For this episode of A Casual 9, I am humbled to have the provincial governing body for golf in Alberta since 1912 — Alberta Golf — join us. Alberta Golf is a subsidiary of our national governing body, Golf Canada, and conducts amateur championships within Alberta, including the Alberta Men’s and Ladies’ Amateur, The Alberta Open, and many more. They also run programs for junior golf development, performance development, grow the game initiatives, they administer the Rules of Golf and the handicap system within Alberta, provide scholarship programs, and more.
Alberta Golf is being represented in this Q&A by their Director of Business Development & Corporate Communications, Jack Lane. Please enjoy.
1. In a nutshell, what is Alberta Golf’s mission statement and what are some accomplishments Alberta Golf is most proud of to date?
JL: As the designated Provincial Sport Organization for the sport of golf in Alberta, our mission is to promote and support the positive impacts that the game has on individuals and communities across the province.
Alberta Golf has a storied history dating back to 1912 when five founding clubs formed an association to conduct a provincial amateur championship. In 2012, the association celebrated how far it had come from that modest starting point. The organization has grown into one of the most respected golf associations in North America. This is due to the many contributions of individuals that have acted as pioneers and builders as well as those who provided distinguished service, either as volunteers or employees.
Today, we are proud to still conduct provincial amateur championships while also providing many programs and services that help to promote and support the sport.
2. How would you rate the state of the game in Alberta and Canada, and how does that compare with where you’d ideally like to see it?
JL: Golf is the number one participation sport in Canada. Canadians (and Albertans) are absolutely crazy about the game! Perhaps that is due to the seasonal nature of our sport or just the inherent challenge that it presents. In any case, the state of the game regionally, nationally and internationally is extremely strong.
The challenge for our association (and Golf Canada, nationally) is to engage these ‘golfers’ as paid members of the organization. If every golfer contributes to the game with a nominal financial commitment, the sport will be stronger from the bottom up. Facilities will see more traffic and associations that help to sustain the game will be able to implement initiatives that keep the game healthy.
One of our goals is to drive participation in the sport by encouraging golfers to play more. We also want to challenge golfers to introduce newcomers to the game. Golf is such a great social activity. Is there a better way to spend four and a half hours with three of your friends or your family? We don’t think so.
3. What are the advantages of taking up membership with Alberta Golf and Golf Canada?
JL: We feel strongly that golfers get more out of their game through their Alberta Golf and Golf Canada membership. Membership helps you become more connected to the game when you join the largest golf community in the country.
Not only do you get an Official Golf Canada Handicap Factor, access to the Score Centre and progress tracking capabilities, you also have peace of mind through the Golf Canada Equipment Guarantee. This ability allows you to protect your investments. If anything happens to your equipment, or if you damage a motorized golf cart by accident, the Golf Canada Equipment Guarantee helps get you back on the course by reimbursing your replacement costs. It also covers members for the cost of repairing or replacing windows broken on or near the golf course from that errant drive.
In addition, members are awarded prizes just for posting their scores, golf club labels are provided as part of the Golf Canada Equipment ID & Retrieval System, members receive exclusive offers on event tickets and merchandise as well as access to Rules of Golf education and a variety of world class golf publications both in print and digital formats.
If you are a golfer, membership with your provincial and national association is a no brainer investment in your enjoyment of the game!
4. How is revenue from memberships used and how important is that revenue to supporting and growing the game of golf in general?
JL: Membership dollars are the single largest source of revenue for Alberta Golf, at over 50% of all funding. The remainder is made up of program registration fees, government grants, sponsorships and a casino fundraiser.
These dollars are extremely important to the health of the game in the province. We use the funds to provide membership programs and services, conduct amateur championships, support all the amazing grassroots sport development programs, enhance our high-performance programming for golf athletes and promote the game through our communications platforms. We do all this while being cognizant of our administration costs, and we have done a good job of keeping costs down while not sacrificing the quality of programs and services associated with our brand.
5. What are some of the biggest challenges that Alberta Golf faces when it comes to growing/retaining its membership and demonstrating the value of it?
JL: Golf sometimes gets a bad rap for being so costly. We recognize that golf is an expensive sport. Much like many other sports are. We take the view that golf is one of the greatest investments any individual or family can make for a variety of reasons.
We have always faced, and continue to face, the uninformed view that a membership to an association is just an added cost and a waste of hard earned disposable income. The challenge for us continues to be turning that notion on its head and demonstrating through value and communications that your membership to Alberta Golf is a no-brainer decision based on both the tangible and intangible benefits received.
We are challenged to change perceptions through quality programs and service and by increasing awareness levels within our membership. Membership numbers increased for the first time in ten years in 2017 and we are confident that this trend will continue, thanks in large part to the support of the members themselves.
6. Junior golf is obviously very important for the future of the game. How would you rate the success of Alberta Golf’s initiatives to support and grow junior golf?
JL: Investing in junior golf has been a huge focus of both Alberta Golf and Golf Canada. There have been great strides over the past decade or so with best in class programs, such as Future Links, Golf in Schools and Team Alberta & Team Canada high performance. Thousands of kids have been exposed to the game by these programs, as well as the myriad of programs offered by PGA of Canada professionals at member facilities across the province.
In saying that, we haven’t done a good job of collecting data and measuring impact. It has forced us to re-think our approach and we are now taking a more supportive role of all development programs offered in the industry. Our junior programming is becoming more provincial in scope and we are introducing the game to more kids across the province each year.
Our goal is to have more juniors who want to take up the game, play more rounds and stay in the game as an intermediate and adult. We believe that by growing the base we will not only see more life-long golfers, but also more elite golfers who have the dream of playing on (and the skills to compete on) the PGA and LPGA Tours.
7. Alberta Golf conducts many amateur championships within Alberta. Are there ways for both elite and recreational golfers to get involved?
JL: Yes. We offer competitive opportunities for both elite and recreational golfers. We offer 10 provincial championships in various age and gender categories. Players must qualify for their respective championship first by meeting the age and Handicap Factor limits and second, by going through local qualifying. These championships provide a first-class experience for the competitive golfer and serve as a qualifier for national championships.
On the recreational side, we have several events including the Ladies Team Classic and the Alberta Interclub (Mens and Ladies Teams). We are also exploring several new concepts this year that look more like social leagues, series and member outings in our shoulder seasons. Watch for more information on these in the coming months.
8. From the venue/golf course side of things, are Alberta Golf events well supported? Or would you like to see more golf courses step up and support these events as a host?
JL: We are very lucky that there are so many great golf courses in Alberta to conduct our events on. Our member facilities have always been supportive of hosting and have done a great job of sharing the load. We recognize that it is a big ask for a course to give up three to five days in peak season. What host venues learn after becoming involved in amateur championships is that they build pride and sense of community around the club. Members can serve on a committee or help with a variety of roles. Many clubs have a storied history of hosting that you can see on the walls of the clubhouse hallways. It is this type of legacy that can be created when clubs make an organizational decision to support provincial and national events.
There is demand from our members and competitive players to play on the best tracks in the province and we work extremely hard to provide that opportunity while always striving to be a valuable and viable customer for our member clubs. Our 2018 schedule and host venues reflect just that.
9. What sort of performance or development programs are available within Alberta Golf for golfers of any age or skill level?
JL: We have a strong commitment to performance and development programming. Late in 2017 we were pleased to announce an expanded high performance athlete development offering in 2018. In all, five tiers of programs will provide a circle of support for golfers in the province. Each tier is designed differently for the various stages of a player’s development.
We invest $280,000 annually in sport development programs and services. Our goal is to support 100% of golfers who make an application to enter the program at any tier, with the superior level of coaching they desire and the resources to assist them succeed in their journey.
A big thanks to Jack for taking the time out of his busy schedule to partake in A Casual 9. Another big thanks to the whole team over at Alberta Golf and Golf Canada for working hard to keep the future looking bright for the game of golf.
For more information on Alberta Golf, I encourage you to visit the Alberta Golf website.
For any specific inquiries, you can also contact Jack by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Also give Alberta Golf a follow on social media:
Think you have what it takes to be featured on A Casual 9? Drop us a line!
Previous Episodes of A Casual 9:
Episode 1: Roger Kingkade – the Calgary legend dishes on his recent exit from radio, his golf game, and how his new golf app business is helping both golf courses and golfers.
Episode 2: Lisa “Longball” Vlooswyk – the 7-time Canadian Women’s Long Drive Champion talks about her amazing story, competition, getting more women to play golf and, of course, how to hit it longer.
Episode 3: Leah Bathgate – the Founder and President of the Alberta Golf Tour talks about the future of the Tour, the benefits of competition, men and women competing in the same flights, and more.
Episode 4: Patrick Koenig – the epic golf photographer, whose work has been featured by the likes of Golf Digest, talks golf photography, course rankings, social media pet peeves, Tiger vs. Poulter, and more. His takes will have you feeling the heat.
Episode 5: Jon Sherman – published author and mastermind behind Practical Golf, Jon dishes out on practical game improvement, how to have more fun, and keeping your game sharp when time at the course is lacking.
Episode 6: Shannon Heffernan – golf fitness guru and founder of DM Golf Performance, Shannon Heffernan, talks about off-season vs. mid-season training, keys to longevity, a common hurdle for instructors, and more.