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Royal Oak golf course closed, its future unclear

Eighty-two-year-old Ray Shillington is shopping around for a new place to play golf after receiving notice that the Royal Oak Golf Club has closed.
Ray Shillington, 82, and his partner, Morene Ferris, stand in front of the closed gates to the Royal Oak Golf Course on Friday. “I'm not happy,” Shillington says. Golf is an integral part of the couple’s social life.

Eighty-two-year-old Ray Shillington is shopping around for a new place to play golf after receiving notice that the Royal Oak Golf Club has closed.

“I’m not happy,” said Shillington, who has been a member since 2001 and lives with his partner, Morene Ferris, in a townhouse on the course.

“We went out Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It was our social life and we really looked forward to it.

“There were sometimes 10 or 12 of us. And afterwards we’d sit and drink coffee, and tear the world apart and put it back together. It was a great life and we’re going to really miss it.”

Shillington has received an email from the Cordero family, owners of the nine-hole course on Marsett Place, informing him that they are closing the course “with sadness and a heavy heart.”

According to the email, the family did everything possible to keep the club running and operational.

“We struggled the last four years and now face the reality that our golf course is not economically viable.”

The email says many Victoria golf courses are struggling to survive and most have lowered green fees and membership rates.

“We have invested dearly and have put our best efforts forward to keep the course open. The only option now is to cease operations.”

Prospect Lake Golf Course closed its doors in November after 41 years.

In July, North Saanich council rejected a plan to turn a portion of the 130-acre Glen Meadows Golf and Country Club into 35 strata-title lots, linked with a community farm.

The email says the Cordero family plans to discuss future use of the property with the District of Saanich. Most of the golf course is within the Agricultural Land Reserve. The property is also zoned for recreation and open space.

“Our family will be exploring other potential uses for the property which can be allowed in the ALR, including what is defined as intensive agriculture,” the email says. “This is necessary in order to generate revenue in the hope of making our business economically viable again.”

The family is open to selling to another golf course operator, but chances of this are slim, says the email.

Shillington said he and other Marsett Place residents are concerned about plans for the 27-acre golf course.

“We don’t want it to be left to go to high grass. We’re hoping that somebody will walk in with lots of money who’d like to have a toy to play with and invest — but that’s not happening with golf courses very much anymore,” he said.

Commercial real estate agent Bob Law, who owns a townhouse at Marsett Place, is also concerned about the closing.

“Either it’s going to sell and reopen or it’s going to go to seed,” Law said. “Development would be almost impossible.”

Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell said the closing of the golf course, which is surrounded by condominiums, raises a lot of questions.

Intensive agriculture could mean high-density seeding — planting rows close together with seeding equipment for a high yield — or greenhouses, said Atwell.

“Anything is possible and more local food production is great,” said the mayor.

“We need to receive some kind of letter of intent or application from that family. But I think it would be worth having a conversation with them myself before that happens.”

Meanwhile, Atwell is hoping that golfers looking for a new home will consider using the Cedar Hill Golf Course, which is owned by the District of Saanich.

“Cedar Hill is doing OK, but we could certainly use the customers,” said Atwell.

The Cordero family could not be reached for comment.