Turf & Rec

News Golf Course Readiness
City of Toronto to adopt hybrid system for its municipal golf course operations

City will remain responsible for maintenance


February 4, 2022
By Turf & Rec

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Toronto’s five city-operated golf courses will continue to operate under a hybrid system in which the city will be responsible for their ongoing maintenance and green fee rate approvals, while pro shop and food-and-beverage operations will be provided by a single private contractor.

City council received the findings of an external review yesterday of city golf operations and adopted recommendations for an improved operating model, enhancing complementary uses and public access and expanding and improving golf programming.

The hybrid operations model pertains to Dentonia Park, Don Valley, Humber Valley, Scarlett Woods, and Tam O’Shanter golf courses.

This model provides safeguards for access, affordability and financial sustainability while leveraging private sector expertise, the city stated in a news release. A negotiated Request for Proposal (nRFP), which provides for a flexible approach to procurement, will be issued in the second quarter of 2022, with an operator selected in time for the 2024 season. Indigenous economic opportunities will be incorporated as a scored element for consideration in the nRFP process.

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The improved hybrid model will provide improvements in customer experience, environmental stewardship, financial performance, and recreational opportunities.

Council also directed city staff to maintain the existing 18-hole golf course structure at Dentonia Park Golf Course, while continuing to explore opportunities for further year-round recreation, multi-use arrangements, increased accessibility and affordability for golf use, and access to Taylor Massey Creek trail ravine.

In order to support expanding access to and improving golf programming, the Welcome Policy, a fee subsidy for recreation programs for families with low incomes, will now be made available for junior golf memberships. Staff will develop strategic partnerships that focus on youth programming and expanding access to the sport.

Staff will also work to develop programming and engagement opportunities to increase access to golf for equity-deserving groups, and will continue to enhance off-season public access to the courses and expand complementary in-season programming. In recent years the city has added a number of off-season and after-hours uses for the courses that include winter snow loops for snowshoeing, fling golf and disc golf. Complementary uses will also focus on opportunities for enhancing environmental stewardship, growing the urban forest, restoring natural areas, and improving ravine access and trail connections, in alignment with the city’s ravine strategy and parkland strategy.

Staff recommendations were informed by extensive public consultation with golfers and non-golfers, and included focus groups, a city-wide virtual meeting, five local community meetings, a market sounding with golf operators and a presentation to the Aboriginal Affairs Advisory Committee. More than 7,000 people were reached as part of the review’s public engagement program.

In spite of a shortened season due to COVID-19-related closures, increased demand for the sport in 2021 resulted in golf courses’ best year performance since 2013, with more than 195,000 rounds played in 2021. This upward trend in golf rates of play was experienced across the country, and reinvigorated interest in the sport.

The city is committed to offering affordable and accessible outdoor recreation options, the city stated in the release, adding Toronto’s courses are all affordable, high quality and TTC-accessible. Information on the courses is available at toronto.ca/golf and details on the review of golf course operations can be found on the City’s website. 

“Throughout our pandemic response, we have done everything we can to provide more access and opportunity for people to get outside and be physically active,” Mayor John Tory said. “Maintaining city golf facilities in a prudent way that delivers a better experience for golfers, supports affordable access to the game for Torontonians and expands opportunities for how we use these spaces year-round is the right thing to do. Providing public access to these areas, primarily in the off-season, creates more opportunities to be outside and active, including for hiking, running, snow-shoeing, or cross-country skiing.”