This recreation infrastructure funding introduced by the federal government in its last budget may be a case of be careful of what you wish for in the Canadian golf industry.
At last report, the office of John Baird, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, which is responsible for the program, hadn’t responded to the Royal Canadian Golf Association and National Golf Course Owners Association for clarification on whether golf is eligible for a piece of this $500-million fund.
At this point, the answer to that question appears to be no, but it is puzzling why the government is taking so long to reply. I suspect the reason for that is that the Ministry would rather deal directly with each individual application as opposed to addressing an entire game on a broader basis.
That’s what touched this controversy off after the Golden Golf Club in Golden, B.C., sought a piece of the pie to help build a new course, but found out it was ineligible. That led to the RCGA and NGCOA looking into the matter on behalf of the game, although neither organization is seeking money for itself.
So whether golf is not eligible as a game remains to be seen. Another possibility is that golf is eligible as a game and that each individual case will be judged on its individual merits, which could be the reason that the Golden Golf Club was turned down.
In either case, there is controversy brewing.
If golf’s denied as a game, the backlash will be, and already has been, that golf is the largest participation sport in Canada and the only reason the government is denying it is because golf is perceived as a white collar sport for private club members, not one for men, women, juniors and seniors from all income levels.
If the funding is granted to golf facilities on a case by case basis, how is it determined who get gets the dough? This scenario opens a new can of worms.
It’s not outlandish to expect the feds to lean towards more municipal and/or public golf courses that appeal to the masses with lower fees that make those courses or driving ranges more accessible, instead of facilities that are privately-owned businesses, which is the case in the majority of golf operations in this country.
On the other hand, NGCOA executive director Jeff Calderwood made a good point in a recent discussion. Calderwood explained that municipal courses receive huge tax breaks, so why should they be favoured over the private businesses down the road that pay big-time taxes?
An overwhelming number of readers agree with Calderwood in the latest GNN Poll on our home page, saying that funding should be available to everybody in golf, not just municipal and not-for-profit facilities.
If that’s the case, the number of diners around the table looking to slice off a piece of this pie just grew considerably given the number of golf courses in this country.
Calderwood points out that, according to funding criteria, a project has to be “shovel-ready” for consideration so that decreases the number of potential applicants, but don’t forget the pie won’t be large with that $500-million also set aside for swimming pools, soccer pitches, arenas, baseball diamonds, etc.
Those protesting this alleged insult to golf point out that any money coming into the game is a good thing, but in reality, such funding will benefit, at best, a chosen few and not the game as a whole.
While the dollars that could potentially filter into golf through this funding program will likely be few, there will be no shortage of controversy about who actually receives that coin.