Gordon on Golf

2015 in Review – Part III: A focused vision

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Golf Canada (Jason Scourse/ Golf Canada)

There is no doubt Golf Canada is proud of the many accomplishments by Canadian golfers in 2015.

But the over-arching mandate of the association was succinctly summarized by Scott Simmons in his year-end message to members across the country.

“Golf Canada is committed to investing in the growth and overall health of the game,” said Simmons, the CEO of Golf Canada.

In 2015, perhaps more so than in any other previous year, Golf Canada demonstrated that long-term commitment through an initiative called “One Vision.”

As stated in Golf Canada’s message at its annual general meeting last February, One Vision (you can see the details here) aspires “to ensure golf maintains its status as the most popular sport in Canada.”

“One Vision is easier said than done,” said Simmons, “but it’s not about one organization doing all of this on its own. It’s about all of us aligning to protect the game we all care about. Starting several years ago, Golf Canada saw the necessity of an industry-wide strategic plan, essential not only under its mandate as golf’s designated National Sport Federation, but in its ever-evolving role as a guardian, a champion, of the game.

One Vision contains four pillars:

Golf Canada President Paul McLean elaborates.

“We work collaboratively with our partners at the provincial golf associations as well as PGA of Canada professionals, club managers, superintendents, manufacturers and golf course owners to ensure the heath and sustainability of our sport. It’s important that all golfers from avid to novice can experience the tremendous health, economic, charitable, competitive and social benefits inherent in our sport. Welcoming new golfers, increasing rounds played and delivering quality golf experiences is a goal shared by the entire golf community.”

“We are all golf,” said Simmons. “If we are going to move the game continuously forward, we have to be aligned. When we are aligned on a common vision, we can accomplish great things and achieve maximum potential through synergy.”

That synergy was demonstrated in many ways in 2015, perhaps most obviously by the Long Term Player Development Program (LTPD) 2.0 revealed at February’s annual meeting. Launched in 2006, the latest iteration of LTPD, developed in partnership with the PGA of Canada, has been recognized worldwide for its innovation.

In addition to providing a solid sport development framework, LTPD clearly outlines the roles and responsibilities of every stakeholder including coaches, instructors, golfers, parents of golfers, facility owners and golf administrators. The goal is to create a player development blueprint to success that will serve Canadian golf for years to come.

In his year-end message, Simmons also provided some encouraging news for Golf Canada members on how their dues supported the vitality of the game.

Also in 2015, recognizing the changing landscape of golf club membership, Golf Canada made a fundamental change to its membership model.

After extensive surveys and focus groups with golfers and facilities across Canada, a new structure is being rolled out across Canada. The three-tiered program is so innovative that it is being viewed with great interest by other national golf associations who are considering revamping their own membership methods.

“Seventy or 80 years ago, about 90 per cent of golfers in Canada belonged to a club,” said Karen Hewson, Golf Canada’s Managing Director, Membership and Heritage Services. “In recent years, that has reversed. Now, fewer than 10 per cent are club members.”

One inevitable result of this reversal is that only a small percentage of golfers feel connected to the game in a larger sense. They’re not part of that traditional club-based linkage, a situation that Golf Canada reacted to in a positive way.

“Everyone who loves golf should feel that they are an important part of its traditions and of its future,” said Hewson. “Things like Handicaps and Course Rating and Rules are, and will always be, integral to the game and Golf Canada’s role in it. But we are very aware that a very real priority is to build relationships with, communicating with, and educating everyone who plays the game, regardless of where they choose to play.”

Nowhere was that made more evident than by the launching of a creative, interactive campaign – Golf Canada Golf – which celebrated the game by inviting golfers to share the stories. The campaign was a collaborative effort among provincial and national golf association stakeholders.

“Among golfers, there’s always a story—memorable shots, a round with family, playing your favourite course, a golf trip with friends, witnessing first-hand the incredible skills of PGA TOUR or LPGA Tour players, or using the game to overcome personal adversity,” said Gavin Roth, Golf Canada’s Chief Commercial Officer.  “The campaign web site – GolfCanadaGolf.com – invites Canadians to share their own experiences as well as read or watch other compelling stories to remind us what makes the game great and ultimately encourage enthusiasts to play more golf.”

Innovative. Inclusive. Welcoming.

Not just with words, but with action, Golf Canada obviously is committed to reinforcing to Canadian golfers that we are all part of a community, not just for today, but for the future.

“Golf has a strong base with close to 5.7 million Canadians playing 60 million rounds annually at 2,346 facilities from coast to coast,” said Simmons. “Through our joint membership efforts with the provincial golf associations, we have a relationship with close to 310,000 golfers at 1,400 member clubs, so the opportunity to interact with a greater share of everyone who golfs is huge.

“The health of the game requires taking a customer-centric approach and searching for innovative ways to connect with golfers. Creating that meaningful engagement starts with introducing children through grassroots programming like Golf in Schools and CN Future Links. It continues at the club level through membership programs that welcome avid players and new enthusiasts.

“We also want golfers to feel inspired by the outstanding performances of our Canadian talents competing on the international stage. Golf’s return to the Olympics in 2016 for the first time since Canada won gold in 1904 will give Canadians another powerful reason to celebrate the game.”

2015 in Review – Part I: Canadian golf successes
2015 in Review – Part II: State of the game
2015 in Review – Part III: A focused vision