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Ontario Golf Market on Verge of Collapse?

Owning $1.1-million, Owen Sound G&CC's debt has overwhelmed the club.

That’s what a headline in the Toronto Star this morning would have you believe. It is a fact not known by many, but the truth is that writers — at least those of the newspaper kind — don’t write or even suggest headlines. So Jonathon Jackson, the freelancer who wrote the story in question in the Toronto Star this morning, can be let off the hook for a headline that is over the top.

In fact, he’s written a relatively interesting story — albeit one lacking in hard numbers or other examples — about the plight of Ontario’s golf industry following the recent failure of Owen Sound Golf and Country Club, which went into receivership. I’d have added several other clubs that have failed as examples of the struggles of the industry — like Glendale near Hamilton, Grand Niagara near Niagara Falls or even some of the publicly owned courses like River Road in London, Ont.

Truth be told an awful May has led to a terrific June for many clubs. Two high-end public courses I spoke with this week said June was up significantly, though May was also down. That said, rates are typically higher in June, and play is stronger, so having a better month can slightly offset the losses of May.

Here’s my quote in the story:

Other Ontario courses have run into trouble because of the marketplace and lousy spring weather. Some, including Owen Sound, were already hanging on by their fingertips and needed a strong start to the season, but it didn’t happen.

“A golf course would probably need to be doing between 23,000 and 30,000 rounds to really make a good go of it,” said Robert Thompson, a columnist with sympatico.ca and a blogger at CanadianGolf.com. “Most clubs, given the difficulties in May, were down anywhere between 15 and 35 per cent, and you can’t recover from that, not in the same year.”

He also agrees the Ontario golf market is oversaturated, based on a belief that the baby boomers were going to take up the game in higher numbers as they got older. There was also a mistaken belief that the number of younger players would explode as kids tried to emulate Tiger Woods and Mike Weir.

“Over the last 10 years, we saw an excess of golf courses built across the province, and we saw fees rise. At the same time I think we saw a flattening or softening of the general demand for it.”

 

The full story is here. 

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

6 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I didn’t even realize the story was going to be published today because I thought I may have submitted it too late last night, otherwise I would have let you know, Robert! I’m glad you saw it, though…..thank you again for your time yesterday. And thanks also for understanding that I am NOT in any way responsible for the headline, which is really not representative of the article at all. :-s

  • conditioning expectations and the grand course designs have been big problems in raising the costs of golf here in Canada/N.A.

    With weekly tournaments from various tours shown on TV, distorted expectations and pressure for existing and new course builds.

    The baby boomers demanded this when they took up the game and easily exceeded the financial capabilities of the next generation (youth).

  • Collapse, nah… just a market correction . The last 10-15 years most golf course have been raising their green fee approx. 10% every year. It’s about time that that golf courses like every other industry needs to work on attracting and keeping their customers. A little customer service and customer appreciation instead of the Field of Dreams attitude!

    • Totally agree Paul. Most clubs have not recognized that the member experience must be just as important as the course condition. There must be value for the time and money spent.

  • Still waiting on Grand Niagara to actually realize it’s in peril. Maybe then they’ll lower their rates and get some golfers in. They could use some cars in the parking lot to keep the dust down.

    In past, I would have paid a bit extra to play. This year, $50 is my ceiling. I prefer to walk, so that’s actually a pretty fair number. Problem is, courses like Grand Niagara and Legends that are ‘cart-only’ don’t like to stoop that low.

    I’m still trying to do the golf industry math that somehow prefers 4 @ $100 over 8 @ $50 when there’s room for 80.

    • Might want to check for an update folks, word has it that Grand Niagara is no longer in receivership due to being bought out……Look for the Devil’s Pulpit/Paintbrush connection……..

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