Two of British Columbia’s most-scenic recreational properties are in Chinese hands.
Grouse Mountain, skiing’s so-called Peak of Vancouver, sold in July to a Canadian-incorporated arm of China Minsheng Investment Group.
Now, during China’s National Holiday Golden Week, a company connected to southern Guangxi province is buying the golf course that straddles the Sea-to-Sky Highway, by the shores of Howe Sound.
Fine Peace Holdings will own the as-seen-in “Happy Gilmore” Furry Creek Golf and Country Club when the deal closes Oct. 10.
theBreaker has learned that the three officers of the Sept. 25-incorporated Fine Peace Furry Creek Holdings Ltd. are Liang Kaiwen, Wen Musong and Zhong Shan. All three reported Nanning, Guangxi, China addresses to the B.C. Corporate Registry. Liang and Wen are both based in “Gentle Town.” Their addresses are near the Gentle Uptown Golf Club, 12 kilometres from the Nanning city centre.
(British Columbia relies on the registrants to report their interest in a company or property. There is no requirement to disclose actual shareholders or beneficial owners.)
The vendor is Burrard Group, the Chan family company with real estate holdings in B.C., Seattle, San Francisco and Hawaii. Burrard operates the GolfBC chain of golf courses.
Developer Michael Geller was a consultant on the deal for Fine Peace. He was also involved in the original community plan back in 1990.
“I’ve been dealing with some local representatives, very fine young people,” Geller told theBreaker. “Once it closes and once they have developed their overall strategies, they’ll become much more visible.
“They have other Canadian land holdings as well. The money is certainly Chinese, the group is here and have been here for a while.”
The corporate registry shows related companies named Fine Peace Deas Island Park Holdings Ltd. and Fine Peace Deas Island Park Ltd.
The course, at 150 Country Club Road, is on 152 acres, assessed at $3.639 million last year and registered to GolfBC Holdings Inc. The 15.54 acres of vacant waterfront land, worth $11.045 million, is registered to Furry Creek Land Development Corp.
Geller said that he did not know the sale price, but the deal included land zoned for 250 housing units. “They’ll be looking at whether it’s feasible to develop a resort component.”
“Furry Creek got somewhat neglected, it’s fair to say, but this group is pretty confident that they can significnatly improve it,” Geller said.
Furry Creek was the site of the fight scene in the 1996 cult classic “Happy Gilmore” between The Price Is Right host Bob Barker and Adam Sandler, who played a hockey player-cum-pro golfer who wanted to win enough money to help his grandmother keep her house.
A 2016 feature in Fortune about the PGA Tour’s marketing of golf in China said the sport is hampered by scarce land. Novice players are from the richest of Chinese society, but many courses closed in the wake of Xi Jinping’s anti-graft campaign. Too many government officials were spending too much time on golf courses.
“In a country of 1.4 billion, the potential for the sport is certainly as vast as anyone’s imagination,” Fortune reported. “Estimates of the number of Chinese golfers fall around 1 million, a small fraction of the 24 million who play in the U.S. If just 2% of China’s population played, up from less than 0.1% today, China could become a $2-billion-a-year market for golf products.”
The acquisitions of Grouse Mountain and Furry Creek are bound to put a smile on the face of Chinese president Xi Jinping. It is his goal for China’s sports industry to be worth US$1 trillion by 2025, three years after the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.