By Mike Jiggens
About mid-November, I received a news release about the sale of a high-end golf course in British Columbia to a new ownership group which is planning a number of improvements.
The release included a rather impressive-looking photograph of the golf course’s ninth hole. It was a picture postcard-quality photograph. Immediately, I wanted to know more about this course, beyond what was provided for me in the news release.
Because we’re based in southern Ontario, there are many, many golf courses elsewhere in Canada which either I’ve never heard of before or know little about. This was one of them, in spite of the fact that it has garnered several accolades from leading golf publications by being named best new golf course in Canada in 2009 by both Golf Digest and SCOREGolf, and figuring into top 10 and top 100 lists for such categories as best modern course and best course outside the United States.
The golf course I’m referring to is called Sagebrush Golf & Sporting Club which was designed by architect Rod Whitman, former Tour golfer Richard Zokol and agronomist Armen Suny. The reason I knew little about the course beforehand is because virtually all of my golf is played in Ontario and I rarely get to play outside of the province.
Nevertheless, the photograph alone which accompanied the news release was reason enough to want to learn more about Sagebrush. By simply typing “Sagebrush Golf” into the Google search window, links to several newspaper sites came up. These news websites featured stories about the golf course from the past year or so, but the news accounts weren’t exactly what Iâ€ˆwas expecting to read.
I thought I might see something similar in nature to the news release that had been emailed to me about the change in ownership. The stories Iâ€ˆread online, however, painted a bit of a darker picture.
In spite of its sunny, new direction, a bit of a dark past had existed. Most noteworthy was a lawsuit Zokol launched against the previous ownership, claiming unpaid design fees. The previous owners, in turn, filed a counter suit against Zokol over some of the $ 40 million-plus they invested into the property.
Prior to its sale in November to the Newmark Group of Langley, B.C., Sagebrush was trying to resolve a zoning issue which stipulated its on-site cottages could not be used in a hotel-like manner. Its previous ownership claimed the facility was losing about $ 125,000 a month and that the losses would only escalate without the cottage revenue.
Interesting stuff. Still, the golf course itself continued to earn rave reviews from various golf publications and from golfers themselves.
Perhaps now that Sagebrush is in new hands, we’ll see a new strategy that will turn its fortunes around and it can start to receive some positive media coverage.
The story of the sale appears on page 48 of this issue, but I decided to leave all of those aforementioned skeletons in the closet.