After more than half a century of operation, one of the Chilliwack area's oldest golf courses will close up shop this fall.
Citing a struggling golf industry, Aquadel Golf Course owners Dick and Wendy Whitlam have sold the Aquadel property to a developer.
The Whitlams-who have owned and managed the course for 35 years-will retire but continue living nearby. The developer, meanwhile, intends to build homes on the property. (For related story, see page 3.)
For Dick Whitlam, the impending closure of the course is bittersweet, given his family's long history at Aquadel.
Saying goodbye, he said, "is very tough. Something like this that's been in your family that long, and something that Wendy and I have done a lot of improvements on over the years, it becomes part of you.
"It's a very tough decision," he continued. "We had hoped that someone would buy it as a golf course, but in the last 10 years, golf in general has been a tough one, financially, and this golf course in particular has been one of the ones hard hit by the recession and competition."
Whitlam's father bought the first property at the site in 1954. He opened a campsite in 1958 and added a nine-hole golf course two years later in 1960.
"It was really rough," said Whitlam of Aquadel's early days. "It was a camper's golf course, something to do. He was just trying to get it going with no money."
But the area grew, the public seemed to like the course and, in 1965, the Burnaby-based Whitlams moved to Lindell Beach. In 1973, the family redeveloped the course and added nine more holes. Five years later, Dick and Wendy took over the business. The couple have been refining the course ever since.
But recent years have been tough for Aquadel.
Two decades of development- much of it spurred by the fact that golf courses were, for a time, allowed to be built on property in the Agricultural Land Reserve- have flooded the golf market.
Drivers, Whitlam noted, "have to pass a lot of golf courses to get here. In 1990, we were one of three golf courses in Chilliwack, and now there's nine golf courses in our area."
There hasn't been a similar rise in the number of golfers. In fact, Whitlam said the trend is headed in the opposite direction.
"Golf, in general, has been in the decline for 10 years," he said. "This generation that's coming up doesn't golf as much. There's a lot more competition for them, for their dollar."
A quadel once saw 40,000 rounds played each day. This year, the number will be one quarter that figure. A membership of 300 has dwindled to a measly 16.
And so on Thanksgiving Day, Oct. 8, the course will close after 52 years of operation and the Whitlams will transition to retirement.
"You get to that age," Dick said, "I've got over 40 years in here and it's time for me to retire and Wendy to retire."
RELATED STORIES PAGE 3
- The decline in the local golf business has forced Aquadel owner Dick Whitlam to sell his course, which is slated to be turned into a real estate development that has some Cultus Lake residents fearing the worst.