The easiest thing to be in the world is a critic. I’ve been quick to criticize golf’s governing bodies in the past, whether it was in regards to the decision to not allow solo rounds as eligible handicap scores, or the rules controversy at the 2016 U.S. Open. It was pretty easy to sit back and be enraged by the things I disagreed with and vent in a blog post.
While criticism can be a healthy part of society and a catalyst for positive change, it can also result in a skewed perspective when the bigger picture and positive aspects of what or who you are criticizing aren’t considered. In the case of golf’s governing bodies, there are far more things to be positive about and support than there are to criticize. Unfortunately, the criticisms garner most of the attention.
The world’s primary governing bodies of golf include the United States Golf Association (USGA), The Royal and Ancient (The R&A), and Golf Canada. While the USGA and The R&A have the largest influence on the world stage, Golf Canada plays a significant role in our game, and is an integral part of keeping golf alive and well in Canada. Since it is Canada’s 150th birthday and I’m from Canada, my focus will be on Golf Canada.
What is Golf Canada and what do they do?
Golf Canada is the governing body for golf in Canada and, according to their website, represents approximately 306,650 members from over 1,400 golf clubs across the country. Their primary mission is to grow participation, excellence and passion in the sport while upholding the integrity and traditions of the game.
In an effort to uphold their mission statement, they conduct a variety of championships, programs and services in conjunction with provincial and other national associations. Some of the notable programs and services they conduct include high performance athlete development, National Golf in Schools, Golf Fore the Cure, the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and Museum, and Future Links (Canada’s national junior golf program).
They also conduct many important championships including the RBC Canadian Open on the PGA Tour, the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open on the LPGA Tour, and many other regional and national junior and amateur championships which provide Canadian golfers the opportunity to chase their golfing dreams and experience the thrill of competition. The history of competitive golf in Canada goes back a long way, with the first Canadian Amateur being held in 1895.
In addition to that, they are also the association in Canada who administer the Rules of Golf, amateur status, handicapping and course ratings.
Showing support and making a positive impact on golf in Canada
It’s easy to take things for granted. I’m guilty of it all the time. I show up to play golf and think about what golf and the facility I’m playing at is doing for me. That is fine to a degree because we all pay money to play golf, but at times we need to step back and think, what can I do for the game.
No individual or golf club is above the game. We are all in it together. The game of golf is comprised of the collective group of people who are passionate about the game and want to see it thrive, and our golf governing bodies are the beating hearts.
It’s pretty simple. Without the collective support of the golf community, our governing bodies would not be able to survive. Without golf governing bodies, our game would lose structure, integrity, meaning, and eventually cease to exist. The game of golf is not self perpetuating, it takes a network of support from the grass-roots level through to the top.
The simplest way to show support is through a Golf Canada membership. The cost is insignificant. It is $49.95 for a full year when you sign up directly through Golf Canada. If you have a Golf Canada membership through your golf club, the cost may be even less per individual. A few of the notable benefits of being a member are a subscription to Golf Canada magazine, discounts on tickets to events (such as the RBC Canadian Open on the PGA Tour), the ability to track an official Golf Canada handicap factor, and an internationally recognized membership card.
For a small cost, you receive direct benefits to yourself, in addition to supporting Golf Canada and their many initiatives that benefit the game, which in turn benefits all golfers in time, whether directly or indirectly.
Having an official handicap with Golf Canada (as opposed to tracking it yourself some other way) allows you to play competitively in local, regional and national tournaments. However, it is not just required for competitive golfers. It is also required for casual golfers playing in club events. For example, if a friend invites you to a member-guest at their club, or you are invited to a pro-am by a club professional, you will require a handicap. If you unofficially track your handicap elsewhere, the course you are visiting for the event will need to verify your handicap by calling your home club and speaking with a professional. Basically, you become a pain in the neck if you don’t have an official Golf Canada handicap index.
The money collected in the form of membership dues are allocated toward their initiatives which are broken out into four strategic pillars. In 2016, the membership revenue was allocated as such: 38% to Grow Participation, 33% to Ensure Excellence, 22% to Expand Capacity, and 7% to Foster Interaction.
Another way you can show support is through volunteering. There is always a need for volunteers and most events would cease to exist without the time and effort from volunteers. For more info, visit Golf Canada’s volunteer page.
And, of course, getting out to play golf is the most fun way to support our game. When you’re paying your green fee or annual dues at your course, it may seem like you’re just exchanging money to play golf, but it’s more than that. You’re casting a vote that supports golf. Particularly when the golf club supports the initiatives of our governing bodies, your support of a golf club helps keep an important part of the food chain intact required for a healthy game.
Beyond the golf course
Golf Canada and their partners demonstrate philanthropic values. According to their 2016 Financial Analysis Statement, Golf Canada and their partners raised over 4.2 MILLION DOLLARS for charities and other golf related groups in 2016.
As part of that, they contributed $248,315 to various provincial golf associations, member facilities, and PGA of Canada professionals in the form of grants to support “grow the game” initiatives.
Their Golf Fore the Cure events raised $372,000 in donations to the Canadian Cancer Society and the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation. This brings the association’s lifetime contributions in support of cancer research to a staggering $5.9M as of 2016.
So, yeah. The next time you find yourself wondering, what is my golf governing body doing for me, what you should probably be wondering is, what can I do for my golf governing body. I, for one, should definitely do more.
For the love of the game, show some support.