Golf Canada gets it

Dave Fuller, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 1:01 AM ET

OAKVILLE - It took 115 years, but the Royal Canadian Golf Association finally figured out its name stinks.

Too wordy, too stodgy, too bloody British sounding.

So, on Thursday at the Glen Abbey Golf Club, the RCGA revealed it was changing its name — at least for marketing purposes — to “Golf Canada”.

Considering that virtually every other national sports organization in this country is called Hockey Canada, Tennis Canada or (fill-in-the-blank Canada) this was hardly startling news.

And then it happened. Peter Beresford, COO of the RCGA — sorry — Golf Canada, stepped up to the mike and announced a wickedly clever membership rewards program which works like this: For $29 — the cost of becoming a Golf Canada member for a year — you can cash in your Aeroplan points, dollar-for-dollar, for green fees, golf merchandise and so on.

Members are also entitled to insurance savings from RBC; 10% off their InterContinental Hotel reservations; access to members-only golf packages from itravel2000; as well as a Golf Canada mobile application on your Blackberry.

Almost sounds too good to be true — except Golf Canada can’t afford to fool around.

These are challenging times for the organization, indeed Canadian golf in general.

The RCGA lost $3.5 million last year, $10 million over the past three years.

Toss in a crappy economy, a new Harmonized Sales Tax in Ontario and B.C., restrictions on the use of pesticides and somebody needed to come up with a plan. A damn good plan. Fast!

While Golf Canada and your local golf club are separate entities, they both hope to benefit from this major undertaking — aimed at generating 39,000 new members across Canada this year.

There are already 350,000 members on the Golf Canada roll, not that they all know it.

If you belong to a golf club, you have already paid between $21 and $27 (depending on which province you reside in) for your Golf Canada card. It’s in the fine print.

But in a lot of cases, unless you ask your club manager for your card — and activate it yourself — it’s not of much use to you. In the past, regular users were able to access their handicaps, compete in tournaments and access rules and regulations. There was no golf rewards program.

There is one now — and anyone can join, whether you play the public courses or just watch golf on TV.

Like Hockey Canada, Golf Canada does a lot of good work — funding “Golf In School Programs”, national teams and coaching programs.

It also puts on the RBC Canadian Open — at a cost of $14 million last year — as well as the CN Women’s Open ($8 million to run).

If this new membership drive works, Golf Canada executive director Scott Simmons plans to expand existing programs and develop new ones, aimed at making Canada one of the top golfing nations in the world. With golf back in the Olympics, starting with Rio in 2016, there’s even more incentive to help.

The fact that one in five Canadians plays golf — the highest per-capita number of any country — is a decent start.

Simmons and Beresford expect more companies to join their rewards program in the coming year. They also unveiled a line of golf apparel, from hats to golf bags which carry the new ‘Golf Canada’ logo. The items are available at many pro shops already.

“People love to wear the flag,” said Golf Canada’s Dan Pino, who already has investigated the RBC insurance savings available through the new membership program.

“Someone in the office saved $1,000,”Pino said. “Another $300. For some it was a wash, but for $29 ...”

For $29, you can help develop the next Mike Weir or Graham DeLaet, too.

For more information, contact info@golfcanada.ca or call 1-800-263-0009.

dave.fuller@sunmedia.ca


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