So, how is the golf industry doing over all? Is participation increasing or are we losing golfers? Are there too many courses?
Golf Canada, in partnership with the PGA of Canada, has released Golf Facilities in Canada 2015—the definitive report on golf facilities and development in Canada.
“The golf industry is worth more than $14.3-billion to the Canadian economy and represents more than 1 per cent of our nation’s total GDP. The $5-billion in direct revenues generated by Canada’s 2,346 facilities are more than the revenues generated by all other participation sports and recreational facilities combined ($4.8 billion). The numbers reinforce the massive financial, charitable, and environmental impact that golf has in communities across Canada including hundreds of thousands of jobs, billions in taxes, and a major tourism driver both domestic and international. Canadian golf facilities are a channel for major charitable giving with close to 37,000 events at Canadian courses raising more than $533-million annually for worthwhile causes. Canadians are passionate about the game of golf with a participation base of 5.7-million Canadians who enjoy more than 60-million rounds annually”.
South of the border golf continues to be a huge economic driver and is a nearly $70 billion industry which employs nearly 2 million Americans with $55.6 billion in annual wage income. So economically, our sport is continuing to make a tremendous impact.
Reports of the imminent demise of an industry estimated to be worth more than $14.3-billion to the Canadian economy alone and more than $80-billion south of the border have been greatly exaggerated.
In an interview with the Globe and Mail “Ian Leggatt, a former PGA Tour player has no trouble pinpointing what’s wrong with the sport he loves: It costs too much, takes too long and is difficult to play.”
“For Conditions in key markets have deteriorated to the point that Adidas, a major peddler of golf gear and apparel through its industry-leading TaylorMade and other brands, is mulling an exit from the sport after sales slid 26 per cent in the second quarter.
“The participation rate appears to have levelled off, with about the same number of people entering the sport as exiting. Industry officials put the number of Canadian players at close to 5.7 million, although more than four-fifths fall into the occasional or infrequent-player category.
“Although we haven’t yet returned to the peak years that preceded the recession, there are still more golfers than any other sport in Canada, and the positive 2015 trends imply that golf is likely to remain the No. 1 participation sport for many years to come,” said Jeff Calderwood, CEO of the National Golf Course Owners Association Canada.
In a far cry from the boom years, only 29 new facilities have opened across Canada in the past five years and another 31 are in development, while 158 have closed since 2005, according to a National Golf Foundation report. That still leaves 2,346, ranking Canada third in the world behind the United States and Japan. Fewer than 10 per cent are private.
Moves to boost traffic include lower rates, more nine-hole play, shorter fairways and enlarged holes to speed up games, as well as unusual marketing efforts such as FootGolf, a hybrid combining golf and soccer.
A snapshot of data captured in Golf Facilities in Canada 2015:
- Canada is home to 2,346 public and private golf facilities; ranking it third in the world in total supply.
- Seventy-seven per cent of the total golf supply is located in Canada’s four most populated provinces—Ontario, Québec, Alberta and British Columbia.
- While course construction has slowed during the past several years (a trend mirrored in many mature and developed golf nations, including the United States and the United Kingdom) golf remains extremely accessible in Canada. A little more than 90 per cent of the country’s supply is open to the public.
- Of the 2,126 public facilities in Canada, half are located in Ontario and Québec, which together account for 61 per cent of the country’s total population. Furthermore, the two provinces are also home to 73 per cent of Canada’s 220 private clubs.
- Nine-hole golf accounts for almost 37 per cent of Canada’s total supply, which outnumbers 18-hole supply in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. In Saskatchewan, 18-hole courses are outnumbered 3 to 1 by 9-hole courses.
- Canada features nine 12-hole facilities (six of which are in Ontario) and three 6-hole facilities.
- Resort golf, though a small segment of Canada’s overall supply, is a significant contributor to tourism in several provinces. Countrywide, 167 facilities (or approximately 7 per cent) of total supply are connected to a resort or a resort/real estate operation.
- Course construction peaked in the 1960s with the opening of more than 420 facilities. A second significant growth spurt occurred in the period between 1990 and 1999, when more than 310 courses—13 per cent of total supply —opened. The growth was highlighted by the opening of 257 facilities in the four largest provinces: Ontario, Québec, Alberta and British Columbia.
- Since 2010, 29 facilities have opened in six different provinces. In recent years, Canada has seen only moderate growth, and currently has 31 18-hole equivalent facilities in various stages of development.
- Of those facilities in various stages of development, 17 have broken ground including seven in Alberta and four in Nova Scotia. Nearly 60 per cent of new projects are tied to a real estate development.
- In the past five to 10 years, 158 facilities have closed. One in five of those closures were located in Ontario, which is home to 35 per cent of the total supply of Canada’s facilities. Three of Canada’s 10 provinces have seen fewer than five facility closures during the past decade.