By KYLE SLAVIN
February 7, 2012 · 2:11 PM
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The first time a round of golf was ever played on the lush greens of what’s now known as the Cedar Hill Golf Course was almost 100 years ago.

In the late 1910s and early 1920s, the McRae family, which owned the land, began leasing out part of the property to H.W. Eve to start up a nine-hole course.

Much of the rest of the 133-acre (54 hectare) property was used as a dairy farm. (The Cedar Hill rec centre, built in 1972, now sits where the McRae’s old cattle barn was.)

The McRaes leased out the golf course for $10,000 a year for nearly five decades. In 1951, it expanded to become an 18-hole course.

In November of 1967, after almost two years of negotiations, the District of Saanich expropriated the McRae property for $1.2 million, under the direction of Mayor Hugh Curtis.

The value was nearly half a million dollars higher than what the municipality intended to pay for it, but a provincial arbitration board determined the cost.

Saanich began operating the course in 1971, and a clubhouse was built to coincide with the takeover.

The course was redesigned in 1976, and in 1977 council approved the construction of a driving range and pro shop.

Fire destroyed the 25-year-old clubhouse in May 1996 – two teens were charged with arson – and the new $1.3-million clubhouse that stands today opened in 1997.

Problems with the golf course aren’t new, either. Since at least 1939 the municipality has been getting complaints of errant golf balls damaging surrounding properties.

In 1987, residents in Oak Hills Estates complained about property damage along the (formerly) third hole, and got high netting erected.

Last year, residents living along the 18th hole made similar complaints, and successfully lobbied Saanich to renumber the holes, and plant more trees and shrubs to block the balls from hitting homes and cars along Ocean View Road.

Financially, the course has been seeing numbers slowly decline for almost a decade. Since 2002, the number of rounds played on the course has dropped each year.

By 2008, the golf course and clubhouse began to face deficits. Council commissioned a $40,000 report in 2009 to see how to return the course to profitability. Despite making changes to the operations, the course remained in the red.

In January, Saanich announced it would shut down the restaurant, which would cost taxpayers $500,000 to operate this year if it remains open. Closing the restaurant later this month will save about $100,000 from the operation, which lost $352,000 last year. Combined with a deficit for operating the golf course itself, the entire Cedar Hill operation faces an $818,000 deficit for 2012.

kslavin@saanichnews.com

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