The Battle for Islington GC — Round Four

Interesting to see the fight over the third hole at Islington G & CC has heated up again, with the club apparently not learning from past mistakes, and the Sammut family being as pigheadedly obstinate as ever.

The history of the battle between the Sammut family, who built their home perversely close to the property line with the golf course, and Islington GC, which has attempted to fix the situation is fairly well outlined in a Toronto Star story. Of course, in typical bleeding heart Star fashion, the article’s leftist bent creeps through what is supposed to be an impartial news story.

Anyway, the essence of the story is this — the Sammut family acquires a property right next to the third hole of Islington and proceeds, despite some protests, to build a home within feet of the course. House starts to get hit by golf balls and the family, who are apparently very dense, are suprised that this is happening. After all, they only built a house next to a golf course.

A court battle ensues and the course hires Cam Tyers of Carrick Design to rework the third hole, so that tee shots are played away from the home. A small fence is erected and the club tells me in an interview that they’ve learned from past mistakes and the problem is apparently resolved.

But it isn’t. The Sammut family continues to bitch. The club offers to build a big fence to protect the house and the family still complains. Eventually, figuring there’s little more they can do, the club goes ahead and builds the fence anyway, cutting down some trees along the way and apparently outraging citizens around Toronto. Except me. I couldn’t care less whether a few trees were taken down. Happens on golf courses all the time. I’d argue we should take more trees down on golf courses.

The Star covers the whole affair in today’s story with the necessary outrage and self-righteousness. I particularly love this quote:

“It’s enough to make one weep,” said one observer.

Indeed it is — though not because four old maples were taken down. More because this silly fight is still continuing. The golf club has done what it can — and on a tight piece of property taking a hole out of play and replacing it is not really an option. Innercity courses across the country should be paying attention to this one and rallying around it — because it is only a matter of time before this happens to another historic course.

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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.

10 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I will not cry for some rich folks who could afford to live next to golf courses.

    What intrigues me is the re-design by Cam Tyers to ‘make the tee shot played away from the houses’. Doesn’t he know that most golfers are slicers, and the more they aim left, the farther right their tee shots would go? Of course, I would be wrong if most members are low-handicappers.

    Perhaps the club should have turned the short par 4 into a par 3 where players will less likely slice their iron-shots into the Schmuck…uhmmm, I meant, Summut house.

  • Congratulations to Islington!

    I am sure the potential $10,000 x 4 tree fine is a drop in the hat for the facility.

    It is extremely disappointing that one unreasonable family was allowed to alter the design of a golf course that has been there 80+ years. Although I believe the net itself will detract from the natural flow of the course, I think the course itself made a wonderful decision of putting there foot down and stopping any further issues stemming from golf balls.

    I wish Islington luck in the future legal battle that I am sure they will have. Perhaps this time, common sense will prevail.

  • very unfortunate problem! I wonder if Gordon Sinclair, CFRB sage for many years, ever had a problem living on Islington CC. Too bad Islington doesn’t use pig manure. At Bayview we had ways to get the neighbours to be golfer friendly!

  • According to sources at the club, the netting will be 80 feet high and 250 feet long. Oh, and the club feels pretty certain it is in the right as far as the trees go. More on this tomorrow.

  • DUR-WOOD: Who cares? Now that’s an interesting question. Ever play golf in an urban centre? See the houses and roads surrounding the course? Consider what could happen … and then get back to me.

  • I live close to Islington and am siding with the Club for two reasons;

    1) the Club has been a great neighbour for to local residents for all the 30 years I have lived nearby. We all enjoy informal access – in both winter and summer, we can take our dogs out for walks at dusk etc, cross country ski in the winter etc. They have a wonderful outdoor space with 000’s of trees and I know for a fact that they also plant new trees every year throughout the course, and spend a lot of time and money making it a very desirable place – of course for the benefit of its members but also to all of us who are permitted informal access. Shame on the small minority of my neighbors who have been enjoying Islington’s property for years and now pontificate, humpff, and criticise the club for putting safety first over that wacknut Sammut when he in fact forced the Club’s hand.

    2) Shame on the ineffective, local councillor for trying to score political points for herself on this issue. This is very typical of Ms Lindsey- Luby. I believe it when I read that Islington tried for months to get some feedback and direction from her months in advance of these trees coming down only to have her fumble and prove her inablity to work with City Staff. She has also made a career of avoiding tough decisions only to make them at the last minutes and only if she thought there was political capital to her benefit.

  • As I understand it, both the city and Islington Golf Club objected to a house being built so close to the club’s property line for the obvious reason that golf balls would stray.
    The Sammut’s were perfectly aware of this but, despite the club’s concerns, went to the OMB and received approval to build beside the landing area of Islington’s third hole. Did they expect the club to stop play so they could enjoy the parkland setting? At one point Mrs. Sammut went as far as to say she wished the club would close.
    Be careful what you wish for Mrs. Sammut, if you persist on getting your way the club could sell its prime real estate to the highest bidder in which case an 80-foot fence might be preferable to being surrounded by high-rise condos.

  • Kudos to Ms George…

    Our members would greatly benefit by selling the property, then turning around and developing another nearby 905-area-prpoerty into a new course & club.

    But what would really be satisfying, would be to close & move the hole (as per their wishes), then have that land used as our new maintenance & composting area with access right at the end of Fairway Dr. (in front of Sammut’s house). I can imagine them sitting in their gazebo enjoying the sights & sounds & smells, as well as the new increased traffic flow.

    They truly don’t deserve the added property value that our course gives them. And now with the new fence, they will have a lot of explaining to do to any prospective buyers.

    I wonder if they want Islington Subway Station & Pearson Airport to go away too – oops, I digressed.

  • One of the reasons I canceled the Toronto Star. A very bad precedent has been set for ALL golf clubs that boarder homes and roadways. It only takes one neighbour with an axe to grind.

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