The territory doesn’t want any family member of Bill Hakonson to be involved with his Top of the World Golf Course, according to his son, Greg.
“It’s one of the things that they’ve been pushing for some time,” said Greg, who has been negotiating a transfer of the course from his family to Dawson City for about three years now.
While he has never been given a real explanation, the territory has stayed strong about barring any familial involvement in the golf course after it is transferred to the Klondike town, said Greg.
But it was only recently that Dawson requested an actual list of names, so it can enforce the legal terms of the transfer.
That’s when things really got awkward, said Greg.
Mayor Peter Jenkins was included on the list.
Sure, the long-time politician had married Greg’s sister and had children, but they haven’t been together “for 10, 15 years,” said Greg. “So either he can’t be mayor or the transfer can’t go through.”
Hakonson built the nine-hole golf course when he was already in his 70s.
With all said and done, the family pegs Hakonson’s investment into the course at $1.3 million. But none of that has ever been made back, said Greg.
“Every year of its existence it’s never made a profit,” he said. “Well, I lie. One year it made either $6 or $9, I forget. But that was an exceptionally good year.”
Controversy over the course began “years ago” when Hakonson took what he described as grants from the government.
Shortly after they were given, the two sums of money were converted to loans.
“And there’s no paperwork on any of this,” said Greg.
Hakonson eventually signed a personal guarantee for the smaller, first amount and then renegotiated all the loans in 2004. Before Hakonson’s death, the family negotiated a settlement to pay the personal guarantee, which ended up being about $55,000 with interest, if the territory allowed the course to be transferred to Dawson City, said Greg.
But when the family asked that Dawson promise to lease the course to either the Klondike Visitors Association or the Dawson Golf Association, the territory’s lawyers were instructed to kill the deal because both organizations are eligible to collect grants, said Greg.
“There was a real meanness there by whoever is in the shadows to try and ensure that this golf course fails,” said Greg. “We don’t understand that. But I’m pretty confident that this is all fallout from my involvement with Yukon Energy and the Fentie deal, because that’s sort of when it all came up.”
Greg is a former director with Yukon Energy who stood up and resigned after word got out that then-premier Dennis Fentie was negotiating a back-door deal with ATCO.
The territory’s Department of Finance wouldn’t comment on the file. It said Dana Naye Ventures, the collection agency on this file, was the only organization that could speak to the matter.
Dana Naye Ventures said it can’t say anything, either, and that questions were best suited for the department.
After asking Finance again, the News was told the only person who could respond to questions about this file was away on vacation until Oct. 22.
For Greg, the whole thing seems ridiculous.
It’s well known that the golf course doesn’t make much money, despite its 80 to 100 local members.
“And yet they want to ensure that we don’t sneak back in through the back door and lose more money on it? I don’t know,” said Greg. “It’s a very silly, vindictive kind of thing, and we really don’t know the reason. The other thing that’s really odd is that whoever is pulling the strings on this are keeping themselves cloistered away and it’s been impossible for us, or our lawyers, to find out who is calling the shots.”
Without interest, Greg figures the territory only spent about $165,000 on the golf course – or less than one eighth of what his late father had invested.
But because of Bill Haksonson’s support, teeing-off under the midnight sun has become an iconic Yukon experience, said Gary Parker, president of the Dawson Golf Association, which runs the course.
Annual rounds of the nine holes can range from hundreds to thousands. Holland America offers shuttle services for its guests and the course has real recreational and social value for the community, he added.
“I want there to be a course in the community and really I would say that about most of our association: we’re there because we want golf,” he said. “No one is there, and I think this is the case with Mr. Hakonson, to get rich.”
While final numbers aren’t in yet, the association was able to turn a profit at the course this past year, said Parker, who added that they will be seeking an operating agreement for next year.
Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at