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What $40 million buys

So what can you get for $40 million? Maybe Vernon Wells under contract for three years? An endorsement deal with Tiger?

Or you could build yourself a 36 hole golf course 45 minutes north of Toronto. The site Golf Course News has an article written about water conservation and golf courses, with a focus on Bond Head, the courses designed by Jason Straka of the firm Hurdzan/Fry.

There are some interesting quotes in the story, including this one that explains how Hurdzan/Fry received the commission to build the course:

Mark Hansen, director of real-estate for Giampaolo Investments, says the land on which Bond Head was built is near the Oak Ridges Moraine, a government-protected area that sits on the largest underground aquifer in Canada. The government planned to restrict development in the area further, but before the proposed restrictions took effect, Giampaolo purchased 1,000 acres of land.

The lay of the land lent itself to a being a links-style course, Hansen says. The biggest thing I wanted was an architect to see and utilize what was there and not move a lot of dirt. I personally interviewed and hired (golf course architect) Jason Straka (of Hurdzan/Fry Design Golf Course Design). Mike Hurdzan flew up here for the meeting. Everybody else sent their minions.

It is fascinating that Hansen, who I have not met, says architects sent “their minions.” I find that hard to believe. I can’t imagine that if they approached Tom McBroom, Doug Carrick, or even American architects like Jack Nicklaus or Tom Fazio, that Bond Head would have received associates to make the pitches for a lucrative 36 hole project. There’s no issue with saying you hired the architect you wanted for the job, but why put down others in the process? This remark seems hard to believe.

Anyway, Hansen apparently really liked Hurdzan, though Straka actually built and designed the course:

Thats what did it for me. He took the time to come here himself. At the same time, we were interviewing him, he was interviewing us. Thats what you want in a good architect. They were a top-notch firm from day one. Theyre world-class.

Apparently the land had some limitations, including water:

A perennially flowing stream named Penville Creek bisects the site, but drawing water out of the creek as needed wasnt permitted. There also are two intermittent streams that feed Penville Creek that were impounded for cattle ponds as part of the sites previous farming use. Additionally, two on-site wells pumped at a rate of 50 gallons per minute (300 gpm is needed for most golf course irrigation systems), but only one of the wells was permitted for use. No municipal water, including potable and effluent, was available for use.
Based on these restrictions, the design team identified five solutions to deal with the water limitations.

One of the big factors the corporation has had is with the decision to use fescue grasses on the south course. Fescue has advantages, but it doesn’t hold up well to cart traffic — and the course found that out quickly in its first year. People are still complaining about course conditions resulting from the decision to allow carts on the new fescue in the first year:

Ian McQueen, the golf course superintendent who oversees both courses, was the assistant at Magna Golf Club in Aurora, Ontario, before coming to Bond Head. McQueen was interested in being part of a grow-in, becoming a head superintendent and maintaining an all-fescue golf course, which hadnt been done on a public golf course in Ontario.

McQueen says theres always been a concern about water, but theres always been enough to capture in the spring. Its just a matter managing it throughout the year.

With fescue, the perception is it doesnt need as much water as bentgrass, which is true, he says. But it needs just as much water as bentgrass when youre establishing it. I never grew in fescue before, and it is much slower than growing in bentgrass. There also are more washouts with fescue. It was challenging.

Challenging is probably an understatement. Nonetheless, the second course, which used bent grass instead of fescue, was in excellent shape from the point it opened. McQueen demonstrated his abilities as a super — and Bond Head North quickly became one of the best conditioned public courses in the Toronto area.

If you want to read the remainder, which focuses on a lot of issues relating to environmental concerns, check out the story here.

So what was the result of all of this? There’s a box at the end of the story that tells the final portion of this tale:

Construction cost (for both courses): About $10 million
Entire project cost (including land and clubhouse): About $40 million.

That explains why the green fees at Bond Head have averaged around $150. Course owners, especially those that spend $40 million building two tracks, will want to recoup some of that — thus the high green fee.

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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.

3 CommentsLeave a comment

  • $40 mil sure sounds like a lot. $10 for construction, maybe $6 for the clubhouse and buildings? $5 to 7 for the land? I wonder where the rest of the $ went?

  • Rob;

    Nice article on The Club at Bond Head. To set the record straight, our firm was never invited to submit a proposal on this project. I met with the owner of the land Jim Cerswell, approx. 15 years ago to discuss his plans for a golf course on his property. I was disappointed that we were not asked to bid on the project years later when they finally went ahead. Also for the record, when we are invited to look at a new golf course project, I always go to meet the prospective client myself. I don’t just send “my minions” (a very distasteful term I would never use)

    It’s unfortunate this is insinuated in Mr. Hansen’s comments.

    Best regards;
    Doug

  • Little amounts of dirt!!!
    I didn’t know that five hundred thousand cubic meters was small. I would hate to see large amounts of dirt moved….LOL!!! I do agree on the superintendent, he is no doubt one of the best in the industry.

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