Scott Simmons admits the Royal Canadian Golf Association needs to put its money where its mouth is, so to speak.
The RCGA lost approximately $5.5-million in 2007 and $2-million last year and breaking even by the end of 2010 was a big part of Vision 2010, the RCGA’s three-year strategic plan announced last year.
The strategic plan has received a few tweaks since first being announced, but the goals are still the same, especially the break-even target, according to Simmons who was named RCGA executive director in July, 2007.
“That’s still first and foremost in our minds as we get into the second year of our plan. Our budget this year is going to call for another loss. That was anticipated, but I think we’re on the right track,” said Simmons.
Increasing revenues, while providing value to its members and decreasing costs could prove to be a big order in a struggling economy. “I don’t think it’s going to help, that’s for sure,” said Simmons, adding that the main impact will likely be on the RCGA’s professional championships.
“The economy’s probably going to have an effect on our corporate sales, our ability to sell those $30,000 tents and $10-to-$15,000 tables and $1-to-$5,000 corporate ticket packages. That’s where we’re going to feel the heat, I think,” said Simmons.
There is no doubt, however, that the RCGA is going to be a leaner organization than ever after cutting back on 20 per cent of its staff, including some veteran employees.
At the association’s annual general meeting last weekend in Halifax, a new governance set-up was also approved that will see an 11-person board of directors that votes on issues, while working in conjunction with other interests within the RCGA. Previously, a 36-person board of governors was in place.
Financial stability and creating a more effective organization were among the pillars of the RCGA strategic plan and while much of 2008 was devoted to constructing that plan, this year will be devoted to putting it into action, according to Simmons.
Increasing membership value for clubs and golfers was another pillar and Simmons says awareness of the RCGA Golf Card, which allows golfers to play five rounds at a course and get the sixth for free, among other benefits, will be improved through a stronger working relationship with the National Golf Course Owners Association.
“We now have a real concerted effort to take the golf card and morph it into something that may work for all the member clubs across Canada because, with the NGCOA on board, it helps us to get clubs on board quicker than doing it on a painful club by club basis, which has been the case in the past,” he said.
“If we could make this happen across the country, what we would get rid of is the two-for-one discounting that is plaguing the industry. That’s what’s really cutting into (clubs’) bottom line. Even if their rounds aren’t down, their profits are down because people are coming in, using their two-for-one and taking off.
“What (the RCGA Golf Card) will do is it will promote more rounds. The rounds will go up because golfers are (motivated) to play more. The golfer gets a lower green fee per round and the golf course is making a higher net green fee.
“If you had one brand to promote it, it’s a lot easier than 100 different loyalty and discount cards,” said Simmons, adding that plans are also to improve the RCGA Network, which allows golfers to communicate among themselves, post scores and handicaps.
Another pillar to Vision 2010 was growing the game by getting children involved and improving excellence programs. On the agenda for 09 is a National Golf In Schools program which, according to Simmons, tested well on a 15-school trial across the country with a group of phys ed teachers linked to Sport Canada.
The RCGA currently is looking for a sponsor for the national Golf In Schools program, which is expected to reach at least 150 schools this year, but Simmons says the program will move forward with or without that sponsor in ’09. Callaway Golf has sponsored a similar program in Ontario.
The RCGA will also roll out a seven-step Learn to Play program under its Future Links junior program and launch a national skills competition for juniors similar to the punt, pass and kick program used in football in years past.
“Clubs will be having competitions and there will be regional competitions. I think this will really create some excitement with the young kids to get involved,” said Simmons, who says changes to the RBC Canadian Open in 2008 were positive and will remain in place this year at Glen Abbey in Oakville, Ont.
Simmons also said that all of the tournament’s sponsors are on board for at least this year with the Open and that tickets were moving briskly in Calgary for the CN Canadian Women’s Open at Priddis Greens.
As the RCGA attempts to improve on its professional championships, the same holds true for its national amateur competitions.
“The Canadian men’s amateur championship used to be one of the top-ranked amateur championships in the world,” said Simmons.
“It’s fallen back a little bit, so we’re going to look at what it takes to get it back on the world stage, not only the men’s amateur, but all the amateur championships, about what we need to make these events best in class. You need to define best in class first,” said Simmons.
Simmons realizes the importance of meeting the goals set out in the strategic plan. The RCGA’s designation as the National Sports Organization for golf is more than a bragging right. It comes with responsibilities.
OWNERS OUTLOOK TO COME: As part of GNN’s ongoing discussion with industry executive directors, we will include the National Golf Course Owners Association. Executive director Jeff Calderwood has been out of the country and we will look ahead with NGCOA at a future date.