The Development of Golf in Canada: The Battle of Positioning Begins

I think when Ian Andrew went to participate in the announcement by the Royal Canadian Golf Association about longterm player development, he felt he would be witnessing something he’d long hoped would happen: Golf’s governing body would create a program that would help youth participate in the game — something that Andrew felt was important as a golfer who grew up in the public realm, as a parent and as a golf architect. I’ll give Ian a lot of credit — he went into the whole affair quite optimistic that something good could be accomplished.

I didn’t go to the event as I was on a family vacation, but I am very intrigued at what is going on in developing new golfers in Canada. And I’m not talking about finding the next Andrew Parr, Richard Scott or Chris Baryla. I’m talking about developing the next kid who will go on to become a lawyer, or office manager or police officer and takes along with them a passion for the game.

So what did Andrew discover in his week long series on player development in Canada? Frustration. I think his discussion with Dr. Stephen Norris, a leading expert on sport development, gave him a sense of hope that the right moves were being made for golf in this country. Armed with his trusty digital recorder, Andrew blogged at length about his optimism that golf was heading in the right direction. He wrote:

“I felt like Canadian Golf had finally made the first real step towards trying to develop players and the long term health of the game “ something I believe should be a priority for all of us.”

That sentiment changed after he posted five stories on the subject over a week, so much so that in his final post he said: “Now I feel like I’ve waded into the middle of something that I want no part of.”

Welcome to the convoluted world of Canadian golf, where the political bodies don’t trust one another for a variety of legitimate reasons and where each is building trenches to dig in. Andrew found this out first hand, having received notes on his seemingly innocent blog posts from just about every organization with a vested interest in the subject.

His conclusion?

I feel sad because I expect politics to hinder any cohesive plan from coming together. I give credit for the individual programs and the attempts to all come together, but there must be some pretty deep seated problems for what I have observed or heard from individuals this week.

I think Andrew found out first hand one of the big problems facing golf in this country — the organizations in charge of running the game have disparate opinions on how that should be accomplished, and by and large don’t trust one another. For the longest time the Canadian Junior Golf Association didn’t trust nor like the RCGA (and though they now work together, I’m still not sure there is a lot of trust here). The National Golf Course Owners’ Association doesn’t trust nor like the RCGA either. Many feel this is simply a hackneyed grab for Sport Canada cash, which is a sad state affairs even if it isn’t true.

Where does this all end up? My guess is that the political infighting will result in another program that is never fully realized. That’s a sad state of affairs for the game of golf in Canada, and one that a golf architect like Andrew, and a golf writer like myself, has to be worried about.

Of course, a lot of this should come as no surprise given the amount of debate on the subject a week and a half ago when Bob Weeks posted in it.

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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.

1 CommentLeave a comment

  • The CPGA should develop the golfers, the RCGA should provide them places and events to play (and the provinces should also provide assistance with more events). Corporate support would help the CPGA set up a program, but by going through the RCGA too much of the funds get lost, the elite may be looked after but the grass roots programs will get lost. Canada needs more lawyers, teachers, doctors, drivers, etc. who play golf, Canada does not need more Weirs (although a few more would be nice).
    Sandra Post was the first Tiger Woods!

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