Golf in Canada is an $11B Industry: NAGA Study

Yesterday the National Allied Golf Association, a Canadian organization made up of seven different golf-related groups, came out with its first survey. Yep, golf in Canada is big “ really big. Big to the tune of contributing $11.3 billion to the countrys GDP, directly or indirectly employing 341,000 people and directly employing 155,024. Those are big and impressive numbers, especially given the goal of the survey was to determine just how big golf in Canada is.

Heres some other highlights:

  • $1.8 billion spent on golf travel in Canada
  • 70 million rounds played
  • $2.1 billion in equipment sales
  • $400 million in annual charitable contributions from the game
  • $1.7 billion spent on travel outside of Canada

golfgdp2The study was conducted by a Nova Scotia-based firm that specializes in these sorts of economic indicators. According to Thomas McGuire, the study, which included interviews with 4,000 Canadian golfers and 350 golf courses, is statistically accurate to within a small margin of error. So unlike previous surveys “ namely the RCGAs much maligned study from a few years back “ this one seems to be on the mark.

As Jeff Calderwood, director of the National Golf Course Owners Association said: Golf in Canada is a pretty successful thing.


The big numbers demonstrate how important the industry is to Canada “ probably something most politicians have overlooked as there has never been an industry-wide lobbying effort provincially or in Ottawa “ but that doesnt mean there arent concerns.

The biggest issue “ which sticks out like a sore, slightly puss-filled, certainly infected thumb is a decline in rounds by 10% in 2008, which have likely declined further this year. Since that figure would have come before the economic decline, and with another wet summer almost behind us, one can safely assume rounds have fallen further. Thankfully new course development, which would bring more capacity into the market, has also slowed “ at least for the time being.

This is apparently one concern all seven groups can wrap their collective heads around:

I think everyone is concerned about a decline in participation, says Scott Simmons, executive director at the RCGA. Calderwood tried to downplay the decline, saying weather is a bigger factor on participation in the game than economics. Still, one has to wonder about the overall health of the sport, especially when Calderwood points out that the game is perceived as as being perceived as a little expensive and a little bit time consuming. Those factors, he says, can be taken care of with marketing.

That begs the question “ what are we waiting for?

My take is this “ there are seven groups involved with NAGA and the survey, all with different agendas and different priorities. The RCGA and the NGCOA have been at loggerheads before “ though that relationship improved significantly with the departure of former ED Stephen Ross. The point is that while all the organizations have golf in common, they arent necessarily after the same things. The RCGA wants to grow the game, the NGCOA, which also wants to grow the game, also wants to deal with property taxes and pesticides. Sometimes agendas align “ sometimes they dont.

I think the decline in rounds is significant and a point of real concern for courses already on the cusp of financial ruin. Itll be interesting to see whether it pushes more courses into receivership.


The other interesting factor is how much money comes from golf travel. This is a huge deal that Canadian golf destinations handle badly. Theres no Golf Canada tourism initiative, and while some regions deal with it well (Golf Nova Scotia, PEI, BC) others (like Quebec) have almost no presence at all. Ontario, for example, which brings in 38.7% of golfs contribution to GDP, has no real tourism promotional agency for golf. Thats not just a shame “ thats an embarrassment.

So what now? NAGA has a fancy study and lots of impressive numbers “ so what do they do with it? Hire an executive director and some lobbyists? Apparently not. Money is tight for all involved, and they are meeting soon to determine where their mutual interests align, while they can also use the study to further their own specific interests. For the games sake I hope they can come up with some common areas and spend the appropriate money to make a real impact. I didnt get the feeling that more money from the organizations was forthcoming though, which means golf in Canada will remain splintered into different interest groups and its impact will be marginalized because of it. I hope this doesnt happen “ but that was my feeling coming out of their presentation yesterday.

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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

  • Hey Rob, the NAGA study is accurate to +/- 1.55%, 19 times out of 20.

    The 2006 RCGA/Ipsos Golf Participation study is accurate +/- 0.7%, 19 times out of 20.

  • Looks like Matt beat me to the punch here…my question given that the “much maligned” study a couple of years ago (done by Ipsos Reid, not the RCGA btw) was done by a highly credible, expert comany and was statistically accurate to within a small margin of error, just wondering what makes you so sure that (a) those results were in accurate and (b) the results of this new study are accurate? From what I can gather both studies used a statistically significant sample of Canadian golfers and courses…why should we believe one and not the other?

    And, although the figures are big and impressive on their own, do they mean much without similar stats to compare them to? Do other countries have similar research we can compare Canada to? Does NAGA plan to do another study in a few years to see if the health of the industry is improving or declining? How exactly will these numbers be used to benefit the Canadian game and Canadian golfers?

  • RT….Did you ever hear the saying, if you can’t write become a golf writer. You are a joke. Both of the comments on this blog are correct. On the one hand you slam the participation study, and now you embrace this study. I guess you got up on the right side of the bed this time, causing you to embrace this study. Your writing is shallow and juvenile. I would say that it takes more time for you to hit the keystrokes than it does for you to think about what you write. Yours is a brain dump. You exhaust all those little thoughts that you have and put them on your blog. You show no talent, no though process, no critical thinking. You are a really bad journalist. Please consider a new career. I would suggest that you work for the city and pick up garbage. That way you may even pick up some of the garbage that your write. That would be justice at its best. I can’t say anything more than what others in the industry have already said. Please for the sake of your dignity move on to another endeavor.

  • Matt and GolfGrrl:

    There was plenty of coverage and questions about the Ipsos-Reid study at the time: See

    Mainly the issue was about rounds played and increased participation, which was the focus of the study, not the economics of the game. This study — which at least acknowledged play is down — seems reasonable. I’m no economist — but it had backing from those that questioned the earlier study, which many thought was self-serving.

    “Jim:” Feel free to bugger off if you think I’m so full of shit. You won’t be missed.

  • If the golf industry brings in $11B that means that on average a Canadian spends $300 per year on golf. Are you doing your part? I know that I must spend 30X that amount of every year.

  • Why reply to such a letter.
    Please don’t lower yourself to the level of Jim .
    Tks I still enjoy reading your material.

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