The Canadian golf industry should respond to the wake-up call it got from this whole issue of whether the game is eligible or ineligible for federal recreation infrastructure funding, according to National Golf Course Owners Association executive director Jeff Calderwood.
The federal government in its most recent budget allocated $500-million over the next couple of years to build or upgrade facilities such as hockey rinks, swimming pools and community centres.
Initial indications are that golf will not be included in the program, but the NGCOA and Royal Canadian Golf Association are seeking official word from the office of John Baird, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, whose department oversees the funding.
The fact that the NGCOA and RCGA are still waiting for a clarification says something about how golf is positioned with the government, according to Calderwood.
“I really don’t think we’ve done a good job of presenting ourselves in the past,” said Calderwood. “I think it’s our responsibility – the different associations, probably (the National Allied Golf Association) and maybe there’s a media role to dovetail into that – to tell our story better.
“We need to get in and have meetings before there are any issues,” said Calderwood. “We don’t yet have ourselves, as an industry, positioned very well at all levels of government.”
Calderwood’s call for a stronger voice at all levels of government goes beyond the funding issue, which golf will survive if it isn’t eligible, but there are various other government issues in which the game needs a strong lobbying effort.
Those issues can range from property taxes at the municipal level to environmental issues at various levels to pesticide bylaws at the municipal and provincial levels.
The pesticide issue is an example of how the game, without a united effort, can be shouted down by emotional lobbyists from the other side despite the game’s efforts to spray responsibly and to use research to make its points.
Those lobbyists have often tried to paint golf as a game for the privileged, an effective tool especially now with the backlash against executives receiving inflated bonuses from teetering companies and major corporations seeking bailouts from governments.
“Politically, it’s a hot potato for (politicians) and they like to distance themselves from golf because it looks like they are behaving in an elitist fashion if they’re in bed with golf in some way,” said Calderwood, emphasizing that a stronger voice might help erase the misconception that golf is white collar only.
“I think it’s part of the golf industry maturing and growing up,” he said. “It never used to be done. It was just a seat of the pants industry. Now, we’re getting organized to be able to do those things.
“To a certain extent, I can blame the government for the misconception and, at the same time, I’m looking in the mirror and saying we, as an industry, should be pointing the finger at ourselves.
“We don’t do a good enough job.”