Frustrated golfer offering to rent or lease the now closed River Road
LONDON, ONT. -- If the City of London doesn’t want to reap the revenues of River Road Golf Course, a London golf member says he will gladly take the course off the city’s hands.
Angus Johnson is among a number of members frustrated over city council’s decision late last month to close the east London course for the season over projected losses of up to $80,000. He has written a letter to Mayor Ed Holder offering to lease or rent the golf course himself for $15,000.
"I don’t see how someone in Ontario could lose money on a golf course this summer," said Johnson.
Johnson points to a city staff report which says the more popular Fanshawe and Thames Valley courses, which remain open, will lose a combined $200,000 this season. He maintains that figure also includes the cost of closing River Road, but still maintaining it.
And in fact, basic maintenance is being performed on the course, including cutting the fairways and greens, but city councillor Shawn Lewis said that’s just to protect the asset, so the fairways don’t turn to "scorched earth."
Johnson said he doesn’t think River Road was given due consideration.
"They were looking for a way to sort of say ‘Okay we know we’re going to have budget losses 'cause of COVID. Here’s a way we can help cut some of those losses.’ So River Road became kind of like the kind of COVID poster child."
This season, members at City of London courses have grown increasingly upset over tee-time availability, saying it’s tough to get onto the courses this year.
It even resulted in an unsanctioned protest round being played at River Road earlier this month.
In fact, the pandemic has made golf an attractive activity this year. According to Golf Canada, rounds of golf in the month of June were up 17 per cent over one year earlier.
But the amount of golfers wanting to play doesn’t tell the whole story, according to Lewis. The east London councillor said unlike the other courses, River Road is not suitable for the more lucrative ventures around golf.
"Golf operations pay for golf, but that includes things like tournaments, wedding rentals at the facilities, banquets, all those kind of extra things that go around, that bring in additional revenue that support golf. Without those this summer we are going to lose almost $200,000 on the courses we have open, and River Road opening would only add to that hole."
Lewis added that any serious offer to rent or lease a city golf course would have to be vetted by legal staff. He said he hopes River Road can re-open next year.