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At Magna GC With Stephen Bebis

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This morning I’ll be heading to Magna GC to play a round with Stephen Bebis, the founder of Golf Town, for the book I’ve been working on.

A couple of things strike me. One Bebis is in the process of relinquishing control of GT. The company has pretty much been sold to OMERS, who have made a $214-million offer on the income trust. The full story is here.

I have no idea — yet — what effect the sale will have on Bebis. GT is the second big box store the American has created in Canada, and it was a concept I was pretty sure would never fly when I first went to the grand opening of the superstore on Kennedy more than a half decade ago. I was wrong — the concept has pretty much revolutionized golf retail in Canada.

The same can’t be said for Magna GC. A well conditioned member’s course, Magna was all that was discussed when it first opened. Having opened in 2001, I had the chance to play Magna before the members, with then managing director David Kaufman. It was certainly in remarkable condition for a new course and the rumors of sky-high entrance fees in excess of $100,000 were being widely discussed.

But the truth was that, given that it was built on a piece of property behind Magna owner Frank Stronach’s headquarters, Magna was only a good, not great course. Time has pretty much proven that thought correct. The course tends to be ranked by my peers in the 20-30 spots in the country, a touch too high in my mind.

That said, there is no denying Magna’s success in attracting those who wanted a high-end private experience with all the bells and whistles. Those that joined want valet parking and guys walking around with headsets saying “thank you Mr. _____” every six seconds. And they want a guy who cleans your seven iron after a single shot. That’s what they want. And they pay well to get it.

For me, I’d prefer something a little more on the low down. I don’t need all the frills, but then I’m not paying $100K to join a club now, am I?

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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.

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