Just about everything about golf has evolved over the years—the equipment we use, the apparel we wear, even the Rules we play by. So, inevitably, have we— the golfers who play the game.
Originally, golf clubs were founded—and funded—by their members. When the clubs decided it would be beneficial to have someone organize and oversee things like interclub competitions, administration of the Rules, and so on, golf associations came to be. In turn, the clubs supported those associations financially.
In modern times, that model is evolving yet again. While golf continues to be the most popular sport in Canada, a large majority of golfers now choose, for any number of reasons, not to join a traditional golf club. They love the game, but elect to play a variety of our country’s awesome selection of courses, rather than belong to just one.
By no means does this indicate that these golfers are any less enthusiastic or supportive of the game than their counterparts who choose to join a club. Far from it. We are all part of the same incredible sport and care about its future. Golf Canada realizes this and has acknowledged this evolution with a new membership model, one which welcomes the millions of players from coast to coast to be part of “golf in Canada.”
“Seventy or 80 years ago, about 90 per cent of golfers in Canada belonged to a club,” says Karen Hewson, Golf Canada’s Managing Director, Membership and Heritage Services. “In recent years, that has totally reversed. Now, fewer than 10 per cent are club members.”
One result of this reversal is that only a small percentage of golfers feel connected to the game in a larger sense; part of golf’s fabric, so to speak. They’re not part of that traditional club-based linkage, a situation that Golf Canada is reacting to in a positive way.
“Everyone who loves golf should feel that they are an important part of its traditions and of its future,” says 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.”
After extensive surveys and focus groups conducted with golfers and facilities across Canada, a new structure will be rolled out across Canada over the next three years. 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.
“The primary objective is to be more inclusive, to welcome all golfers to be a part of golf in Canada,” says Hewson. “In fact, the basic Bronze membership is free.”
The secondary objective is to enhance golfers’ playing experience with new tools on mobile devices, current golf information, a rewards program, online score posting and access to instructional tips, along with (at the Silver and Gold levels) upgraded benefits including an identification system that minimizes the impact of lost, stolen or damaged equipment and a program that offsets the cost of replacing lost, stolen or damaged equipment (or golf carts).
For no cost whatsoever, Bronze members receive discounts on tickets, merchandise and more; frequent rewards and prizes just for playing golf; score posting; the ability to track a season-long “ringer” scorecard at one course; basic statistics tracking, health information; dynamic course search; Global Golf Post and E-Golf News.
A Silver membership (available in 2016) costs $24.95 and offers all the Bronze benefits plus better discounts on tickets, merchandise and more; better rewards and prizes just for playing golf; more online/mobile tools for tracking your game; Golf Canada magazine home delivery; golf club labels and access to the Golf Canada Equipment Identification and Retrieval System; and online access to a PGA of Canada professional to assist and direct you on how to get the most out of your game.
For $49.95, a Gold membership gets you all of the above plus the best discounts on tickets, merchandise and more; the best rewards and prizes just for playing golf; access to provincial, national and other sanctioned events; official handicap factor; equipment guarantee (reimbursement for replacement of lost, stolen or damaged equipment); enhanced game tracking; internationally recognized membership card; and cart damage coverage.
Let’s say, for example, you are a member at an 18-hole semi-private golf club. The new membership model offers your club a couple of options.
The club may choose to pay its facility fee (another new concept) and then turn over the membership aspect to Golf Canada. When you visit the Golf Canada Score Centre at www.golfcanada.ca to post a score for the first time, you will be asked which level of membership you prefer: Bronze, Silver or Gold. Silver and Gold membership fees can be charged to your credit card at that time.
Alternatively, the club pays its facility fee and purchases memberships for its members directly from Golf Canada.
In addition to the new strategy and benefits for individuals, the reworked Golf Canada initiative offers benefits for golf facilities as well.
“We want to be partners in the game with every facility, from driving ranges to public courses to private clubs,” says Hewson. “We also want to provide every golfer in Canada, and I emphasize ‘every golfer’, a more enjoyable golf experience, more choices, and a broader perspective on the game.”