The state of private golf, Nicklaus in Canada and Edmonton's golf boom

The 18th at the National -- one of the country's most prestigious private clubs.

I was a pundit on a piece on CBC National tonight about the state of private (you can go here and tune in at the 42-minute mark to watch the piece). The basis of the piece was a reporter at CBC called after reading my piece in the Toronto Star about the changing face of private golf clubs. 

I’m of the opinion that many private clubs are re-evaluating their business model given changes in demographics and the economy. Venerable clubs that once had long waiting lists — Toronto GC and St. George’s come to mind — now have short or no waiting lists. Initiation fees could be the thing of the past at some clubs — ask Sean DeSilva at Cedar Brae about this one — and members are going to be presented with a wide variety of options.

I’m also of the opinion that too many private clubs have become victims of their own outdated rules and concepts. In Montreal, for example, some clubs mandated knee socks whenever a member was wearing shorts until just recently. Cell phones are still frowned upon, though I see the rule ignored at basically every private club I’ve been to recently. And jeans are banned though you can wear them to any fine dining restaurant, and they often cost more than the khakis that are worn on the course.

How does this evolve? How do clubs change?

I think many have to step boldly into the 1990s and give up these outdated 1950s concepts. New younger members aren’t putting away their iPhone for four hours and maybe wore jeans to their firm that day. What are they expected to do — change into something else just to enter their club?

Now there will always be exceptions to this. Clubs like Rosedale and Capilano and Calgary Golf and Country Club will always be the blue blood haunts where people have to be vetted by five members and their spouses or they can’t gain entrance. But I’m hoping private golf becomes more about the golf — and less about the silly rules that make golf seem like an elitist game when it should be like it is in Scotland and England — the game of the average working man.


Speaking of elite private clubs, anyone interested in James Island? This BC property comes with its own Jack Nicklaus-designed course — for the low, low price of $75-million.

As for Nicklaus, I’m told his design in Halifax is going forward. 


Worth reading this story on The Quarry, a new course in Edmonton. 

Les Furber, the designer, surely likes hyperbole, but he really gives this new course — one of three in Edmonton that are opening this year — a really good talking up:

Les Furber is one of Canada’s pre-eminent golf architects. He’s had his hand and his genius in more than 150 courses worldwide. So when he says the Quarry, Edmonton’s newest golf course, is one of the best he has done, that’s one very big mouthful.

“I think it will stack up with any of them,” said Furber, who is behind such gems as Gallagher’s Canyon, Golden, GlenEagles, Ironhead, Storey Creek, St. Eugene, Trickle Creek, the Springs at Radium, Predator Ridge, Silvertip and Salmon Arm.

“Sometimes you build a course that would exceed expectations. That’s the scenario there,” he said of the course in northeast Edmonton, just off the Manning Freeway and 167th Street, close to Ravencrest.

“There are many exhilarating golf shots. All the way around it is very exciting. I can’t wait to play it myself.”

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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

  • that edmonton article makes it sound like The Quarry is the next top 10 course in CANADA.

    “Every hole is a signature hole,” said Papadopoulos.”

    FYI – Papadopoulos is the owner

    “believes the Quarry is so good that it could hold a major tournament like the Canadian Open.” quoted by architect

    I’m curious what the real reviews will be like.

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