioning (particularly on the second fairway and the back nine) have improved.
    I hope Mr. Berger can put enough cash into the course to make it work. So far it looks like his superintendent has been hamstrung. Maybe that will change.
    We’ll see….

  • Mr. Thompson
    Smith seems to be a responsible staff member of Mystic. It looks like there are still some on board. In any event it’s not me!
    I could not agree more: $ 65 including cart & range is a pretty good deal as a fall rate at MYSTIC!
    What do you know how MYSTIC looks, since yoy have not been @ MYSTIC for the last 5 months? Whatever the course needed was applied! And I can ensure you the course is in very good shape for its 1. full season. It’s a great experience.
    As a matter of fairness I suggest to publish George & Curious links!

  • I think 75% of these comments come from one guy. Apparently he’s really keen on G4G readers trying his course. Go. Take pictures. Get back to me and let me know how your experience was.

  • Course was awesome. Played it on Sunday. I am sure with the right management and clubhouse (when is that going up?) Mystic will come through.

  • Interestingly, while focusing on defending the quality of the course up and down, Berger has never denied the claims by staff members and suppliers that they have not been paid. I think all golfers should step back and ask themselves if they really feel right about playing at a course which appears to take such incredible advantage of people just trying to earn a living. There are just too many high quality courses out there to give any of our golfing dollar to someone who acts this way. No matter how interesting a course it might be, I will not play Mystic again while Berger has any involvement in it.

  • […] GL: You recently wrote a few posts on the troubles at Mystic Golf Course. You had former employees contacting you, golfers you have had good/bad experiences and even the owner has exchanged emails and phone calls with you. This was all news which broke on your blog before it did in traditional media. Do you see your blog one day replacing traditional media? […]

  • I worked at Mystic Golf Club back when it was known as Heritage golf club. Lots of problems during the construction and grow-in time. They had lots of good people who cared and wanted the project to do well. The working conditions were not very good in the beginning. It is very hard to create quality without any resources. I left when there was a huge change in management in the spring of 2005. There was lots of poor decisions made. Lack of equipment, supplies and resources aided in the poor conditions at the club.

  • Don was the GM then. Don was nice to me, it was a tough time then and not the greatest place to work. We were taking one step forward and 3 days later 2 steps back. Lots of problems!!!!!

  • It is quite clear that this Berger was the problem with Mystic failing under him. By all accounts he appears to be in lack of a better word “a crook” and it looks like he has been finally “caught”. You can’t abuse people and suppliers/companies they way he did and get away with it for long.

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