On the Right Course

With the com­bined ef­forts of var­i­ous golf com­pa­nies and or­ga­ni­za­tions, the fu­ture of the sport in B.C. is get­ting brighter ev­ery sin­gle day

BC Business Magazine - - Golf -

“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 ful­l­length 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 nine­hole 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.

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-and­com­ing 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.

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