RCGA Becomes Golf Canada — Now Do You Care?

The Royal Canadian Golf Association still exists — if you are interested in having your golf course rated for handicap purposes, or you happen to need a rules decision. But otherwise it is now Golf Canada.The RCGA’s executive director Scott Simmons has been talking about the move for months, and has put some money behind the change — as well as the future of his job should he be unsuccessful. After all, Golf Canada needs new revenue — it ran at a loss last year.

A story on TSN outlines Golf Canada’s problem pretty well:

Simmons delivered a pretty frank assessment of the organization’s financial situation, acknowledging it has lost roughly $10 million over the last three years and saying that it will be bankrupt in less than a decade if revenues don’t start to grow.

A new membership program will be key to that growth. The organization hopes to add at least 39,000 new members in the next year to the 350,000 it already has through golf courses from across the country.

The goal for this year seems slight — it hopes 40,000 new members will come on board, which given the fact the RCGA only takes a percentage of each $29.95  member, would mean about $400,000 in new revenue. It isn’t a lot, but it is a start.

The Golf Canada website outlines most of the details.

Here is what the RCGA Golf Canada is calling its “tangible benefits” to those signing up:

Tangible Member Benefits:

RBC Insurance “ Exclusive insurance savings plus custom-made golf coverage.

itravel2000 “ Canadas favourite online retailer is your gateway to unique golf travel packages and exclusive offers.

RIM/BlackBerry “ Access to the Golf Canada mobile application on your Blackberry smartphone featuring Rules of Golf, handicapping, leaderboards, on-course GPS and more!  Download today at

Aeroplan “ Golf Canada members can redeem their Aeroplan Miles for Golf Canada gift certificates towards green fees, golf merchandise and more.

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) “ Stay and save at Canadas most popular hotel chains while supporting programs like Golf in Schools and CN Future Links.

Golf Canada Magazine “ Members can receive Golf Canada Magazine delivered directly to their home.

Not being a fan of media deals, I wonder about the “Globe and Mail powered” site that the Golf Canada threatens is coming as part of the package (and why wait till June if this is up and running now.) I love Lorne Rubenstein as much as any other Maple Leaf fixated Canadian, but I don’t see the Globe as offering much in the way of golf. I know they said the paper was going to offer a golf blog — but damned if I can find it (or at least it isn’t listed in the online directory of the paper’s blogs.) So what is Golf Canada going to get — a bunch of Associate Press and CP stories, and the occasional Rubenstein column? They could have been smarter about that and truly covered Canadian golf writers, looking from coast to coast for RSS feeds on writers like Brad Ziemer in Vancouver or Randy Phillips in Montreal or Garry McKay in Hamilton. Instead they did a corporate deal that really doesn’t bring much to Canadians interested in golf. Maybe this is just a nitpick, but it bugs me.

Otherwise, I wonder about value. Yes, the offers for the Blackberry and insurance and Aeroplan are interesting — but only if you use those things. Canadian golfers seem very cost conscious, and if they don’t see some sort of easily quantifiable monetary benefit — ie. breaks on green fees, free golf balls, some sort of food discount — I think many will not buy in. Simmons is counting on golfers wanting to support the sport — but I think most golfers are more concerned about supporting their own habits.

“It’s about supporting the game you love, supporting a game that we know is our great for our children, that’s great for health and fitness, and supporting programs and trusting an organization that you know is putting 100 per cent of your dollars into programming and not overhead,” Simmons said.

But is that enough? I hate to say I don’t have a lot of faith in people — but maybe Simmons is just less cynical than I am. I hope he’s right and people will ante up and support the sport. I think there are some great benefits being offered to the country. Our young golfers who play on Golf Canada’s national teams are often the stars of tomorrow — just look at Nick Taylor or Matt Hill as examples. And the game needs to grow and be supported, though I wonder if the golf in schools program will ever catch on. It seems like such a massive undertaking. Interestingly, outgoing IMG Canada president Brad Pelletier told me he felt efforts on growing the game would be bettered aimed at universities that would produce golfers who could actually afford to play many of the courses we’ve built in the past couple of decades. It is an interesting observation.

Lorne Rubenstein raises some issues about the mission of Golf Canada in his column here.  Wonder if the new Golf Canada website would put that one up as part of its Globe deal, especially one with the headline: “Program for kids good, elite program not so good.”

If you’re interested in becoming a Golf Canada member, you can do so online here. writer Ian Hutchison has an interesting take on the rebranding as well, including his own issues with the Globe and Mail link.

And if you see a copy of Ontario Golf magazine around, my column is on the RCGA’s rebranding.

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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 good: the change from the RCGA to Golf Canada is long overdue, if for no reason other than to be clear about what the organization does and fall in line with other national sport groups like Tennis Canada, Hockey Canada etc.

    The bad: no one will care now any more than they did last week. RT is right that unless you need an official handicap or compete in provincial championships, there’s not much Golf Canada can hope to offer average golfers. The golf in schools program is a wonderful idea and I’d like to see every club in Canada sponsor a local school, but I bet it’s still not enough to make people join the association. The Team Canada programs are great but funding golf in Canadian universities isn’t going to make much difference until we open a Canadian university in Florida so the kids can play golf all year long. Anyone spending a winter in Canada is going to be at a competitive disadvantage.

    I’m guessing the guy who plays shinny on the weekends doesn’t feel much obligation to give money to Hockey Canada – the weekend hacker isn’t going to be any different. Golf Canada has to offer golfers something they NEED, not just want, to attract the kind of membership base it needs to survive.

    I vote for less coporate gobbledy-gook like “consumer-facing” and more time spent asking what Canadian golfers need and how Golf Canada can provide it to them. Right now it’s all about what Golf Canada needs (money) and how golfers can provide it.

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