In a year in which the coronavirus has changed our lives, golf has been deemed a safe haven that offers social distancing to those who seek a physical and mental escape from isolation caused by the pandemic.
It’s little wonder then that in a year that once seemed so barren for recreational choices that many people have picked up clubs this year, including many who have never done so previously.
Talk to anyone in the golf industry or scan headlines from across the country and the consistent message is that 2020 has been a boom year for the game and if you want more than anecdotal evidence, the National Golf Course Owners Association of Canada reported that national rounds in June and July were up 24 and 26 per cent, respectively.
Yet, city council in Toronto cites that city’s pandemic response as one reason to to assess opportunities for alternative recreational and community uses at its five municipal golf courses. Suggestions that have been made include community gardens, urban farms and parks and and advocates for several causes have made their feelings known and people are listening.
As I mentioned in this blog last week, University-Rosedale MPP Jessica Bell wrote a letter to council recently describing how golf is in decline and limited “to those who can afford to pay up to $75 on a game of golf,” while failing to mention that nine hole fees can run as low as $12.50 to $13.50 for juniors and seniors at the city courses.
To its credit, city council listed the “golf community” as one group it would consult with in its assessment of possible repurposing of golf courses and here’s hoping it means that, considering the media seems disinterested in balanced reporting, while giving people with other ideas for the use of the land a voice.
News stories are one sided and if you look at this one, which is nothing more than a compilation of tweets against the munis, or this one, there are no efforts to seek the opinions of golfers or anyone else who represents the game.
Opinions pieces are given to to those who have other ideas for golf courses lands, such as this one, but not to those who would be affected if the munis were repurposed.
It would also help if city council would clarify what it means by “golf community” and who it would consult.
More voices from golfers and the golf industry are needed as the interests of a community are varied, each pursuing something different and very often, they will use the old elitist stereotype when it’s usually juniors, seniors, families and those just wanting to play an affordable game who are using the munis.
As it stands, the operation and management of the five courses are being extended into 2022, with an option year into 2023.
Beyond that, it’s anybody’s guess what happens with one, two or all five municipal courses, but one thing that is certain is that the game will take a bruising from people with other ideas for the land.