Rick Mitchell is one of many Dentonia regulars who is unhappy with Soknacki's proposal

East end golfers apprehensive about Dentonia Park’s fate

Is Toronto's most famous executive course on its last legs?

Regulars at the Dentonia Park Golf Club can sleep a little easier after learning that David Soknacki withdrew from Toronto’s mayoral race on Tuesday.

In May, the candidate proposed transforming the municipal executive course into a cricket pitch and multi-purpose park facility to better serve the interests of the surrounding South-Asian community.

Local golfer Rick Mitchell, however, is worried that the groundwork for the future demise of his favourite golf course has been laid.

“It’s the only place the I can afford to play at,” said Mitchell, who learned to play at Dentonia shortly after retiring a few years ago. “If they raised the price or closed it down, I wouldn’t be able to play.”

John Tory, who is currently the front-runner candidate for the Oct. 27 municipal election, reportedly has plans of privatizing all government-run ski hills and golf courses if elected to office.

A privatization of this kind would certainly result in more expensive green fees and less patrons.

According to Mitchell, part of the appeal of this municipal track is its extremely affordable green fees. During the week, green fees are regularly priced at $25 before tax. On the weekends, the price only climbs two bucks.

Mitchell never agreed with the logic in Soknacki’s plan.

“Why would they put a cricket pitch in a flood zone?” said the Beaches native. “We don’t need to sacrifice sport for sport. The Dentonia Park, just across the street, is completely flat and would be an ideal spot for a cricket field.”

Kai Hoecke, one of many residents who recalls Dentonia Park with nostalgic affection, thought that Soknacki was on to something when he proposed turning the land into a multi-purpose park for the community.

“Get rid of the golf course and cricket pitch ideas and turn it into a park with a skatepark in the middle,” said Hoecke. “That would give the residents of Crescent Town a decent public area in their neighbourhood.”

The 11th hole at Dentonia: a 185-yard par 3 with trouble everywhere.
The 11th hole at Dentonia: a 185-yard par 3 with trouble everywhere. (Dave Kaplan/Toronto Observer)

Crescent Town, a huge combined rental/condo complex across from the course on Victoria Park, is also next to the Taylor-Massey Creek park area.

Opened in 1967 as a haven for beginners, Dentonia Park offers an assortment of short par threes that allow newcomers to the game an opportunity to develop their confidence and skill-sets without leaving the city.

Stan Lai, who played the course when he was just learning how to swing, believes it is still the perfect spot for beginners.

“Dentonia was designed for novice golfers,” he said. “It’s inexpensive, accessible, and good for young players learning the game. If the city used it properly, it could help grow the sport locally.”

Mitchell suggests that the golf course should encourage more youth participation by introducing junior leagues and tournaments.

Almost everyone that plays the course claims that they learned to swing on these par threes as a kid.

Brent Tobin is no different.

Having played many of the more expensive and highly touted golf courses in Ontario, Tobin keeps returning to Dentonia.

“It’s one of the best par-three courses I have ever played,” said Tobin. “It’s the course that taught me how to hit the green on par threes and I would prefer it to stay just the way it is.”

With such a loyal fan base, it is surprising to learn that a 2012 report from the city’s auditor general disclosed that Dentonia Park perennially loses money.

The audit, which is provided below, reveals that Dentonia Park has lost approximately $100,000 each year since 2007.

However, according to regulars congregating around the starter’s hut, the course — one that stretches to 2,095 yards from the furthest-back tees — is usually very busy.

Tyler Callen gets to a strong finish pose. (Dave Kaplan/Toronto Observer)

“It can get absolutely packed on the weekends,” said Tyler Callen, who has been playing golf periodically at Dentonia Park for two decades.

Kenny Rogers, one of Mitchell’s regular playing partners who claims to have made 18 hole-in-ones over his career at Dentonia, believes that swift rounds of golf attract the weekend crowds.

“What I like most about the course is that it only takes two and a half to three hours to play it,” said Rogers, who can be found hunting flag sticks with Mitchell at least twice a week at Dentonia Park.

“Then, you still have the rest of your day.”