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Golf Canada to Hit 25% of Projected Members For 2010

Golf Canada Executive Director Scott Simmons says the ambitious plan for relaunching and rebranding the RCGA has been a success despite the departure of several high-profile employees and the fact it has only managed 10,000 new members in 2010. Initially Golf Canada hoped to have 40,000 new members, a target proved unrealistic.

“We’ve recognized that achieving that goal was not realistic and we have to be more tactical in our approach,” Simmons said yesterday.

Simmons’ remarks came on the heels of the departure of Steve Carroll, the former executive director of the CPGA, who announced he was leaving his role as regional membership director to join run volleyball in Ontario. Carroll told Canadiangolfer.com that while he was occasionally “frustrated” with the inability to meet the targets set out at the launch of Golf Canada, he was impressed by Simmons’ determination and was convinced the organization would find success in time.

“It was a good experience for me,” Carroll says. “I didn’t apply for any other position other than the job I got.”

Carroll says he expects “there will be course corrections made” in Golf Canada’s approach, adding that one of the lessons learned is that Canadian golfers weren’t interested in the offers that were tied to membership. Companies involved with Golf Canada included Aeroplan, Royal Bank, iTravel2000.com and others.

“Golfers aren’t that interested in the tangible benefits,” Carroll says. “They are interested in the health of the game and how they can promote that.”

Simmons said he didn’t expect Carroll would be in the position for a long time, but did expect him to last longer than a year. He added that despite missing projections, which were based on mailing lists from some of the companies participating in the relaunch, Simmons called the numbers “positive.” He said under the RCGA membership had dipped from 400,000 in 2004 to 350,000 in 2009. The loss of 10,000 members annually was stopped, he said, and the organization will add 10,000 members by the end of the year.

“If we can get our mandate out to Canadians about growing the game, they will support it,” he said.

Simmons says he is presenting the plan for 2011 to Golf Canada’s board of directors. That plan will include a “more boisterous communications strategy,” that will include revisions to Golf Canada’s website that is run by the Globe and Mail.

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Jeff Lancaster

Jeff Lancaster is the Publisher of CanadianGolfer.com.

13 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Robert, there is no doubt Golf Canada has a difficult job looking for new members but you have to wonder if the approach they are using is effective.

    IMO the change to the Golf Canada branding was/is a serious mis-step. To have a strong brand such as the RCGA and then effectively ditch it in favor of a completely new brand – Golf Canada – just doesn’t make a lot of sense. To me this would be like P&G moving Tide to the lower shelf and replacing it with a new brand called Cleany.

    Another issue that effects their ability to attract new members is the confusion that the change to the Golf Canada brand has caused.
    For example, in Ontario we have the Golf Association of Ontario, the RCGA and Golf Canada. Most of the golfer I know couldn’t explain what any of these groups do outside the maintenance of the handicap service and even this they couldn’t tell you who is responsible. I’d say they have a long road ahead of them.

    As an example of the confusion I refer to, here is what I am presented with when I log onto the GAO site to post a score.

    We Have Good News!
    Don’t worry. Your account, your scores and the handicap you maintain are all still here. So what’s new? As an RCGA Member, and now a Golf Canada Member – The RCGA has become Golf Canada – you are entitled to many exciting new benefits at NO ADDITIONAL COST!

    Members are receiving their Golf Canada member cards now from their clubs or directly from their provincial associations. Once you have your card you will be able to access the many benefits including an all new BlackBerry app with mobile access to the RCGA Network, deals on travel, great golf insurance packages and other products, and much more at golfcanada.ca.

    You can also link your current RCGA Network account and your new Golf Canada account so you only need to remember one password.

    Stay tuned. This is only the beginning!

  • Greg, the RCGA brand may be strong amongst hardcore golfers, but means nothing to the vast majority of golfers in Canada…just another acronym in the golf industry. I’m almost certain that Golf Canada already has greater brand recognition than the RCGA did after 110 years.

    And you’re absolutely correct that Golf Canada and the provincial golf associations have to better merge their efforts to eliminate confusion over who does what. Adding to the clutter is the fact that ‘core’ programs such as handicap and rules are still technically under the RCGA banner.

    Scott Simmons is a sharp guy and I’m sure recognizes that some mistakes have been made during the branding transition and quest to acquire new members…but this is just year 1, and I’m certain there will be improvement over the next couple of years, at which time it’ll be fair to draw some conclusions about the rebrand/membership drive.

  • Sounds like spin to me. I didn’t and don’t see any benefit to renaming the RCGA (which I thought was indeed unique and differentiated). (Is the RCMP going to change to Police Canada?) There is an old putdown/truism in business that when in doubt – reorganize. That reorganization basically creates smoke so that observers cannot see that nothing is really happening.

    To get only 10,000 new members means the strategy is not resonating with its target audience. Members/non-members are voting.

    Still the name change is here and a fact. What is different? That is what must be deseminated.

  • What is the target audience? The 340,000 golf club members who already pay yearly (mandatory) fees to the RCGA? Don’t you already have them? Nice of you to give them some discounts on hotels, insurance and so on though… What about the hardcore public player who, according to the NAGA study, play an average 28 rounds per year? Their numbers add up to 2.5 million players in Canada. What about the casual player? 6 million strong. Not interested?

    Renaming yourself Golf Canada is just plain wrong. There seems to be very little (if any) interest in growing the game of golf in the public sector for the RCGA, so I suggest they rename themselves for what they truly are. Call yourselves ‘Golf Club Members of Canada’ to avoid any further confusion.

  • On the contrary, Steve…finding the right benefits/services (tangible and emotional) for public players and getting them motivated to join Golf Canada is a huge priority.

  • Matt-I’m certain the RCGA wants public funds to supplement their income for pet projects. Who wouldn’t? The equivalent of a ‘no dinner-dinner comes to mind for the incentives so far. If public golf is a huge priority, why would you (I am assuming you work for the RCGA) use publically donated money to fund aspiring golf professionals trying to make it on a tour? Did Mike Weir winning The Masters cause a ‘golf explosion’ in the country? Did Tiger Woods bring significantly more minorities into golf in the U.S. and on tour? No on both counts.

    If you are serious about reaching out to the public player and not just the cash grab (and I sincerely hope that you are) I suggest you read ‘The Open’ by John Feinstein and take a look at what David Fay and the USGA did.

  • In looking over the RCGA’s (Golf Canada) annual reports for 2008 and 2009 I’m not sure membership is the real problem. So as to understand the problem better does anyone know what portion of each members fees go to Golf Canada (RCGA)?

  • GregM- I think of the fees a member pays to his / her club something like $8-$10 goes to Golf Canada / RCGA. So the dollar amount is quite small and I don’t think that’s the issue.

    Steve – you’ve hit the nail on the head with the mere fact that you don’t know that those millions of public golfers are exactly who the RCGA was trying to target with the Golf Canada re-branding. Obviously that message missed the mark.

    IMO, the effort to capture those golfers is simply a wasted effort as there are no real tangible benefits a national governing body can provide Joe Average golfer and the “good of the game” message simply doesn’t resonate enough with most people. I enjoy a morning swim but have no desire to shell out 20 or 30 bucks to Swim Canada to support the sport. How many weekend shinny players pony up a few dollars to Hockey Canada to grow the game?

    Golf Canada / RCGA should narrow its focus to what it does best – developing programs for juniors and assisting competitive golfers (ie. providing rules, handicaps, etc) and running national championships. Athlete development / Team Canada should likely fall under this banner as well.

    The golf course owners have their own association and the club pros are looked after by the CPGA. What else does Golf Canada have to offer? I don’t know and it doesn’t seem clear that they know either.

  • Golf Canada is having the same issue every NSO (national sport organization) in Canada has. How does a national governing body, who’s mandate is driven by Sport Canada (1. high performance 2. sport development) connect with the average Joe. Realistically, NSOs can’t offer the average person anything tangible. The main way NSOs are successful at membership is if it is mandated for those that participate in the sport. Golf Canada has actually done a good job of this in the big picture, in that they have mandated about 90 – 99% of golfers who are club members to be RCGA/Golf Canada members. Hockey Canada has also done a great job in that anyone who plays minor hockey has to pay membership to Hockey Canada. Hockey Canada has attempted to go even further in their effort to make sure everyone playing hockey is a member (sanctioning cities that allow non Hockey Canada member leagues to run in their facilities by not allowing them to host Hockey Canada events), I am not sure how much success they have had or if they have even gone through with it.

    NSOs get their money from 1. the government and 2. their membership. Depending on the sport an average of say 60% of their money goes to High Performance. So anyone who is not HP, they are getting an overall net benefit of 40% of their invested money (which goes into coaching, officiating, junior development). I can’t think of any NSO that invests money in non sanctioned recreational participation, which is essenitally what most golfers participate in.

    Also, the Canadian Open must be a cash cow for them. If it is not, I would seriously consider where it fits in the associations mandate, especially when most of the prize money is leaving the country and not helping any of our pros.

  • Aaron,
    In follow up to your comment “Also, the Canadian Open must be a cash cow for them” the RCGA’s annual report shows that the “Professional Tournaments” line on the income statement has operated at a loss of $455K in 2009, a loss of $369K in 2008 and a loss of $2.5M in 2007.

  • “Golfers aren’t that interested in the tangible benefits”

    Tangible benefits?!?! What tangible benefits? Deals from banks, travel companies and credit cards? Really those deals aren’t any better than the deals the company will give anyone. Who are they trying to fool? I also couldn’t care less about high performance or how many Canadians make a living on the pro tours. Great for them, doesn’t effect my golf game much. I say much because the only thing I can equate to the pros at my course is the speed of play and not in a positive way.

    So what do they offer me for my non voluntary dues every year? Handicap and well new this year is a bunch of emails telling me how to redeem my Aeroplan Miles for gift certificates and the such. Wow what a deal.

  • On the contrary, Steve…finding the right benefits/services (tangible and emotional) for public players and getting them motivated to join Golf Canada is a huge priority.

    Matt-Public golfers, throughout my playing days, complain constantly about 2 things specifically. High green fees, and slow play. Golf Canada’s answer to a plan to reduce green fees to attract new players? “Discount is a dirty word in the Golf Industry”.

    Statements from Scott Simmons blog on Golf News Now:

    We are working to better serve our customers. One thing we learned is that the most important relationships we need to solidify are with our current members and member clubs across the country.

    Together with the provincial golf associations, we began a national club visitation campaign and this year, our three Regional Membership Directors visited over 650 member clubs across the country. That’s 650 opportunities to talk directly with Canadian PGA pros, club owners or general managers.

    Every visit helps to build a trust relationship and the program will continue in 2011. We want our member clubs to understand the programming and services available to them and how it might help their members and/or drive new business.

  • After reading the article, I didn’t notice the word ‘public’ anywhere. I did, however, see ‘member’ throughout the blog. It seems your ‘members’ don’t even know what you are doing, so you feel it necessary to have a few guys tour the country teeing it up with the Club Pro and ‘spreading the word’? To whom? The members you already have? Do you want them to cough up even more? Do you want the ‘public player’ to walk in the door and have the Club Pro try and sell him/her a Golf Canada membership after shelling out $100 or more on a green fee and cart, rather than the soft goods that might actually make THEM some money? Golf courses are closing all over the country, green fees are at record prices and Golf Canada wants the public to ‘kick some upstairs’ for the ‘good of the game’. Whose game? Not mine…

    The same Golf Canada who made such a spectacle taking off their jackets and ‘sheading their Blue Blood image’ during a video conference, who then in the next breath name their new player development program ‘Elite’. Did someone forget the i-s-t at the end?

    For 110 years, the RCGA hasn’t cared one iota about public golf. Golf Canada, in Year 1 (or year 111, depending on how you look at it) would like us to believe it is a huge priority. Their statements and actions seem to dictate otherwise…

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