RGCA Announces Public Player Program

I’m on the conference call now — but this is the news release from the RCGA about its new public player program. I have a lot of questions and comments — but those will have to come later. The immediate one that strikes me — is this actually enough to attract golfers? Is a handicap system and affiliation with the RCGA enough of a draw? Love to hear from G4G readers….

The Royal Canadian Golf Association (RCGA) and Canadas provincial golf associations announced today the development of Canadas first-ever National Public Player Program.

The National Public Player Program is a unique, affordable golf club membership option that is open to individuals, groups, golf facilities and large organizations across Canada.

Through the initiative, public golfers will join virtual golf clubs without property and become full members of the RCGA and their applicable provincial golf associations.

Similar programs have been very successful in the United States but this is a first for Canada. The program is targeted towards the estimated 2.1 million avid golfers in Canada that are not otherwise a member of an existing golf club.

For the first time in our 112-year history, the RCGA, together with our provincial partners are reaching out to welcome public golfers, said Paul MacDonald, RCGA Managing Director of Golf Programs and Services. Research shows that there are over five million unaffiliated public players in Canada, 2.1 million of which are avid golfers that average upwards of 29 rounds annually. The ability to connect with and organize such a large segment of golfers represents a terrific opportunity to grow the game of golf in this country.

The program will also feature a corporate component targeted towards larger organizations looking to add golf-specific value to their employees, clients or customers.

Two significant initiatives introduced in recent years by the RCGA paved the way for the new national participation program – the modification of the handicap system to allow internet posting of scores and the introduction of the RCGA Network, a real-time, web-based golf portal that provides state of the art handicap and communication services to members.

This is a significant partnership between the provincial governing bodies and the RCGA that we believe will ultimately increase golf participation across the country, said Kris Jonasson, Executive Director of the British Columbia Golf Association. Technology through the RCGA online Network is making it easier for public players to become involved with organized golf and as administrators of the game, we welcome the opportunity.

Public players will now enjoy easier access to RCGA programs and services including the ability to maintain an Official RCGA Handicap Factor, eligibility to play in RCGA and provincial championships and access to the RCGA Network and all it affords. Through the RCGA Network, golfers will be able to maintain their handicap record, monitor their performance statistics, communicate with fellow club members, search a course directory of 20,000+ courses in North America, view golf event calendars and get valuable information on all RCGA programs and services. Participating players will also receive a subscription to the electronic E-Golf Canada newsletter.

The RCGA and provincial golf associations have established an aggressive growth target for the National Public Player Program and hope to affiliate with 80,000+ public golfers through the next 5-10 years.

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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.

7 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Robert, it’s called a grass roots cash cow wherein the RCGA gets to collect money directly from public players (who don’t pay through their golf club memberships). They may be surprised to find that there are not as many golfers in Canada as expected.

    However, it will raise money and some people will enjoy the fellowship (electronic) and competitions.

  • I have joined the GAO public player program, mainly just to get a certified handicap for other tournaments. Its unlikely I’d join the RCGA one unless there were a lot of tournaments in my area. I’m not sure I see this catching on. Will the GAO continue its public player program, or does that go away now?


  • Robert – I qualify as one of the “avid golfers” that the RCGA would like to entice. But I don’t see any benefit for me. If the RCGA was offereing a 20% discount on greens fees at selected quality public courses in Ontario – say, Copper Creek or Lionhead, for example – then I might be interested. But the opportunity to chat online with other golfers or track my handicap and stats (there is ample software available elsewhere to do that) or wait for the e-newsletter to land in my inbox does not cause my pulse to beat faster.

    It has takent the RCGA 112 years by its own admission to “reach out” and “welcome public golfers”. And this is how they do it? Sorry. As a public golfer, the RCGA still smacks of a stuffy old-tie club to me. I don’t feel any affinity for the organization.

  • SD, by virtue of your membership in the GAO Public Player Club you are already a member of the RCGA, so there would be no real need to join another club under the National Public Player Program. I imagine the provincial associations will continue to offer their Public Player Clubs, in much the same way that the RCGA hopes other entities will organize and administer clubs for public golfers.

    Chris, the base ‘product’ that the RCGA is offering is membership into the provincial golf association and RCGA, access to its online handicapping program, and an official Handicap Factor. But, that doesn’t mean that the entity that is ‘selling’ this product can’t add/modify the offering. For example, Golf Town has a public player club where membership includes the benefits mentioned above, plus Golf Town discounts, etc. Or maybe a public golf facility will start a club and offer certain benefits to its members. I agree that a straight-up, $25 membership (a la the GAO program) is not for everyone, but I suspect that the various entities that will eventually offer a ‘golf club’ will provide extra added value that will entice people to join their particular club.

  • Matt: While I like the concept, this is a tough sell. I’ve only ever held an official membership so I could get on the Old Course. Might do this — but we’ll have to see.

    Unless, of course, we form our own Canada club. Now then I’d join.

  • This is a very strange ‘announcement’. They’re making it sound groundbreaking, yet the GAO has been doing this for at least 7 years (back when it was the OGA). Before joining a private club, I was in the GAO public player program out of necessity to enter tournaments. Other than that it was pretty well crap…just the ‘right’ to enter formal tournaments (which you still had to pay for anyway).

    It’s ‘great’ for 2 types of people…

    1. legitimate competitive golfers who REQUIRE a formal handicap to enter Provincial/National and other competitive tournaments.

    2. fun golfers who want to spend $50 (it’ll be closer to $50, not $25) for a handicap for other odd purposes like entering high handicapper tournaments (heavens, why?) or as Robert Thompson submitted, getting onto golf courses with strict handicap card requirements. Wouldn’t it be great if you had to have a formal handicap to play here? think of how empty the courses would be (or how succesful the RCGA/GAO public player programs would be)


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