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Wanted: Golf Course — ClubLink eyes the market

The industry is a buzz with discussion about ClubLink’s apparent offers to buy or lease courses in an attempt to expand its growth. Industry insiders have indicated the organization has made offers on the Club at Bond Head, Mystic Golf Club, Rebel Creek and Whistle Bear.

Sources tell me all of the offers have been rejected, with one source saying the offer for Bond Head, which has more than $40 million in costs to date, was far too low. Mystic GC’s (or “Mistake Golf Club” as it is referenced by those in the industry) financial situation has apparently not been rectified, but that doesn’t mean the owner is going to sell at a low price. Whistle Bear is going to attempt going private this year, leaving Rebel Creek with the high-end public market in the Kitchener-Waterloo area.

I wonder why ClubLink would be so interested in the Kitchener market, an area where they have no presence currently? Mystic, on the other hand, makes a lot of sense.

Note: Late last night I received a note from a reliable source saying ClubLink may have acquired Royal Woodbine, though that rumour has been around the block before.

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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.

22 CommentsLeave a comment

  • E P Taylor made Canadian Brewers what it was by buying up ALL the competition. I’ve been away from Canada too long but I could never figure out what Clublink was all about. Tim O’Conner, let’s have a book about Clublink-Smoke and Mirrors?

  • I know it may never happen, but I hope I am still around when Clublink goes belly up.

    Nothing they have done is good for the average Joe golfer who just wants a chance to play some top end courses but has financial limitations.

  • WK…..What’s to stop you from playing Osprey Valley, Eagles Nest and other great public courses? Do the National, St George’s, Hamilton owe it to you to be able to play their courses too?

  • Yes , true enough “Not a Fan”. There are a lot of Clublink haters out there who blame clublink for everything from rising Public Golf costs, to less courses being available. Truth is its a saturated over priced market, with or without Clublink.
    They clean out my wallet, but they gave my wife & I joined clublink 5 years ago it was still a better all around deal then joining a snooty exclusive club that had to have 3 people vouch for our good characters.
    Go Clublink, all the power to it.

    RB

  • I can think of almost 80 courses within 200 km of toronto that are better than 80% of what clublink has. It is true that clublink has lots of great courses, but there is nothing wrong with the concept and the members deserve to play great golf. Cost wise, if you golf 30 rounds a year at some top courses, you can justify a silver membership. Clublink will likely never go away, rumor has it from a clublink staff member, they will aquire 17 courses before 2010.

  • ClubLink will fall hard. Maybe not in the near future, but, the company will struggle. Outside of the Board and Mr. Sahi(Business People) the top people at CL will not keep this pace. On the golf operations side they have (two dummies) to put it nicely, running the Co.. If not for Great(for the most part young) Golf Pros at the majority of the Clubs, this company would be long gone!!!!

  • I hear a lot of criticism of Clublink…. I am a student in the London area addicted to good golf…. and it was costing me a fortune, and the initiations at all the private clubs here are tough when you feel you also may be leaving the city in years to come… Clublink because I’m under 25 allows me to initiate over 15 years interest free at one of there cheapest courses in their system, giving me playing privilege at several Championship courses and the day I decide I want to relocate I can transfer my membership and pay the difference plus a transfer fee… so for roughly $1500 a year… I have a plethora of golfing options and don’t have to worry about moving…. Clublink effectively catered to someone my age that would hope to join a nice club in the future, but let me do it now…. They surpassed the short sightedness of some private clubs that seem to be running into an aging membership base but due to pride refuse to open their doors to someone like me…. As for driving up public golf costs? I grew up in Niagara…. and without clublink’s presence golf was expensive to begin with and continues to climb at a rate unaffected by clublink’s influence…. The GTA could be a different story…. but bottom line… I have a hard time listening to people trash a company because they applied proper business principles to a specific service that seemed to think that such principles shouldn’t apply…. especially after they’ve opened up great golf to me for a very reasonable rate….

  • Elliot,

    Nice post. But tell me, do you think Greenhills GC in London is the calibre of a “private club”. If you had to pay their full adult rate would it be worth it?

  • I’ve joined this year at Greenhills and have to agree with Elliot S. who seems like a pretty bright student. It’s more affordable than most clubs. AND my husband and I have made a point this year of playing at as many of the different courses as we can… we’ve only missed a few, and they are gorgeous, well designed, well maintained courses… with great clubhouses. How can you compare that to the public courses (with leaves and debris covering the greens) or (the cost and limitations of) the private courses?

    Now that I’m a member, we no longer have to keep checking the rates and looking for the downside… because there is none.

    Long live Clublink!

  • Joe,

    I agree If I had the choice in London I would join any of the private courses here over Greenhills as well as Firerock or Forest City.

    However I’ve played the Hunt Club and The Oaks and with the exception of conditioning at the Hunt I’ve had just as enjoyable rounds at Heron, Glencairn and Blue Springs. I’ll admit that there is a sense of entitlement when you watch a short wedge suck back on a green because the it is in perfect condition but as far as good golf at a good rate goes Clublink seems to do the trick and has some good tracks.

    So a lot of it for me is being able to play the GTA courses when I’m in the region or feel like a drive. However, your point is taken.

  • Eliot,

    Tell me, do you think Clublink has any interest at all in developing in the London area? Wouldn’t you think they would have bought a few courses in the last 10 years if that were the case?

    Joe

  • No I don’t and I’ve heard they said it was a mistake they ever tried… If Clublink could buy one or even two good courses in the area they would attract a lot of the market I believe….

    Imagine if they added something like Forest City, St. Thomas (Union), or Ironwood in Exeter, Tarandowah hit hard financial times at one point… I imagine there are excellent reasons why they can’t get any of these courses whether it’s leased land or owners not selling but I have to think Clublink would make some money from developing the 401 West Axis buying up courses in Kitchener-Waterloo, London and Area and even taking a shot at Niagara.

    Sadly it seems like they have no intention and will let Greenhills sit on its own while they keep after Toronto and the Muskokas due to the property potential.

    However for me a frequent Toronto traveler having my membership at Greenhills and being able to get out to those courses for less than a few grand a year… hard to beat.

  • I looked at both the http://www.londongolfclub.ca and the gta. It is only my opinion but I do not believe I would ever join one of those clubs. A friend of mine says availability is a joke at the higher demand courses and he does not want to play their average or below average courses. He also advised their customer service is seriously lacking. That being said, I know some people who don’t mind staying up all night to get first chance at booking the better courses do save some money.

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