Hello everyone and welcome back to another season of golf! I’m Sandy Macdonald PGA Professional who many of you may know as the author of “Play Your Best Golf” a weekly golf column that appeared in the Anchor for many years. Today I am back, writing an article to address the situation at Lakeside Greens which has Slokker Homes now owning 50% of the golf course and their plans to have the golf course rezoned from special recreation to residential. If this rezoning goes ahead, they are planning on building 1200 units of condos, townhouses, apartments and single family residences over the next 10 years along with additional bike paths and a “main street” for retail enterprises.
I find it disturbing that our city council and/or city residents could even think about entertaining doing this when we are already under massive residential development with Chelsea, Dawson Landing, Waterford, Kinniburgh and all the other lands already zoned for residential. Never mind the fact that we would be doing this at the expense of losing our only golf course which has been an integral part and a showcase to Chestermere’s identity for the past 30 years. So let’s look at what benefits the golf course brings to the community of Chestermere and what we stand to lose.
Benefits of Golf and having a golf course in your community.
I won’t go into great detail on each point but here are some of the benefits we find golf and our golf course has to offer.
Aesthetics. You don’t have to golf to enjoy the beauty and the manicured grounds of a golf course. Only 15 of Lakeside’s members actually live on the golf course with the remainder choosing to live there to enjoy the green space and vistas out their back doors. I live on the lake but I don’t have a boat and rarely go in the water. I choose to live on the lake to enjoy sitting on the water, watching the activities and the peacefulness that water brings. Our golf course is just like our lake offering an oasis of quiet landscape in the centre of our city for all to enjoy whether you live on it or are simply walking, biking or driving by it.
Provides Wildlife a Habitat. The roughs, trees and ponds/marshes on our golf course is home to an amazing number of animals and species of birds. We are on a migratory path and a part of a water drainage network that would be devastating to wildlife if lost.
Over 30,000 rounds were played at Lakeside last year! This course is used by thousands who visit our city, see what Chestermere has to offer and they support local businesses with their traffic and wallets.
Employment. Our golf course employs dozens of adults and students each year. It is a great source for summer jobs for students and young people which for many, it is their first job, gaining work experience and learning to interact on a business level with adults. This is invaluable.
Added home values. All of the homes on the golf course are worth more than if they had a condo in their backyard. Having a golf course in our city adds to the value of our community and makes Chestermere a more desirable place to live making your home that much more desirable. Condos, apartments and townhomes filling up the centre of our city with years of construction and noise will do the exact opposite.
Junior golf and leagues. Lakeside Greens has built an amazing junior program that had over 200 participants last year and it is growing! I have written extensively how golf offers juniors a chance to build character and learn a game for a lifetime. We have one of, if not the best Men’s Nights in Calgary and the area. Last year we were full with 144 participants and a waiting list. We have a vibrant and growing Ladies league with over 80 women. And of course, golf courses provide a great place for seniors to interact, get exercise and socialize. We lose all of this if we lose our golf course.
Improved mental and physical health! Last year was a banner year across the globe with most countries reporting a 25% increase in the demand for golf. Covid was the main reason for this resurgence because golf provided a safe outdoor experience and a release for the anxiety the pandemic created. This year will be no different as we have already seen golf courses packed and bookings sold out for this Easter long weekend. Unfortunately covid may be with us for quite some time and our need for golf courses will remain high and therapeutic.
Friendships, family activity, business relationships and fun! Golf provides all of these and means different things for different people but the bottom line is, it is a sport that is fun to play and enjoyed by millions around the world. It offers great exercise, it’s a challenge but it also offers great camaraderie at a time when we need it most. We can’t afford to lose that.
Slokker Homes and Lakeside Greens Ownership claim that Lakeside Greens is Unviable.
Slokker and Lakeside Greens ownership claim the golf course is unviable and therefore should be rezoned to residential for the development of 1200 condos, townhomes apartments and single family residences. At this point they have not officially put in an application for rezoning nor have they presented a plan for their development ie. number of condos etc. or where they would go, their road system, schools, or just a general overlay as to what their proposed community would actually look like including the “main street” and the impact these 1200 residences, the added population and vehicles would do to the infrastructure and the day to day workings of our city centre. How will their “main street” impact our current businesses?
As a resident of Chestermere since 1986 and a member of the PGA of Canada with over 20 years of experience in golf course management and as a former employee at Lakeside Greens and a current member I would like to address this claim of unviability and inform the public accordingly.
Firstly, Lakeside Greens has always treated me well and I have no grievances with them. Yes I believe they have every right to sell their golf course or continue on operating it as a golf course, if they so choose. However, they do not have the right to have it rezoned for development because of a poor business model or a claim they are unviable. Just as any other business in Chestermere does not have the right to rezone if they were to provide a report that claims they are losing money just so they can put up condos on their location. Especially, if that report was paid for by the party interested, and the financials were unaudited with the disclaimer that all information provided to the consultant is deemed to be true.
The fact is the golf course is viable. Lakeside had a profitable year last year and they will again this year with the resurgence and demand for golf. To quote an article from the Calgary Sun earlier this year from Slade King who oversees 4 Calgary area golf courses, “We’re expecting another busy golf season. That’s what we’re ramping up for,” King said. “We’re cautiously optimistic but the industry as a whole has a lot of golfers that picked up the sport last year for the first time, a lot of people returning to the sport, a lot of people playing more golf than they ever had before.”
Golf is still profitable and golf is booming. It’s taking off in all age groups and will continue to grow as predicted by golf industry analysts. Just try booking a tee time! This Easter long weekend, every golf course in the Chestermere area was open and fully booked, but one. Sadly, Lakeside Greens, while claiming to be unviable, saw no urgency to try and open up to cash in on our early start and the long weekend of green fee revenue. Even the driving range remained closed. Slokker Homes and the Lakeside ownership will tell you that golf is a dying sport and keep pushing unviability as they are selling a narrative that simply isn’t true hoping to cash in on the tens of millions of dollars of high density development, at the expense of their members, the City of Chestermere and it’s residents. Make no mistake, Slokker and Lakeside ownership will say and do anything to win this argument for rezoning and the subsequent cash windfall. I will gladly debate their report claiming unviability, the state of the golf industry and their list of inevitable and upcoming capital expenses. Many of those expenses are unnecessary and have severely inflated costs attached to them so as to show they are unviable to form a plea for their case.
We have a local group from Chestermere that have put forth a proposal at a fair market value to buy the golf course. It is clear the Lakeside ownership has lost its passion for operating a golf course and Slokker has no interest in golf at all. This offer to purchase alone tells us the golf course is a viable business enterprise. There is no need for our city council to consider rezoning and adding to the more than abundant residential housing being developed currently. We already have plenty of additional property taxes to come into our coffers down the road. The City of Chestermere is in good shape for expansion and development into the future as it stands now and with a golf course. To lose our golf course and all it brings to our community in exchange for greed and overdevelopment will forever be a regret and a stain on our city and city council, if passed, for ever. We can’t afford to let this happen.
Keeping our golf course is vital in keeping Chestermere’s identity, providing recreation for all ages, creating value in our community, protecting our environment and maintaining a 30 year old enterprise that has provided so much fun, exercise, well being and quality of life for our friends and family and allowed us to grow, learn and to challenge ourselves.
I believe it is in the best interest of all residents of Chestermere to have our city council address this controversial and unpopular issue immediately and simply vote that Chestermere is not interested in rezoning the golf course or any other lands into residential at this time due to the abundance of residential land already zoned and under construction. If you agree, write to our Mayor and write to our councillors and let them know how you feel or send them this article.
On a lighter note, I will end by wishing you all a great season of golf! Enjoy the outdoors with your family and friends and all that golf has to offer and hopefully, this is the year you…play your best golf!