The decision to hold the 2012 RBC Canadian Open at Hamilton Golf and Country Club was greeted with positive ink in the media, not surprising considering the conventional thinking when it comes to locations for our national championship.
Hamilton got a mass thumbs-up from players in the Open’s previous two stops in Ancaster, Ont., and it is indeed the type of golf course that showcases the game in this country as is St. George’s in Toronto and Vancouver’s Shaughnessy, the sites of this year’s and next year’s Opens, respectively.
The theory is that if you take it to exclusive private clubs, it will attract top players and the people will show up automatically, but let’s put the focus for a minute on the masses outside the ropes instead of the few inside the ropes.
First of all, golf course is one consideration for players deciding whether or not to play a particular tournament, but not the only one. They have their own favourite events, family time in the summer, how other tournaments work into their schedules, the prestige and money of events to consider before making a decision.
So, while a prestigious, traditional golf course is a nice incentive to players to consider, it is by no means a guarantee of a field filled with the top players in the world.
The people who are always going to be there and the people that golf often seems to forget are the people filing in through the front gates.
The masses are the focus of the new Golf Canada philosophy, so there is a place for public golf courses such as Glen Abbey in Oakville, Ont. The Abbey, which has criticized by tour players in the past, will hold one more Open under the current deal between Golf Canada and ClubLink Corporation.
It should remain part of the Canadian Open rotation, if there is such a thing, and so should any public course that can cut the mustard. Not only does the Abbey offer better viewing for the fans and easier traffic throughout, but it also offers options that other private clubs can’t or don’t want.
In 2008 and 2009, a concert series was held after play in the first three rounds, offering the same type of feel as the Waste Management Open in Phoenix, a tournament I’ve attended and quite enjoyed on a number of occasions.
While some may say it goes a little over the top, the Waste Management Open puts the emphasis on fun and it’s one of the best-attended events on tour, even if it doesn’t always get the best field. If we are going to grow the game and get the masses involved, tournaments such as the Phoenix event will help.
That’s not to say that there isn’t room for Hamilton, Shaughnessy and St. George’s in the rotation, but the Abbey and other public courses should become regular venues for the Open as well, with the emphasis on fun for the masses.
That’s the topic of a column I wrote recently for GolfScene Magazine in Ontario. Click here and have a read.