Another Course for Niagara?

Reader Tom sent me this clip from the Welland Tribune about the potential for another high-end golf course in Niagara Falls, even though the last one built — Grand Niagara — is in receivership.

Here’s the story:

A Queenston developer has cleared a major hurdle in his quest to turn a historic limestone quarry into a $50-million tourism and condominium project.

The long-planned makeover of the Queenston Quarry calls for a resort hotel, condos, golf course and winery on the 104-hectare property, which is under the jurisdiction of the escarpment commission.The agency had twice rejected the developer’s planned location for a resort hotel, which didn’t fall within the urban boundary of St. David’s overlapping the quarry property.
A new proposal, to change the shape of the existing urban boundary, got the thumbs up from the commission at a meeting last Thursday, said Frank Racioppo, president of Queenston Quarry Reclamation Co.

Right now, about 12 hectares of the massive limestone quarry property fall within the urban boundary. Racioppo said the proposed changes include stretching those acres into a thin “L”-shape that would allow a Stanely Ave. road access, maximize “condo frontage with dramatic views” and preserve a large forest area that separates the new development from existing neighbourhoods.

Niagara Region and the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake still need to weigh in on the proposed urban boundary changes, as well as other aspects of the massive project like sewer and water servicing.

Racioppo said he hopes that will happen within the next few months, before the fall election.

NEC manager Ken Whitbread said the agency will still have to sign off on the final details of the project, such as number and size of buildings and land uses like vineyards and the golf courses.

This is the same site that St. Catharines G & CC considered for relocation, but whose members turned it down even the possibility of investigating a move in a remarkably short-sighted exercise.  By all accounts this is a really terrific golf site — a full quarry where the holes can play within it.

Racioppo also isn’t an unknown to Ontario golfers. He’s one of the men behind Thundering Waters, which has been far from an overwhelming success artistically or commercially. Yes, and he’s the guy who tried to get John Daly to hit a ball over Niagara Falls.

Whose the designer behind the project? The Queenston Quarry site lists former Ted Baker associate Boris Danoff, the man behind the creation of Royal Ontario, and Dragon’s Fire, as one of the owners of the site.

Niagara Falls’ golf has one big problem — it largely isn’t very good. Sure Stanley Thompson’s Whirlpool is a fine effort, but likely not even among the designer’s top 30 courses. And the Legends courses have underperformed expectations (not surprising when you consider the courses’ media day was Sept. 11, 2001). Sure there are some good ones — like the private Lookout Point or the badly-named Lochness Links (which is apparently going to try to go private). But those are few and far between.

In order to create a golf destination one has to have at least one truly great course. Niagara Falls doesn’t have any.

And I doubt, somehow, that the Queenston Quarry project will change that.

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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.

5 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Thanks for stirring up bad memories RT 😉

    I was one of the members at St. Catharines who voted to pursue the opportunity at Queenston but you’re right – I was in a distinct minority.

    But I must call you out on this piece, as you seem to contradict yourself – you say our membership was foolish not to explore the opportunity on a “really terrific golf site” but at the end of the article, you say that you doubt a great golf course will result.

    Is this solely due to the architect attached to the project currently, as opposed to the architect we were looking at a few years back to handle the design if St. Catharines went forward with the proposal?

  • It’s a great site with really enormous potential.

    The real question is not whether it will be a good golf course, but whether they can make the economic model work considering the complications associated with building on that site. It won’t be a cheap build.

    I wish them luck because I really loved that site.

  • What’s happened to Whirlpool? I thought it was excellent but that was 20 years ago when I last….Quite a good micro climate in that St Davids area, years before assistants could afford to go south for the winter we used to play winter golf there, Bruce Harper introduced me to it.
    What about the Flintkote Quarry in Burlington, great place for a year rround course and sportsfield (talk to Larry Bunkowsky).

  • Legends, Grand Niagara and Thundering Waters all tried to go after the US dollar with their ridiculously high rates. Unfortunately for them, we’ve been at near parity for most (all?) years since those courses opened. Now they are trying to compete with more realistic pricing schemes, but it may be too late. Here’s to hoping we see at least some sub-$50 rates before they shut these courses down…

    By the way: Whirlpool and the-course-formerly-and-rightly-known-as-Hunter’s-Pointe (aka Lochness Links) were the best public courses AND the best local values last season. The former is best played in Spring and Fall, but you never know when you’re going to run into sketchy greens.

    I’ve also heard very good things about Cherry Hill, but have never played there.

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