THE GOLF STORY NO ONE HEARS

New Zealand Golf Magazine - - CONTENTS -

A com­ment on some of the things be­ing said in the me­dia, don't al­ways be­lieve what you read.

Golf fa­cil­i­ties have found their way into the me­dia with alarm­ing reg­u­lar­ity over the last 12 months. Par­tic­u­lar fo­cus has been paid to metropoli­tan ar­eas and the use of land for golf ac­tiv­ity. As the pres­sure for land and in­fra­struc­ture in ma­jor cities in­creases, ques­tions about the value of golf fa­cil­i­ties are be­ing posed. Is it fair for these ques­tions to be asked? Yes, of course it is, but only with even-handed con­sid­er­a­tion.

Some me­dia cov­er­age

has been dis­ap­point­ingly pre­dictable. Re­port­ing that presents large bias and is in­tended to in­sight in­flam­ma­tory re­sponses from groups of dis­af­fected peo­ple. While the chal­lenges for cities are very real and the con­sid­er­a­tions quite in depth, this type of cov­er­age can over sim­plify the sce­nario and is pri­mar­ily used to in­crease the vis­i­bil­ity and prof­itabil­ity of ei­ther the jour­nal­ist or the or­gan­i­sa­tion they rep­re­sent and not specif­i­cally pro­vide even ac­counts or even rel­e­vant so­lu­tions.

This is not the only cov­er­age but it is clearly the most vo­cal and vis­i­ble. It can often do a dis­ser­vice to the reader by telling them what they should think and not al­low­ing a bal­anced view, where the reader is left to make up their own mind.

Through this, the pos­i­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tion of golf has not had much cov­er­age, and why would it? A story about not-for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tions sup­port­ing their com­mu­ni­ties is hardly “sexy” is it? It's im­por­tant though that there is bal­ance and that mis­con­cep­tions do not be­come false facts. I ad­dress a few of these be­low.

You'll ex­cuse that this is a bit Auck­land cen­tric, most of the de­bate is oc­cur­ring there, it does how­ever, have ram­i­fi­ca­tions for all New Zealand;

GOLF IS NOT GROW­ING – IN­COR­RECT

Most re­ported num­bers on the “de­crease” in golf par­tic­i­pa­tion rely on tra­di­tional mem­ber­ship. While tra­di­tional mem­ber­ship has seen a small re­duc­tion of 1-2% per an­num,

the num­ber of reg­is­tered ca­sual/ flex­i­ble golfers has grown rapidly. Since 2015 this has seen growth to over 88,000 regis­tra­tions. In the Auck­land mar­ket, reg­is­tered ca­sual golfers now out­num­ber tra­di­tional mem­ber­ship, mak­ing the re­liance on tra­di­tional mem­ber­ship num­bers less rel­e­vant.

It's fair to say that tra­di­tional mem­ber­ship has seen a de­cline but it's also fair to say that the mar­ket we op­er­ate in is chang­ing and that we have a rapidly grow­ing num­ber of va­ri­ety seek­ers con­nect­ing with the game. Re­ly­ing on tra­di­tional mem­ber­ship num­bers as the marker of growth is the equiv­a­lent of judg­ing the suc­cess of the mu­sic in­dus­try by the num­ber of CD's pur­chased. The num­ber of to­tal reg­is­tered golfers is grow­ing not re­duc­ing.

CLUBS ARE EX­CLU­SIVELY FOR THE USE OF MEM­BERS – IN­COR­RECT

Al­most all golf­ing fa­cil­i­ties in New Zealand are pub­licly ac­ces­si­ble with very few “mem­ber only” clubs ex­ist­ing. Not only are they pub­licly ac­ces­si­ble, the vast ma­jor­ity are ac­tively en­cour­ag­ing greater en­gage­ment with their com­mu­ni­ties and seek­ing lo­cal coun­cil sup­port to di­ver­sify the use of fa­cil­i­ties.

THE ONLY THING THAT HAP­PENS AT GOLF CLUBS IS GOLF – IN­COR­RECT

While golf fa­cil­i­ties al­low the op­por­tu­nity to en­gage in New Zealand's most pop­u­lar club based sport, the land and the built fa­cil­i­ties of­fer so much more value to their com­mu­ni­ties.

En­vi­ron­men­tal Im­pact

Golf club land of­fers a wealth of en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits for sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties and to cities as a whole. More than half of Auck­land Coun­cil owned or man­aged cour­ses back on to green space and act as a green buf­fer to im­por­tant re­serve ar­eas lim­it­ing neg­a­tive im­pact on these re­serves. Many clubs act as storm wa­ter run-off re­duc­ing the dam­age to neigh­bour­ing prop­erty. There is also a vast amount of na­tive flora and fauna on golf cour­ses and a num­ber of clubs are work­ing to­wards en­vi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Re­muera Golf Club are an ex­am­ple of a club who are cer­ti­fied and are us­ing or­ganic fer­tilis­ers to im­prove the qual­ity of the soil and sup­port their neigh­bour­ing wet­land flora and fauna. New Zealan­ders res­onate and iden­tify with their nat­u­ral, green, en­vi­ron­ment. A loss of this green space, par­tic­u­larly within New Zealand's largest city isn't just a poor en­vi­ron­men­tal out­come, it's a loss of iden­tity. The Golf Sec­tor En­vi­ron­men­tal Group is work­ing to bet­ter un­der­stand the en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits of golf and to grow this im­pact for com­mu­ni­ties and cities.

Health and Well-Be­ing

Golf is a great way to stay fit and healthy, par­tic­u­larly for those in the older age group who are often not of­fered as many op­por­tu­ni­ties to re­cre­ate as younger peo­ple. With close to 5 mil­lion rounds an­nu­ally, a mil­lion within Auck­land, a na­tion of peo­ple are be­ing moved by the sport which has great ben­e­fit not only to the in­di­vid­u­als, but also to the health sys­tem of New Zealand. We know the value of 10,000 steps a day. The av­er­age round of golf can take be­tween six to eight thou­sand steps. If you're hav­ing an off day, this can be much higher!

There are be­tween 6-10 thou­sand vol­un­teers na­tion­wide. These peo­ple see great so­cial ben­e­fit through their ser­vice to the game. Im­por­tantly, this re­duces so­cial iso­la­tion and lone­li­ness, again, a par­tic­u­lar is­sue for the older gen­er­a­tion.

The golf space, isn't just lim­ited to the game of golf. While ru­ral clubs are a bit more ac­ces­si­ble for things such as dog walk­ing or walk­ing/ run­ning, clubs such as Waitem­ata Golf Club are work­ing with their lo­cal board and Auck­land Coun­cil to de­velop a plan to grow safe ac­cess around and through the course so that more peo­ple can ac­cess the space safely. A num­ber of fa­cil­i­ties are joint with other sports such ten­nis or squash a model that has very pos­i­tive ben­e­fits for fu­ture sport fa­cil­ity use. →

Com­mu­nity Im­pact

Golf clubs them­selves sup­port a num­ber of char­ity and com­mu­nity group or­gan­i­sa­tions and act as a meet­ing place for these groups. Many clubs sup­port char­i­ties fundrais­ing ef­forts and also en­gage with schools for ed­u­ca­tion on bio­di­ver­sity, a pro­gramme that is look­ing to ex­pand. Iden­ti­fied clubs are sup­port­ing the All Abil­i­ties In­clu­sion ini­tia­tive within golf sup­port­ing those ath­letes with ei­ther cog­ni­tive of phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties to en­gage in both so­cial and phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.

Eco­nomic Im­pact

The golf in­dus­try has a large eco­nomic im­pact on New Zealand. Golf Tourism alone has in­creased from $150 mil­lion to over $600 mil­lion in the last 4 years. The New Zealand Golf In­dus­try Coun­cil has a project to bet­ter ar­tic­u­late and un­der­stand this value to New Zealand but early es­ti­mates have it at around $1 bil­lion. The in­dus­try is worth at least $54 mil­lion of an­nual GDP to Auck­land through golf course op­er­a­tions and golf tourism. This is with­out the im­pact of events like the LPGA Mck­ayson New Zealand Women's Open that pro­moted Auck­land to 250 mil­lion homes around the world.

In short, our clubs do so much more than just pro­vide golf.

RATE PAY­ERS HUGELY SUB­SIDISE GOLF – IN­COR­RECT

There is crit­i­cism, par­tic­u­larly within Auck­land, that ratepay­ers are sub­si­dis­ing golf. I think the ques­tion is a fair one. Par­tic­u­larly for those peo­ple who feel they don't di­rectly ben­e­fit from golf. Ini­tially, it's im­por­tant to re­alise that the golf in­dus­try and lo­cal coun­cils reg­u­larly part­ner on work. Golf val­ues its re­la­tion­ships with coun­cils and will con­tinue to part­ner with them to­wards pos­i­tive com­mu­nity out­comes go­ing for­ward.

Auck­land Coun­cil have noted that their sup­port to golf clubs could be near $8.07 mil­lion per an­num. Not an in­signif­i­cant sum. How­ever, in the same re­port, Auck­land Coun­cil note that it costs around $20,000 per an­num to main­tain and de­velop a hectare of land. Golf is one of the only sports that reg­u­larly main­tains and de­vel­ops it's land. Each year, golf clubs in Auck­land main­tain and de­velop 500 hectares of land to the tune of $10 mil­lion.

WHAT ABOUT THE LOW RENT? – FAIR QUES­TION

Firstly, not ev­ery fa­cil­ity en­joys this. Some golf fa­cil­i­ties pay tens of thou­sands of dol­lars in rent each year. For those who do have a lower rent, this is a com­mon prac­tice for other Coun­cil owned as­sets in­clud­ing sports and other not-for-prof­its. It makes sense re­ally. How much would you charge a char­i­ta­ble/not­for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion that not only main­tains but im­proves the qual­ity of land en­sur­ing im­por­tant en­vi­ron­men­tal out­comes, proac­tively re­duces the bur­den on the health sys­tem, con­nects and sup­ports its com­mu­nity and de­liv­ers a pos­i­tive eco­nomic im­pact for the city, all while not be­ing driven by profit? Golf Clubs are com­mu­nity fa­cil­i­ties that drive pos­i­tive out­comes.

GOLF ISN’T RE­ALLY SE­RI­OUS ABOUT IM­PROV­ING ITS COM­MU­NI­TIES IS IT?

- YES, WE RE­ALLY ARE

In fact, there's a full plan ded­i­cated to it for Auck­land. The Golf Sec­tor Plan for Auck­land was re­leased at the end of 2017. In­clud­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives from across the golf in­dus­try, Auck­land Coun­cil and Ak­tive Auck­land Sport and Re­cre­ation, the plan is ded­i­cated to en­sur­ing a con­tin­ued im­prove­ment in the value that the golf in­dus­try of­fers to its com­mu­ni­ties and to Auck­land as a whole. We take the so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity of our sport se­ri­ously and are ded­i­cated to en­sur­ing it grows. A work­plan for 2018 has been de­vel­oped and re­leased by the work­ing group and progress is al­ready be­ing made on a num­ber of ini­tia­tives.

I hope the above has been help­ful to clar­ify any of the mis­in­for­ma­tion cir­cu­lat­ing. The next time an in­flam­ma­tory piece of me­dia about golf fa­cil­i­ties hits the news, con­sider who prof­its the most from that story. It's not the com­mu­ni­ties, nor the peo­ple in them but very likely, the jour­nal­ist or me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tion de­liv­er­ing the con­tent.

Rest as­sured that golf, coun­cils and com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tions are work­ing to­gether to get bet­ter out­comes for our cities and we will con­tinue to do so.

↑Cham­ber­lain Park Golf Course, Mount Al­bert, Auck­land 18th hole.

(T-B) En­rich­ing Auck­land through Golf, The Golf Sec­tor Plan for Auck­land.Royal Welling­ton Golf Club, Up­per Hutt, founded 1895.↓

↑(T-B) Taka­puna Golf Course, Hill­crest, Auck­land, 10th hole.Re­muera Golf Club, Ab­botts Way, Re­muera, Auck­land.

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