With each degree that the mercury rises on the thermometer and with every extra minute of sunshine, the mood in the Canadian golf industry seems to be improving as the season draws ever closer.
The pity party appears to be over after hitting full swing back in the dark days of mid-winter when the uncertainty of the tanking economy hit its apex, with the industry seemingly unable to do anything about the gloomy forecast so far in advance of the 2009 season.
The economy is still the main topic of conversation, but it now seems to be more about what the industry is going to do about it than what the economy is going to do to the industry.
The read from here is that the economy delivered some nasty body blows that staggered the industry, but like a good fighter, it has recovered, dug in its heels and is ready to launch an offence of its own.
I say that for several reasons, including a few blogs that I wrote earlier this week.
On Tuesday, Dalt Hicks, the amiable proprietor of the Cardinal Golf Club in Newmarket, Ont., talked about how he was already committed to opening a new 18 holes before the economy delivered its nasty punch, but shrugged it off, saying he and his staff just have to come up with new ideas to market the new course.
The day after that, RBC announced that it would be extending its sponsorship of golf beyond the Canadian Open with its name now on the Stephen Ames Cup, an annual junior event between Canada and Trinidad and Tobago.
That news is positive for two reasons. First, an established international junior event is the benefactor of this sponsorship and supporting kids is always a good thing.
Some will point out RBC is getting good mileage out of the new arrangement with the presence of a PGA Tour player such as Ames a huge one in his adopted country of Canada and his homeland of Trinidad and Tobago and all of the Caribbean, where RBC has interests after an acquisition that was finalized last year.
That last one is positive too, with the bank seeing golf as a viable vehicle to promote its products, just as it has done with its Canadian Open sponsorship, which sets an example for other corporations that might be considering tournament support for their purposes.
In yesterday’s blog, Jeff Calderwood, executive director for the National Golf Course Owners Association, talked about the cautious optimism among owners in this recession and how creative, and in many cases collaborative, marketing is going to be critical in this economy.
About the same time as that blog came out, Norm Woods, who spins out prose over at GolfScene Magazine in Ontario, took Calderwood’s point a step further by illustrating the specific things that some owners in his coverage area are doing to cope with the economy. Read all about it here.
This more positive attitude is not a case of spring fever gone wild. These people actually do have a grip on reality, but it’s shifted from fear to survival instinct with their decision to deal with the economy instead of hiding from it.
The economy we find ourselves in right now is far from the perfect situation, but there may be some positives that that come out of it once it starts to turn around.
As Calderwood pointed out, golf courses may see some inefficiencies in their operations that they didn’t see when times were better, leading to leaner operations.
The economy should slow, at least for now, the saturation of golf courses in several markets.
Certainly, marketing in golf is something that may improve. Golf is renowned for its traditional thinking in how it gets its message out, but this economy is starting to see different ideas used.
If you go into the archives section for this blog, you will find a series that I did on Canadian golf’s great promoters that’s worth reading over, not because of the stellar writing, but because of the ideas brought forward by people renowned for their marketing skills.
Go beyond the traditional in order to deal with this economy. Join service clubs in your community to get your name out there and do some good. Approach your local sports editor and establish a relationship.
Get involved with other golf courses, if you see fit, and come up with a collaborative marketing effort, or come up with new programs that are beyond traditional and see how they work.
The lessons you learn in the lean times may set you up for even better times once the economy starts to turn around.