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Since 2018, at least two other developers made offers for Beacon Hall Golf Club that were not put to a vote.Aaron Vincent Elkaim/The Globe and Mail

For the fourth time in three years, real estate developers are attempting to snap up top-rated Beacon Hall Golf Club by offering members $1-million each for the Toronto-area property.

Argo Development Corp. and Paradise Developments Inc. – two established Ontario homebuilders – bid $260-million this month for the 200-acre private club in Aurora, Ont., according to two members of the club. The Globe and Mail is not naming these sources as they are not permitted to speak for the club. Executives at Beacon Hall and the two developers declined to comment.

The rising value of offers for Beacon Hall, and its members’ decisions to turn down previous overtures, have illustrated the tension between soaring prices for single-family homes around Toronto and the popularity of golf, as play surged during the pandemic.

Beacon Hall is rated among the top courses in Canada and is owned by its 260 members, many of whom are Bay Street financiers. They are expected to vote on the new offer in January, after narrowly turning down a $250-million bid for the property in March from developer Treasure Hill Homes.

Since 2018, at least two other developers made offers for the golf course that were not put to a vote, including a bid in April from Harlo Capital, a Toronto-based real estate private-equity fund.

In a letter to members in early December, the Beacon Hall board said the offer from Argo and Paradise is “materially different” from the Harlo and Treasure Hill transactions. The latest bid includes a $25-million non-refundable deposit if members approve the deal, and fewer conditions related to winning approval from owners of nearby condominiums. If a project were to move ahead quickly, the developers offered to increase the purchase price by $10-million.

Memberships at Beacon Hall, which opened in 1988, cost between $40,000 and $80,000, depending on when they were purchased, plus an annual fee, so the sale could represent a potential lottery-sized payday. Development proposals have divided the clubhouse, with many younger golfers wanting to cash out, while older, retired members want to continue playing at a club that has played host to a qualifying tournament for the U.S. Open.

Beacon Hall is one of the few undeveloped properties to border on two major Toronto-area thoroughfares – Yonge Street and Bayview Avenue. Mansions in nearby neighbourhoods sell for more than $5-million; one 13-bedroom home backing onto the course is listed for $13.8-million.

In the face of previous offers for the club, Aurora Mayor Tom Mrakas has said the sale of Beacon Hall “would be a tremendous loss” for the community. A portion of the course runs through the Oak Ridges Moraine, a protected area. Mr. Mrakas said while the town has no authority over the sale, it will ensure any new owners conform to the town’s planning guidelines, which cap development at two homes per acre.

If Beacon Hall is sold, the new owner would likely build homes on about 70 per cent of the property and turn the remainder into parkland. A similar approach is playing out at nearby York Downs Golf and Country Club, a 27-hole course in Markham that sold six years ago for $412-million, or approximately $200,000 per member. Builders plan to put 2,400 detached homes and townhouses there.

Interest in golf soared over the past two years, with the number of rounds played across Canada in 2021 rising 13.8 per cent from the previous record-setting year, according to the National Golf Club Owners Association Canada. The industry group said golf generates more than $18-billion a year for the Canadian economy, in everything from greens fees, equipment purchases, travel and food and beverage sales.

Across Canada, a number of urban golf courses have been turned into neighbourhoods. The most recent statistics from Golf Canada, the sport’s national governing body, said 51 courses shut down between 2015 and 2018, including 19 in Ontario. In the same period, 22 new courses were either launched or under construction.

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