I first met John Gordon years ago when I was crossing a bridge during a round and a hairy paw reached up from underneath and grabbed my ankle while muttering something about a toll to cross.
Fortunately, we wore steel spikes back then and all it took was a good stomp to get him to release his grip before retreating into the weeds below with the same growl he has today as one of the chroniclers of the game in Canada.
Okay, I exaggerated – a little bit -, but he does still have that growl, one he used in this opinion piece for Golf Canada recently.
Oddly enough, it’s about exaggeration of the high cost of golf and Gordon points out that affordability isn’t impossible to find if you get past the popular image of the game.
I have a buddy who calls me frequently to play and he’s a wizard at finding good prices north of Toronto of all places, so against my better judgment, I agree with what Gordon has to say.
About 20 years ago, as I was getting my daughter into the game, we could play an executive course at Cardinal Golf Club’s Kettle Creek executive course near Newmarket, Ont., for $30 for both of us and looking at its website, it’s still affordable.
That was back in the 1990s when golf was at a peak in popularity and although the industry reveled in that boom time, it also put us on the path to more golf courses being built, often of the high end variety, thus saturating numerous markets to where supply was far exceeding demand.
If you could draw a parallel, and Gordon touches on this in his story, it might be cities and towns that have allowed developers to build high-priced housing developments and condos, then suddenly shift gears and say they need more affordable accommodations.
In the case of the cities and towns, there was questionable planning and affordability was an afterthought. In the case of golf, there was no planning in respect to the game because individual owners were going to do and charge what they want anyway.
It’s little wonder then that golf is still perceived as a game for the wealthy. That’s the image that’s been projected to the masses over the years and while the media has helped, much of that image has been painted by the industry itself.
Mind you, the media has played a role as I pointed out in this blog earlier this week.
The Maclean’s article in question points out that golf courses are going back to more natural states, making it seem as if it’s only a cost-cutting matter when it’s also environmentally sound, something that critics have slammed golf for not being over the years.
It uses the word “grasping” to describe efforts to speed up the game and the use of larger holes, when the reality is that the bigger cups are only used at certain times to lure newcomers in most cases.
In other words, golf can’t win in the eyes of many and the industry needs to improve its image and not even bother with who to point the finger at (or up at) in blame.
The problem is that the game is so fragmented. Obviously, private clubs don’t have the same message to convey as public courses. Munis have a different story to tell than high end operations. Affordability is an important message for some, not so much for others.
That leaves the message they are trying to convey the responsibility of each individual proprietor. The image we’re trying to spruce up is not actually golf’s, but each individual operation’s.
If affordability, or any other message, is to be conveyed to the masses, then it will have to be launched from the grassroots and many operations don’t even have an advertising budget. They may have a website, but how do they draw eyes to it?
Complementing those efforts might involve taking a greater involvement in the community, communicating with schools, women’s groups or seniors groups, depending on who each operation is trying to lure to its facilities.
Gordon is absolutely correct when he says there is affordable golf out there and that statement alone would indicate that media is willing to pass that message along, but it can’t begin or end there.
There are several messages that golf operations want to get out, but the success in getting it noticed in a sea of other messages from not only golf, but other recreation/entertainment venues, is commitment and perseverance from each individual operator.
While you’re at it, let them know that the story about the troll under the bridge is just a myth.