With the combined efforts of various golf companies and organizations, the future of the sport in B.C. is getting brighter every single day
“Growing the game” is what anybody and everybody in the world of golf is trying to do, but turning that dream into a reality can be quite the challenging task. However, with the passion and vision that several of the big players in B.C.’s golf industry have, any obstacles they may face along the way have not prevented them from getting results and gaining traction.
Full menu of golf products
In the City of Burnaby, assistant director, golf services David O’Connor says growing the game means offering a diverse menu of options and turning upside down the notion of what municipal golf is.
Not only does Burnaby have two full-length courses (Burnaby Mountain and Riverway), both equipped with multi-level driving ranges, it also has a pitch-and-putt in Central Park and one at Kensington Park, which will soon be revamped into a nine-hole executive-length course.
Golf Burnaby’s vision, which comes with direction from the mayor and city council, is to offer golfers of all skill levels the best facilities.
“We want you as a member for the day, whether that means seniors playing at Burnaby Mountain, kids playing with their grandparents at Central Park, or the bombers who want to challenge Riverway,” says O’Connor. “We are realists in that we offer value at every level and that’s the key to our continuous growth.”
That means keeping fee increases to a minimum and constantly upgrading facilities, such as the beautiful clubhouse at Riverway, the renovated driving range at Burnaby Mountain and, if everything goes to plan, the new nine-hole executive course at Kensington, which has a soft opening slated for autumn 2018.
Okanagan Golf Club
Attracting juniors, women and intermediate memberships
Meanwhile, at GolfBC, which owns and operates courses in Greater Vancouver, Whistler, Vancouver Island, the Okanagan and Maui, growing the game means attracting different segments of the population to the game.
“We have programs to get beginners and women involved,” says Rita Rennie, director of marketing for GolfBC Group. “And while each local sales team builds programs that will work for their members, locals and visitors, they can also collaborate and share ideas with other GolfBC courses.”
That means junior programs for all ages, women’s nights and even Quik Tees, which create a course of approximately 3,000 yards and allow anyone a chance to play without being daunted by length or too many forced carries.
Rennie says GolfBC courses also offer flexible membership options which are designed to get people back into the game earlier.
“There’s a gap from when golfers finish junior golf and start to get settled into careers, to a few years later when they may have more time and resources to dedicate to golf,” explains Rennie. “Maybe a full membership doesn’t work for them at this stage, so we offer intermediate memberships, in the 20 to 39 age range, along with reduced dues and flexible payment plans, which are proving very popular.”
Growing also means marketing, and GolfBC is also the title sponsor and host—at Gallagher’s Canyon—for the GolfBC Championship, part of the “BC Golf Swing” of the Mackenzie Tour — PGA TOUR Canada.
“This is a great event to promote the game of golf, support talented up-and-coming golfers, showcase our company and golf course and raise funds for charity,” says Rennie.
Sponsorships and world-class equipment
Dan Dodman, president of the Canadian division of SRIXON/Cleveland Golf/XXIO, says growing the game for its multi-million dollar business is about giving back to junior golf and local tournaments.
“We sponsor zone tournaments for British Columbia Golf, we sponsor PGA of BC events, we sponsor the Vancouver Golf Tour, for players who aspire to move up the professional ranks, and we try to be as involved at the green-grass level as we can,” says Dodman.
With SRIXON also the official ball of the Mackenzie Tour, you’d be hard-pressed to find an amateur or professional golfer who hasn’t handled a SRIXON or Cleveland product recently.
Dodman, with more than 25 years experience at the helm, can remember sponsoring golfers Ray Stewart before he started on the PGA Champions Tour and Adam Hadwin before he became a superstar on the PGA Tour, but he takes as much pride in seeing young kids taking up the game with their first Cleveland wedge and SRIXON ball in hand.
“We are a proud local company and we look after our own backyard,” says Dodman. “We are trying to build loyalty from the grassroots level.”
These sponsorships wouldn’t be possible if SRIXON and Cleveland equipment wasn’t among the best in the business.
“Our products consistently test well and globally. We will put our product up against anybody,” states Dodman, pointing out Cleveland wedges and SRIXON balls have long been industry leaders.
And while they have to compete against global golf behemoths, making smart strategic decisions, such as sponsoring Hideki Matsuyama, SRIXON/Cleveland is growing the game and its business at the same time.
Progressive hiring and giving value
Troy Peverley, general manager of the West Coast Golf Group (WCGG), which operates two 18-hole courses at Swan-e-Set Bay in Pitt Meadows, and 18-hole courses at Hazelmere in Surrey and Belmont in Langley, says offering value is a key to success.
“We have lots of happy customers at each of our facilities,” says Peverley.
Beyond that, what the WCGG has done is market to the multi-cultural community, particularly to the large Asian population in the Fraser Valley, who form a growing part of the WCGG membership.
WCGG has also identified and rewarded women who have earned high-profile positions traditionally occupied by men. Belmont’s director of golf is Helen Jung, while Tracy Matthews holds the same position at Hazelmere and Patty Jonas runs her successful golf academy at Hazelmere.
“We’re a very progressive company and we’re very fortunate to be able to hire the most qualified people for those positions,” says Peverley.
If one needs evidence that golf is still growing, Peverley is quick to point out that golf is still the number one participation sport in Canada and its economic impact is greater than all other participation sports in Canada. More than 300,000 people, he adds, are employed in jobs related to golf.
And, if golfers participate in any or all of the initiatives put forth by these golf insiders, the numbers can only grow.