Changes planned for The Bridges at Tillsonburg
Local golf course prepares for the future
The future of recreational golf is changing and the Bridges at Tillsonburg is making plans for that change. Contrary to the many rumours around town and social media, the course has not been sold!
Through a media release, they identify planned changes.
A proposal is in the works with Tillsonburg Developments Inc. (TDI) to develop a portion of the upper holes into an adult community with both freehold residential lots and townhomes.
TDI already has an established track record with the successful build out of Baldwin Place and is a good reason the owners of the golf course sought out this developer to transform part of The Bridges.
The “Bridges Estates,” if approved, could see site servicing starting after the 2019 golf season. Access would be off Baldwin St. east of Holland Gate and would be comprised of 37 large frontage lots, and 11 townhomes overlooking the existing Hole 5 and the rear of the clubhouse. The proposed entrance off Baldwin would include a path to Mulligans Place so town residents will enjoy much easier access to all facilities.
The Tobogganing Agreement with the Town will be maintained but with the facilities relocated to the hill at Hole 6 with a new pathway provided from the existing parking area. Provisions for a larger driving range would also be incorporated into the new plans.
The configuration of the golf course will ultimately be 12 spectacular holes but the final layout has yet to be confirmed. The proposal is to have Holes 1 and 12 on the top with 10 holes remaining on the back. The existing maintenance facility, putting green, driving nets and parking lot would remain unchanged. The clubhouse and adjacent buildings will get a major exterior facelift to reflect the Craftsmen type construction of the new homes and offer more comfortable seating inside and out.
The Bridges at Tillsonburg was first opened in 1925 and operated as the Tillsonburg Golf & Country Club, as a nine-hole course until the expansion to 18 holes in July 2009.
The expansion was actually planned years in advance by a committee of dedicated shareholders eager to bring the course up to an 18 hole standard to ensure it would survive the test of time.
Over $3 million later and with the help of in kind construction and donations from several local companies and individuals, the Bridges at Tillsonburg was born. The new holes in the valley were on leased land owned by the municipality and this investment completely transformed the south west entrance to the town. The facility was further enhanced with the construction of the Carroll Trail meandering through the course.
unfortunately, the stock market downturn of 2008 did nothing to help the newly reconfigured course. This combined with poor playing weather the first two seasons, the course was never able to pull itself out of operating debt. Despite obtaining a very generous refinancing package in 2011, which allowed the Bridges to make a deal with the town for the land in the flood plain, the course was never able to meet its financial obligations to the lender.
after an unsuccessful attempt to have the shareholders shore up the finances in august 2013, the lender hired forensic accountants and global golf from Toronto to analyze the operation. a decision was made to close the course early that november and after all the reports were in, the loan was called meaning there would be no more golf course in the town.
Key members of the greens staff were kept on through the winter by the lender until the course was sold on april 1, 2014 to a group of local businessmen which also included the lender and they reopened the course for play that season.
Significant improvements have been made to the course over the last four and a half years and it has never been in better shape, but like many golf courses the operations continue to struggle to breakeven.
Interestingly, the changes being considered now, were one of the fall back options laid out by the consultants in the winter of 2014 should the course prove not to be profitable in the long term.
The owners have worked diligently towards a break even scenario, but that has not happened and they have continually needed to contribute funds annually to the operation for golf to be enjoyed by its patrons. So what to do?
Twelve hole recreational courses are springing up across the country, constructed to match the demographics of the future golfer. older golfers who have patronized 18 hole courses like The Bridges for years, will eventually be leaving the sport. Many younger golfers with families are too busy with their children’s activities and often there isn’t enough time for the average golfer to spend four to six hours out of a day to play a round. It is also true that many people find the sport too challenging and therefore frustrating, because they cannot put the time and effort into their game to make it enjoyable. If the game was made easier, it could attract new patrons.
The great Jack nicklaus has gone on record to say that golf has to be made enjoyable for people to play and if that means playing less holes, then so be it. There will always be the traditional 18 hole courses in the area that one can treat themselves to playing when the opportunity arises.
It is the sincere intent to please as many as possible and at the same time ensure a plan that maintains financial viability to keep the great product we have for many years, hopefully generations. ownership is particularly sensitive and thankful to all the patrons that supported the course as 18 holes. The new 12 hole layout will allow 18, 12 and 9 hole play. Flexibility is the future and players of all skill level are welcome at the Bridges at Tillsonburg.
unfortunately this information could not be released until a feasibility study was presented to the owners. In the meantime, this has led to speculation and rumors putting everyone in a difficult position. It is clear from public interest there is a lot of passion surrounding the course and that is respected.
More information will be released in the coming months as the project moves through the approval process.
The Bridges at Tillsonburg will be undergoing changes, but the owners wanted to notify the community the course has not been sold.