London Community News
There are lies, damn lies and statistics. So, with the recent release of its study to uncover behaviour characteristics and trends among Canadian golf consumers, what’s the next move for Canada’s National Allied Golf Associations (NAGA)?
NAGA is comprised of the National Golf Course Owners Association Canada (NGCOA Canada), the PGA of Canada, the Canadian Society of Club Managers, the Canadian Golf Industry Association and the Canadian Golf Superintendents Association of Canada.
Yet every stakeholder – from the public links golfer who tees it up twice a season to the multi-national golf apparel manufacturer – plays an important part in Canada’s golf mosaic.
According to the NAGA-commissioned study, conducted by the scientific firm NAVICOM, more than 4.2 million of Canada’s total golfing population of 5.7 million golf only two to eight rounds per season. The study estimates 684,000 Canadians are avid golfers (25 rounds-plus per year) – that’s 12 per cent.
The study also says growth is stagnant with just as many people (more than one million) entering the game each year as there are golfers giving up the game. It says 38 per cent of golfers are playing fewer rounds, compared to 14 per cent who are playing more rounds per year.
And, as is expected, the NAGA study list time and money as the two largest detractors to growing the game.
Neil Kapp, an owner with London’s East Park Golf Gardens, and Maple Ridge and Westminster Trails golf clubs (part of the 22-club London Golf Trail which will add new clubs in 2013), is NGCOA Canada past president. Kapp agrees that no other sport more closely examines its economics and participation rate than golf does, and adds there’s no complacency amongst Canadian golf stakeholders. He also agrees that no other game is even in the same ballpark in terms of giving back to the community. But, agrees there’s work to be done.
“What we knew before was anecdotal. Now it’s statistical. Now we have some solid information,” Kapp said. “For example, we’re putting a lot into junior programs, but the statistics say we may not be hitting the (growth) marks.”
In regards to time and money affecting growth, Kapp asked, “Are golfers playing just nine holes? Maybe this is where we need to let golfers know they have options. Certainly, courses like East Park, we do a lot of nine-hole play here. So I think we’ll refocus a bit on how we market that, based on (the study), especially beginners. If you don’t have time for 18 holes, nine holes are a great alternative.”
A 1991 City of London study, conducted by Canadian Golf Marketing, stated there were 81,000 golfers in London, 29,000 of whom were recreational golfers, and the balance avid golfers. That study reported, in most other municipalities, those numbers were reversed. The 1991 study indicated, more than 1,250,000 rounds of golf were played each year at London and area’s 20 courses.
Today, there are more than 100 golf courses in southwestern Ontario – more than 40 courses within a half-hour drive of the city’s core.
Mike Olizarevitch, retired long-time head professional at Fanshawe Golf Club, produced a report for the City in 2003 indicating there are enough golf courses in and around London to support a population of 1,050,000 – more than three times London’s then population of about 330,000. The National Golf Foundation indicates, in order to sustain a viable trade, one golf course should be built for every 25,000 people.
A previous study conducted by NAGA stated that golf accounts for an estimated $29.4 billion in total gross production. The study estimated $13.6 billion represents total direct sales from the Canadian golf industry.
Said Kapp, “When we talk about the game’s economic impact, we turn a lot of heads.”
You can read the latest golf study at http://canadagolfs.ca/canadian-golf-consumer-behaviour-study.
With economic conditions changed, time constraints greater and now a handful of additional golf courses dotting the local golf landscape, perhaps it’s time for another local study of golf trends. My gut feeling is that most London golfers remain avid golfers. But with so many local links on the menu, it’s without a doubt an oversaturated market.
Golf great Arnold Palmer once quipped, “Golf is a game of inches. The most important are the six inches between your ears.” But to the local economy, the game of golf is measured in dollars and cents.
Jeffrey Reed is an award-winning journalist, and has been a member of the local sports media since 1980. Write to him at email@example.com.