Changes planned for The Bridges at Till­son­burg

Lo­cal golf course pre­pares for the fu­ture

Tillsonburg News - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

Chris ab­bott/Till­Son­burG newS

The Bridges at Till­son­burg will be un­der­go­ing changes, but the own­ers wanted to no­tify the com­mu­nity the course has not been sold.

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