The battle over Bear Mountain

Bear Mountain: Nine holes to close?

I’ve been on holiday for a week (thus the lack of posts), but this story caught my eye just before Christmas. Turns out that Bear Mountain, the course in Victoria that is in receivership, is seeking to close nine holes of its 36-hole Jack Nicklaus designed courses. Both courses rank in SCOREGolf’s Top 100, making it the first time a Top 100 course could close, though I hear there’s rumours that if a buyer isn’t found for Dundarave in PEI, it could close as well.

Turns out some of the residents of Bear Mountain aren’t thrilled about the possibility it could close nine holes (source: Times Colonist):

The Bear Mountain Community Association this week launched an awareness campaign including a petition, door-to-door meetings and letter writing to members of the City of Langford’s planning committee as it tries to slow down the resort’s plans.

“We have put together the BMCA to try and fight the rezoning application,” said Brian Dunne, one of the organizers. “If we can stop the rezoning, at least temporarily, then possibly they will be forced to move in another direction. Maybe they will have to put it on the market and sell it, and hopefully someone else will come in with a different view that this golf course is worth saving.”

The plane is to cut back on the number of condos and cuts costs by eliminating part of one of the courses:

The plan slashes an earlier development concept from more than 3,000 total units to fewer than 2,000, and its two 18-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses will be cut down to 27 holes.

The plan calls for new detached homes — a proposed 435 compared to the 185 conceived of in 2006 — and trims the number of possible condos to 1,281 in five neighbourhoods.

There are also plans for an eight-kilometre walking and biking trail, more parkland and access to land previously accessible only to golfers.

Bear Mountain Holdings proposes to use half of one of its golf courses for some of those new homes, and in turn it expects to solve the money-losing proposition of running 36-holes when demand is waning.

Problem is there doesn’t seem to be much reasoning for keeping both courses, at least from those talking about a lawsuit:

Louis Barbeau, one of the golf course’s original members, said he agrees with Bear Mountain Land Holdings’ assertion there wasn’t enough demand to warrant a second golf course, but the Bear Mountain resident said there has to be a better option than cutting away nine holes.

“Once they [develop on the course], there’s no turning back,” he said, noting not only will Langford lose its only 18-hole golf course — the other Bear Mountain course is in Highlands — the Bear Mountain golf brand will lose its lustre and people who have invested in homes in the area could face reduced property values.

I bet that nine holes at Bear Mountain go this year — and we lose at least 18 in PEI.



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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.

8 CommentsLeave a comment

  • When I first played Bear Mountain, the Mountain Course (Valley wasn’t open to the public yet) what struck a cord with me were the Par 3’s. The were solid, magestic even. We couldn’t play the Signature 19th (irritating) which is a Kodak moment overlooking Victoria. The course was virtually empty, and clearly didn’t need 18 more holes. What Bear Mountain should do is utilize their natural terrain and elevation (and the 19th Hole) and create a picturesque 9 Hole, Par 3 Course to compliment the remaining 18 holes. I would also enhance the Practice Facility as well. People on The Island need to play a ‘quick 9’ to catch the ferry, a plane, work etc. on a daily basis. Less clubs to carry, lighter bag and 9 holes. Walk it! Great for kids and people of all ages. Not to mention less condos and more houses, more parkland and walking trails…

  • Remember the old IBM course? It’s now Markham Green and only nine holes with the 407 running through it and houses up top. That was a solid track and now it’s just a mediocre. What a shame.

  • Its been a while since I played Dundarave and agree with strongly with @Frank that this is a shame. What I struggle with is why keep Brudinell and close Dundarave? As I recall they share the same property and have common ownership…

    • Jeff,

      Because on the same day the locals will play 160 rounds on Brudenell and “tourists” will make up less than 40 on Dundarave. The locals don’t like the course because it’s too hard and they can’t walk the course.

  • there is a vacuum* of golf management talent in Canada. Sadly the bean counters make too many easy decisions without proper input from knowledgeable golf people, somehow the marketing people get the projects started on the wrong foot, then the golf staff is told what the “plans” are, then the banks call to ask why the project is stalling, bingo, great properties close.

    Box Grove (IBM) was a great private course for one person, then it sold to IBM who turned it over to their employees who couldn’t run it, so they sold out and did quite well – I’m glad I got to play it in the 1970s.

    Dundarave (PEI) is a good 17 hole course, could easily be operated properly, but sadly is another victim of missed management. I played it on 2001, loved most of the course but couldn’t understand their “plan”.

    *there are quite a few good owner-operators but not many good hired hands available in Canada (IMHO)

  • Gary… just to set the record straight, IBM employees ran the course efficiently for 20 years and only when IBM realized they were in dire straights in the early 90s did they decide to sell it. It made no sense to continue to operate a golf course when thousands of people were losing their jobs. So…they sold off 9 holes above the flood plain (the other nine are basically Markham Green) and made a handsome profit. At the time, it was a very emotional decision for the IBMers who had one of the best perqs of any company in Canada.

    Just as an aside, prior to the acquisition of Box Grove, IBM had a 9 hole course
    on Leslie St about midway between Lawrence and York Mills. It was shortish but well maintained and backed on to the Old Windfields Farms of E.P. Taylor (and Northern Dancer) . At the time, it was common to see EPT on a Sunday morning ride when we were playing that old course.

  • CG thanks for the correction on IBM. Speaking of IBM efficiently, I recall one holiday Monday when all the student workers were at work, seemed like dozens of them. When I asked N*** why so much staff, he told me because they got triple pay for holidays no one would take the day off, they all wanted to work.
    Most were sons and daughters of IBMers, great kids by the way. I was ding some teaching there.

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