TORONTO — Laurence Applebaum couldn’t help but take it personally when Toronto mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat proposed shutting down some of the city’s public courses.
It didn’t just bother Applebaum as CEO of Golf Canada, it bugged him because Toronto’s public courses are where he first fell in love with the game. When he was 12 his older brother took him to play his first-ever round at Don Valley Golf Course, which has been tabbed by Keesmaat for redevelopment along with Scarlett Woods and Dentonia Park.
“I would never have said I had a home course, I’d say I had a TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) course,” Applebaum said Friday. “Take the bus up to Don Valley or take the bus south on (Victoria) Park to the Pharmacy-Warden area to play Tam O’Shanter (another public course).
“Those are the places I was able to afford and get on.”
Keesmaat recently made a campaign promise that if elected, she would close three of Toronto’s five public golf courses and convert the land to public spaces that are open year-round for no fee. An adult’s green fee for an 18-hole round on a public course in Toronto currently ranges from $27 to $70.50, depending on the course and the day of the week.
“What I’m proposing is that they become recreational spaces where a variety of recreational activities can take place,” Keesmaat told The Canadian Press on Wednesday. “One of the challenges with golf courses is that they’re only open six months of the year, so the other six months of the year that land sits unused and it could be used year-round.”
Applebaum feels that instead of scrapping the golf features from the properties altogether, mixed-use facilities could be added to the courses to make the most of the spaces.
“I think mixed use, in particular non-obtrusive uses like cross-country skiing, recreational ice patches for pleasure skating and hockey, is a brilliant idea,” said Applebaum, who pointed out that St. Andrews in Scotland, the oldest course in the world, is open to the public on Sundays as a park. “There’s probably a half-dozen golf courses that do that today and do it really well.”
A report to Toronto city council in January found that the five city-managed golf courses typically bring in $4.5 million to $5 million per year — not enough to recoup the costs of running them. It also found that the number of rounds played at those courses decreased by about 15 per cent between 2007 and 2016, from 187,000 to 157,965.
Toronto’s 2018-2026 capital plan has identified $9.7 million in improvements needed for all five municipal golf courses.
Golf Canada defended the three courses targeted for closure, saying that in 2016 they had just over 92,000 rounds played. The organization predicted that this year the number will be over 100,000 rounds because of the sport’s growth and better weather.
Toronto city council commissioned a review on all five of its public courses on Jan. 31, with special requests made to look at equity and affordability of access, demographics of …read more