Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

Professional Thieves Suspected in Rash of Golf Cart Thefts from Ontario Courses

Security footage from Settlers’ Ghost Golf Course near Barrie, Ontario, shows a man driving golf carts away from the course. Course owners believe professional thieves are behind the rash of stolen carts.

Security camera footage captured a man pushing a golf cart out of frame while another, wearing a hoodie and medical mask, drives a cart as quickly as it will go. In the early hours of April 19, thieves loaded 11 carts onto a trailer attached to a heavy-duty pickup truck and drove away from Settlers’ Ghost Golf Club, about 20 kilometers northeast of Barrie, Ontario.

“It’s that violation feeling,” said David Graham, general manager at Settlers’ Ghost. The stolen carts were outside in a brightly lit parking lot with their keys removed. “Then you have that anger or sadness and wondering, ‘Did I do something wrong that someone came and took all the carts?'”

This incident is one of at least 18 similar thefts at golf courses in Ontario over the past few years. Course owners suspect that a group of professional thieves is responsible for the thefts, which often involve a large number of carts stolen from easily accessible outdoor parking areas.

According to the National Golf Course Owners Association Canada (NGCOA), at least 192 golf carts have been stolen from 18 Ontario golf courses since 2021, with the majority stolen in 2022 and 2024. In one instance, 44 carts were stolen from Rockway Glen Estate Golf Course and Winery near St. Catharines, Ontario, in November 2022.

The most recent known incident occurred on May 30, when 12 carts were stolen from Wolf Run Golf Club in Janetville, Ontario, about 40 kilometers west of Peterborough. These carts have since been recovered by police, according to general manager Stephen Kostoff.

Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) for the city of Kawartha Lakes worked with local police to search a property in the township on June 1. They found the stolen golf carts, arrested a 44-year-old man, and charged him with possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000.

Organized Theft Operations

Golf course owners are convinced that the level of organization required to transport multiple golf carts indicates that professionals are behind the thefts. “To move one golf cart, some guy can do that with a pickup truck. To move six golf carts, you need a flatbed [truck],” said Blair Breen, regional director of the central Ontario chapter of the NGCOA. “You need to be working as a team.”

Golf course owners and distributors believe there is a thriving black market for golf carts, driven by a price surge during the pandemic. Rob Davis, sales manager with Turf Care Products, said, “It’s quick and easy money.” He noted that his company had eight carts stolen from their warehouse in Keswick, Ontario, about 70 kilometers north of Toronto.

Before the pandemic, golf carts sold for about $6,000 each. They now cost at least $10,000. “We have no idea where the carts are going,” Davis said, noting that each cart has a unique serial number. Despite scouring websites like Kijiji, none have been found.

Golf cart distributors in other parts of the country have not reported a similar increase in thefts. However, Davis noted that used golf carts are in demand for various purposes, including trailer parks, cottages, and farms.

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