Today’s Touch: They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

Despite the overwhelming number of golfers in Canada – approximately six million, according to the National Allied Golf Associations consumer behaviour study released last year – golf courses across Canada, particularly municipal ones, are struggling to stay open.

This week two golf courses announced their respective sellings, and others in  may go through a similar fate before the first balls of spring are hit down the fairway.

In Calgary the city-owned McCall Lake Golf Course is set to close in 2014, with the municipality citing losses of over $200,000 per year and a waning interest in the sport. This, according to a report from the Calgary Herald.

The report continues to say that a new recreation centre is set to be built. Arguments for why the golf course is being sold range from financial, to multi-cultural, to logistical.

McCall Lake Golf Course (Source: Calgary Sun file photo)

McCall Lake Golf Course (Source: Calgary Sun file photo)

In Sudbury, the shareholders of Idylwylde Golf and Country Club decided today to sell some of the land of their club to the adjacent hospital. Why? To build a 700-900 spot parking lot. For a town with very few golf clubs to begin with, this should be seen as a blow to the northern Ontario golfing community.

Ontario has also seen it’s share of municipalities struggling with golf clubs and the land that they are on.

For example, in late January Kingston’s Belle Park Fairways was the focus of a multi-hour meeting where residents discussed the fate of the club. The recommendation was for the golf course to cease operations at the end of 2013 to make way for a solar panel operation, according to a Flagstick Golf Magazine recap.

Finally, in the nation’s capital, Ottawa’s Pine View was subject to a recommendation from a city councillor suggesting that the club may be better served if  a private operator took the reigns.

Interestingly enough, it seems that the courses owned by the City of Toronto – long-suffering from a financial perspective as they may be – had the most successful 2012, and has they have not been subject to any scrutiny so far in 2013.

In fact, the City of Toronto courses saw an increase in rounds played by nearly 12,000, and an increase in revenue by $454,000 between 2011 and 2012.

This, despite the fact that the City has not yet followed through on a communications plan recommendation to better market the courses to Toronto’s very large golfing population.

That’s not to say that Toronto golf facilities are immune to closure – for example, last fall the last balls were hit at Beach Fairway Golf Range, a fixture just east of downtown for 14 years.

With an increased spotlight on golf as an expensive, time-consuming sport, it will be interesting to see if the city councillors across Canada leverage golf for its benefits – financial or otherwise.

For the sake of an increased number of golfers in urban areas, hopefully we see more successful golf courses, and less parking lots, in the next few years.

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Hitting the Links - 

A meth lab was discovered in a porta-potty on a golf course. Yes, you read that right (News Channel 4 Oklahoma)

LPGA-hopeful gets bit by a spider. Keeps playing. Shoots 74 (Yahoo! UK)

Who else but Lorne Rubenstein gets an hour-long audience with Jack Nicklaus? (Globe and Mail)

Golf and rugby will be contested at the 2015 Pan-Am games prior to their 2016 Olympic ‘debuts’ (Hamilton Spectator)

BOOM, baby! Would you pay $18,000(!) to play golf with Jeff Overton? (Golf.com)

Power fantasty rankings for this week’s Northern Trust Open (PGA Tour)

TaylorMade trying to think of a new ‘golf-like’ game? (Canadian Golfer)

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2 responses to “Today’s Touch: They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

  1. Had a conversation with a gentleman from City of London a couple weeks . ago who is involved in their muni golf course operations. He was saying that River Road, which was subject to closure discussions in 2011, had a great 2012 from a financial persective and that any talk of closing it has gone away (for now).

    • That’s good to hear. I’m sure there are a handful of muni tracks across Canada that are doing well or “well enough” as the case may be. But it’s tough to see some in such dire straights, considering how important all the muni’s in Toronto have been to me my whole life. I guess I have a soft spot for them!

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