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It’s not all doom and gloom for golf’s foreseeable future


March 13, 2015
By Mike Jiggens

It was interesting to listen to the keynote address in January at the Ontario Golf Superintendents Association’s conference and trade show in Niagara Falls.

Pat Jones of GIE Media gave a state-of-the-industry address of sorts with an effective tie-in as to how the golf superintendent can assist in the game’s evolution.

It’s no secret that the golf industry has had its share of hard times the past several years. Golf courses in the United States are closing their doors at a rate of about 150 a year. At its peak, the number of U.S. golf courses was about 16,000 and has since been reduced to about 15,200.

Jones believes the number should eventually level off to about 13,000.

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The problem with golf largely came about between the years 1988 and 2002 when a boom in golf course construction resulted in a 42 per cent increase in the number of American courses.

Unfortunately, the number of rounds played during that time increased only 18 per cent.

Although Jones incorporated U.S. statistics into his presentation, he said the situation in Canada is largely the same, albeit on a scaled down basis.

The golf industry forged its own predicament by artificially creating a golf boom when there actually wasn’t one. Rich builders went nuts constructing golf courses left and right during this time frame, overbuilding to the point where most of these new courses weren’t needed.
And then Tiger Woods came along, and he was seen as the guy who would help put golfers on these near empty golf courses. It didn’t happen.
But Jones’ message wasn’t all doom and gloom. He speculated golf will prevail and the business will evolve as long as the expectations of golf courses are sound. This is where the superintendent comes in.

He figures the superintendent should be a key part of the management team at a golf course and be directly involved in the decision-making process. He should be creative and focused and, if he can combine his passion for turf with a head for business, the sky is the limit.
Golf is still a multi-billion-dollar industry, and in Canada makes an annual economic impact of about $ 13.9 billion. Jones said government legislators need to be reminded of golf’s impact on the economy and perhaps refrain from passing legislation that could become an obstacle for golf to attain as healthy a status as possible.

What Jones had to say can be read on page 28.

Congratulations to Pam Charbonneau on her retirement as Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ turfgrass specialist. Coming up just short of 25 years on the job, her final day was Jan. 30.

During the past quarter-century, she has provided valuable information to all sectors of the turfgrass industry. It was a challenge for her to stay on top of things, she said, but added working out of the Guelph Turfgrass Institute enabled her to keep her finger on the pulse of the research taking place around her.

Although she will no longer serve as turfgrass specialist—a position whose future is still up in the air—she will continue to teach every winter at the University of Guelph’s popular turfgrass managers’ short course.

Read her story on page 6.