B.C. golf courses eye new markets to bolster rebound

It’s been a decade in the rough for many B.C. golf courses, but hopes are high for the upcoming summer season.

The sport is especially susceptible to the negative impacts of a reces- sion and has suffered a large drop in participation since the economic downturn. B.C.’s golf industry was recovering in 2015, but a series of

fires, floods and extreme weather stalled that rebound. According to a Profssional Golfers Association of Canada report, B.C. is the only region in the country that enjoys year-round golf. However, in Metro Vancouver, West Coast weather can be a double- edged sword. For example, the Bur- naby Mountain Golf Course & Driving Range had to close for 60 days in 2017 because of snow conditions, while Burnaby’s other municipal golf course, Riverway Golf Course & Driv- ing Range, remained open throughout the year.

Though only 6% of the province’s courses are private, they have been able to weather the storm better than their public counterparts over the past few years. Private courses do not rely on daily traffic for rev- enue. They instead generate the bulk of their revenue from membership dues and are less affected by poor weather, said Alan Palmer, director of golf at Shaughnessy Golf and Coun- try Club. As a result, B.C.’s 17 private courses have been able to rebound

faster from the recession than the 287 public courses.

The province’s overall golf industry hopes to bolster its rebound by ex- panding into new markets that focus on millennials, women and the Asian community.

The strategy includes creating unique products tailored to those new markets. For example, Jeff Cal- derwood, CEO of the National Golf Course Owners Association, said the golf community is continuously trying to adopt new technology, like streaming services in carts, to attract younger generations.

Golf annually contributes an estimated $2.1 billion to B.C.’s econ- omy, making up almost 1% of the province’s GDP, according to a 2014 National Allied Golf Associations report.

The industry’s GDP contribution has grown approximately 25% since 2009, but the number of people it employs has fallen by 6.4% to 44,000 from 47,000 over the same period.