Expect the typical stereotypes about golf to be pulled from the bag of tricks possessed by the environmental and food advocacy groups described by a food reporter in this story that was posted Monday by the Toronto Star.
On Wednesday, city council in Toronto will decide whether to extend the operating licences for five of the city’s golf courses. The story says there are seven city-run courses, but the five mentioned are the only ones that come to mind.
“Build a city for the people who live here and not for the privileged few,” was the predictable comment from Melana Roberts, chair of Food Secure Canada and a member of the Toronto Food Policy Council, in the story.
“Privileged few” is the granddaddy of all golf stereotypes, that image of the cigar chomping CEO teeing off before a double martini at the 19th hole after his round, one that will surely be used if these groups ever get to the point of seeking community input on the future of golf courses.
Let’s look at reality, however.
At Dentonia Park, a par three, 18 hole facility at 2,176 yards, 18 hole fees are between $29 and $31 for adults, $20.50 and $28 for seniors and $18 and $23.50 for juniors. Nine hole fees are between $18.50 and $24 for adults, $13.50 and $17 for seniors and $12.50 and $16 for juniors.
The reality is that the munis offer an affordable option for seniors, juniors and families They are considered a gateway into the game, but hardly an environment for the elite that the game’s detractors insist is the case.
The highest green fee at city course is the $75 charged on weekends and holidays at Don Valley, a 6,163 yard, par 72, but that was the only price mentioned by Jessica Bell, MPP for University-Rosedale, who wrote a letter, asking that the licenses of the munis not be renewed.
“In this pandemic, access to public space is in short supply and many of our city’s residents are struggling to make ends meet, and it is for these reasons why it is unfair to limit the use of city land to those who can afford to pay up to $75 on a game of golf,” she wrote.
“These golf courses are expensive to maintain and do not generate revenue for the city. The popularity of these city-run golf courses is in decline. We do not have a golf course shortage in our region as there are over 100 other golf courses in the GTA that are available for public use.”
Notice she went high end on the fee scale, but didn’t mention the low end?
It’s also curious that she mentions the coronavirus pandemic, when golf has been recognized as one of the safest activities through the ability to social distance on golf courses, which have also put in several other safety precautions to protect golfers and employees.
It’s little wonder then that golf courses of all kinds from across this country and the United States are reporting increased rounds this year, despite Bell’s theory that the game is in decline. The National Golf Course Owners Association of Canada reported that rounds in June and July were up 24 and 26 per cent, respectively, and the trend is expected to continue.
If revenue is an issue, which she says it is when it comes to golf courses, how much revenue would come from turning a golf course into a park?
For somebody who is so concerned about affordability, doesn’t it seem odd that Bell wants to push muni golfers out into other golf courses in the area, where they are liable be paying much higher fees and aren’t as accessible in many cases from the city?
The City of Toronto is coming off a summer in which it had several major road closures as part of its ActiveTO program for cyclists and pedestrians and there is talk of carrying it on in future years.
“ActiveTO has been a tremendous success. We delivered more space for physical activity, supported the overall well-being of Toronto residents, and helped keep people safe from virus spread – and right when we needed it most. Thousands of people, many of which are families, used the space created around busy trails and parks all summer long to get outside and take advantage of the warm weather,” said Mayor John Tory.
If more green space, parks and recreational areas are required in Toronto, shouldn’t that be considered by city planners as focus shifts to population density instead of taking away a safe, affordable and popular pastime for residents in the aftermath?