It doesn’t seem like that much money.
There are plenty of Canadian courses that charge as much for the privilege of tipping it up on their pristine tee boxes, or putting on their velvety surfaces. Banff Springs is more. Eagles Nest is about on par. Muskoka Bay is slightly less.
Given that $185 is among the uppermost green fees for a public course in Canada, it was with some interest that I read Score managing editor Jason Logan’s weekly
column blog that referenced the new green fees at The Rock.
Under his “barbs” section a few weeks back, Logan had this to say:
Heard through the grapevine that The Rock plans to hike its green fees this coming season so it can market itself as the most expensive course in the already expensive area of Muskoka, Ont. This comes after the course closed last summer for renovations because few, if any, golfers enjoyed the Nick Faldo (actually David Moote then Brit Stenson) layout, which opened in 2003. I can see this marketing tactic working about as well as New Coke. Despite the renovations, The Rock is still a very tough and at times maddening course that isnt all that fun to play. Too bad too, because there are some good golf people in place at The Rock.
Now I’ve written pretty extensively about the problems facing The Rock. It faced problems from the get go and before it closed for renovations, steak dinners were just about being handed on a plate to anyone willing to pay the green fee. Now in the end it turns out The Rock abandoned the idea of making it the most expensive and settled for $185.
One would think a million dollars in renovation fees would lead someone at the club to reconsider what they did for the past few years. By all accounts the renovation was well done, but it is hard to make a burned steak taste good. Even if you cut away the singed areas, it is still burned steak. Such is the case, I suspect, with The Rock and its renovation.
The truth is that the ownership and management of The Rock could have turned it into Pine Valley or Augusta National, but at a peak season rate of $185, no one is going to hear about it.
If I were one of the people who played The Rock in 2006 and found it to be beautiful, but also unfair, what would bring me back to the course? What about those who thought it was just bad? How do you attract those golfers?
I’ll say this for sure — it isn’t with $185 green fees. And while fees do start at $100 less in May, let’s be honest — no one plays much golf in Muskoka in May, especially not this year with the huge amount of snow we’ve had.
What I fail to understand is why the management didn’t try something different. When Angus Glen opened in 1995, the fee was about $100 less than it is today. Over the next 12 years, with demand increasing, fees rose. People liked the course — and the service — and they came back, as well as voicing their pleasure to friends and colleagues.
So why didn’t The Rock relaunch at a peak, one-year rate of $100? Show the newly revamped layout off to those who wouldn’t give it another sniff.
The problem with the current rate is that it puts The Rock into elite company — with the likes of Muskoka Bay (arguably the best public facility in Muskoka), Taboo and Deerhurst Highlands. And at that level, The Rock can’t compete.
Now if I were a player in mid-summer, looking to go play with my buddies, would I risk going to The Rock — and uncertain quantity at this point — or take the sure thing and head to Muskoka Bay.
To me, that’s an easy decision.
The Rock better hope it isn’t a decision others follow, or it’ll be a quiet summer on the fairways of Faldo’s layout.