AGA of BC Recreation Committee Survey – Executive Summary

OVERVIEW

In the Spring of 2015, the Allied Golf Association created sub-committees within its directorship to focus on key areas where the Association wanted to make a difference. The Recreation Committee was formed to research the state of the Sport and to look at Grow the Game initiatives.

To assist in this regard a survey was developed to determine the various methods being used in BC to teach or coach the sport of golf, as well as to get some sense of the numbers of golfers engaged in various participation programs. The Survey was designed by Jim Lee and Debbie Pyne of British Columbia Golf and then forwarded to Donald Miyazaki, PGA of BC and Erica Beck, NGCOA (National Golf Course Owners Association).

The comments and changes suggested by Donald and Erica were incorporated. It contained 27 questions, although some questions may include multiple answers. Once developed the survey was reviewed and approved by the Recreation Committee.

SURVEY PROCESS

The Survey was initially circulated from a list of contacts put together by the Recreation Committee, from its member data bases with assistance from Inside Golf. The Survey was developed in Survey Monkey and a link was emailed to those contacts. After feedback at a Directors Meeting of the AGA of BC, the contact list was somewhat widened, and the response result was 72 responses from 67 different facilities.

Thereafter, British Columbia Golf contracted Ken Oleschuk to increase the rate of response with the view that these efforts would end by February of 2016. Efforts were made to significantly increase the contact list. In this regard, lists were acquired from Inside Golf, the PGA of BC, the National Golf Course Owners Association and the BC Branches of the Canadian Society of Club Managers.

Once cross-referenced, there were a total of 312 facilities, however, by the time all facilities were researched, the list was narrowed to under 300. A total of five attempts to get facilities to respond were made. The initial attempt to a smaller list of contacts in the May time frame. A second and third attempt was made in the November time frame, with a view of introducing the AGA of BC and its mandate, together with why the survey was so important. The third attempt was more of a reminder. A fourth attempt was made in December, including an option to not respond to the survey, but by return email respond to five key questions.

In January, Oleschuk attempted to identify other contacts at clubs who could encourage participation. As well, a letter was sent to all contacts who had not responded and encouraging participation. Assistance was sought from the Executive Directors of the PGA of BC and the NGCOA to encourage their members to participate by including the survey links in their newsletters.

Ideally we would have wanted those associations to make a separate appeal to their members to participate, highlighting its importance, however this did not occur. At the conclusion of the collection process about 210 responses were received from 194 different facilities. These facilities varied in types, from 9, 18, 27 or 36-hole golf courses, to driving ranges, to representatives of organizations otherwise involved  in golf.

Unfortunately, there were a number of facilities who did not answer a number of important questions. It is not known why, whether they started the survey but failed to complete it, or just chose not to provide that information.

This Executive Summary is intended to focus on specific areas of interest the Survey bore out, in the opinion of the writer.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY RESULTS

1. Despite the importance of internet marketing, the Survey reflected that nearly 10% of facilities did not have a website.
2. Of the respondents, 118 or 77%were 18+ hole facilities, with the balance of the 153 respondents to this question being 9 hole, executive or other types of facilities.
3. Courses on average use an average of slightly more than 4 sets of tee boxes.
4. Virtually all courses have a putting green, pro shop and food and beverage facilities, slightly more than 80% have driving ranges, practice or lesson areas for groups, while just over 60% have a teaching academy.
5. Question 6. Asked respondents about types of programs used to teach or coach the sport of golf, and two of the possible answers asked about participation in Take A Kid to the Course Week or Canucks Junior Golf Week. 135 Respondents answered this question.

a. SNAG Canada was the most popular method used at 35% followed by Get Golf                Ready at 30%. While CN Future Links came in at 17% there were 6 different                      Future Links answered options offered, and without doing a thorough review of                  individual responses, it is possible that if some of these respondents are using                    more than one or a few of the different Future Links option, the Future Links                        number could be considerably higher and match the Get Golf Ready or SNAG                    Canada numbers.

b. 61% of the respondents indicated they participated in Take A Kid to the Course              Week, while 40% of respondents took part in Canucks Junior Golf Week.

6. Question 7. Queried as to why one or more of these programs offered were not used and 58 responded. Reasons given varied between lack of resources including staff or a qualified teacher, to utilizing their own unique program to not being aware of these programs. It may be useful to identify those who were not aware and determine how they might be at least be better informed about what’s available.

7. Question 8. Asked respondents about what plans they had for participating in programs in the future. It is noted that there were plans to increase participation in most programs across the board compared to the previous year.

8. Question 9. Asked respondents to check or outline programs that the respondent’s course offer from teaching/coaching programs to participation programs. 68% or 127 respondents answered this question.

a. Beginner Lessons, Ladies Night and Men’s Night were most popular and being offered at over 70% of the respondent’s courses. Unfortunately, there was not a specific question about Ladies Day or Senior Programs, but these were listed in the “Other Programs” under the individual responses. I think many of the respondent’s will have categorized their Ladies Day as a “Women’s Only Program” which are present in 64% of the facilities.

b. Summer Camps and Single Coaching sessions were evident in two thirds of the respondent facilities, while Nine and Dine, Interclub Competition and Special Events were evident in about half of the facilities.

9. Average participation numbers in programs run at respondent facilities are as follows:

a. Coaching, Teaching Programs – average annual # of students:

i. Free Introductory Lessons – 126 (45 Responses)
ii. Summer Camps – 83 – (80 Responses)
iii. Single Coaching Sessions – 194 (76 Responses)
iv. Bring a Friend to the Course – 97 (28 Responses)

b. Participation Programs (#’s TBA)

i. Nine & Dine = 41 (60 Responses)
ii. Men’s Night = 68 (99 Responses)
iii. Ladies Night = 55 (101 Responses)
iv. Women’s Only Programs = 27 (68 Responses)
v. Special Events = 71 (50 Responses)

10. Playground to Fairway Program: 73% of the 148 Respondents to this question were either not aware or not very aware of the Playground to Fairway Elementary School Program. 70% of the 122 respondents indicated an interest in participating in the the P2F Program.

11. National Golf In Schools Program: 64% of 152 Respondents to this question were not aware of the National Golf In Schools Program. 66% of the 126 who answered this question indicated they would like to find out more about this program.

12. School Programs: 78 Respondents indicated that they offer some type of school program. Scanning the individual there are a variety of responses from providing facilities for school golf teams, free range balls, free coaching, and delivery of lesson programs with and without SNAG at schools and to school classes at respondent facilities. The City of Burnaby through their two 18-hole and two Pitch and Putt courses, have the most sophisticated and successful school program that operates on a variety of levels. While it does not use any of the provincial or national programs, it is an admirable program, and could be a model for others to follow relative to a commitment to introduce golf in schools.

13. After School Programs: Only 21% were aware of After School Golf Programs at their local elementary schools.

14. SNAG Equipment: 32% of 146 respondents indicated they owned SNAG Equipment.

15. Local Recreation Centre: 28% of the 145 respondents indicated that they are working with the local recreation centre.

16. Working with Local Recreation Centre in the Future: Of the 149 that answered this question, 83% indicated that they would be either agreeable or maybe agreeable to working with the local recreation centre on a golf program.

17. Get Golf Ready Statistics:
About 21% of the Respondent’s (39) indicated they operated the Get Golf Ready program, with a total of 2,865 students enrolled. Averages per facility enrolment were as follows:

a. Junior Girls – 10
b. Junior Boys – 21
c. Women – 40
d. Men – 22

18. Take A Kid to the Course Week Statistics:
While 75 facilities reported that they had participated in Take A Kid to the Course Week, 68 answered the question regarding numbers and breakdown. A total of 3,909 kids participated with an average of 20 girls and 37 boys per the 68 participating facilities.

19. Future Links Statistics:
While 54 facilities reported using some forms of a Future Links Program, 28 facilities answered the question on numbers and breakdown. A total of 1,464 juniors participated with an average of 15 girls and 37 boys per facility.

20. SNAG Statistics:
While 45 facilities reported using SNAG, 40 reported on numbers and breakdown. A total of 2,345 golfers participated in the program, with the following average participants per facility:

a. 24 Junior Girls (892 total)
b. 34 Junior Boys (1,268 total)
c. 5 Women (90 total)
d. 5 Men (90 total)

21. Long Term Player Development Awareness:

a. 69% or 94 Respondent’s indicated that they were not very aware of the Long Term Player Development. 60 of the 94 provided their names and email addresses with a desire to receive a copy of the program.

22. 136 respondents (72%) provided the names of who to contact relative to lessons and programs, while 98 (52%) provided their General Manager’s contact information. This statistic may represent the Club’s who actually employ a General Manager, versus a Director of Golf, or perhaps neither.

Conclusion

While the response rate to this survey would be considered statistically valid in the survey world, it was disappointing that the response to the survey was not higher given that this is an industry survey directed at individuals who are invested in the industry and depend on it for their livelihood. As well, it was equally disappointing that some who endeavoured to participate in the survey failed to do so fully.

The following are some additional comments that emanated from the survey results.

  1. While it is great to have a variety of more or less canned programs to teach and coach the sport of golf, one wonders whether this is a positive or a negative. A few comments from individual responses would lead one to believe that it is confusing to those new to the process, and it would lead one to conclude that a critique of all the programs would be beneficial with a view to pointing out the best application for each of these programs. For example, it is probably not practical to expect Future Links to be consistently used in schools. Some of the programs may be better suited to champions of learning to play, who may not be a trained golf professional or otherwise professionally trained in teaching.
  2. 62 Respondents indicated an interest in receiving a copy of the Long Term Player Development Program, so a follow up on that request should be made.
  3. It was encouraging to learn that when asked the question about future plans about participating in provincial or national programs, there appeared to be a desire to increase participation in those programs in the future.
  4. When looking at the hard numbers, it was great to learn that there is considerable effort underway in many facilities to grow or maintain the sport of golf. Nearly 42,000 British Columbians participated in some form of coaching, according to the survey. Also, according to the survey nearly 28,000 British Columbians are involved regularly in weekly programs to enjoy the benefits of the sport. No work has yet been done to extrapolate what the implications of these stats would mean on average for all golf facilities in British Columbia.
  5. It is very important to find a way to get the leaders of organizations in the Allied Golf Association to become fully committed to Grow the Game initiatives. Responses like: we are worried about bombarding our members with too many emails, will continue to result in the same result that has got us to this place of declining participation, and facilities struggling to be successful.
  6. There is a great need to ensure that the Allied Association maintain a valid list of course representatives that can be counted on to provide accurate information regarding facility programs and services.

Respectfully submitted,

Ken Oleschuk

Western Canada Turfgrass Association Demonstrates First Green ‘Links as Labs’ Program At Redwoods Golf Course

USGA Agronomist Larry Gilhuly Talks To Kids From Pitt River Middle School During A First Green ‘Links As Labs’ Program At Redwoods Golf Course Demonstration - Image Credit Alfie Lau

USGA Agronomist Larry Gilhuly Talks To Kids From Pitt River Middle School During A First Green ‘Links As Labs’ Program At Redwoods Golf Course Demonstration – Image Credit Alfie Lau

by Alfie Lau
Up until now a field trip to a golf course would usually mean swinging some clubs and learning some golf etiquette. No longer. As part of the First Green ‘Links as Labs’ program, 24 wide-eyed Grade 7 and 8 students from Pitt River Middle School stepped off a school bus and onto a real-life science lab, otherwise known as  The Redwoods Golf Course in Langley, B.C.

The Western Canada Turfgrass Association (WCTA), in partnership with the First Green Foundation launched the first program in Canada that brings environmental education to grade 5 and up students using golf courses as environmental learning labs. “This unique program gets kids connected with golf, not just as a sport, but also as a place where you can learn about the environment,” said Jerry Rousseau, executive director of the WCTA “We’re working on getting superintendents at golf courses interested in this program so that we can launch it anywhere there’s a golf course.”

First Green is an innovative environmental education outreach program using golf courses as environmental learning labs, allowing students to perform hands-on experiments and tests, all within the focus of their school’s environmental science curriculum. For example, kids can work in outdoor labs led by the golf course superintendent, doing such activities as testing water quality, collecting soil samples, identifying plants, doing math activities and working with local issues such as streambed or owl-nest restoration programs.

Stan Kazymerchyk of Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Turf Maintenance program, was showing one group of students how maintaining a golf course involves everything from knowing how to calculate how much fertilizer to use to knowing what chemicals are more harmful to the environment.

Kazymerchyk was getting some assistance from a horticulture expert, who showed the students that a golf course can be a living garden, with everything from fruits, vegetables and herbs being grown on a golf course and able to be used in the restaurant or simply for beautification purposes.

Jamie Robb Talks To Kids From Pitt River Middle School During A First Green ‘Links As Labs’ Program At Redwoods Golf Course Demonstration

Jamie Robb From The Capilano G&CC Talks To Kids From Pitt River Middle School During A First Green ‘Links As Labs’ Program At Redwoods Golf Course Demonstration – Image Credit Alfie Lau

At another station, the United States Golf Association’s Larry Gilhuly, an agronomist who works with courses throughout the Pacific Northwest, was showing his group of kids the environmental benefits of golf courses. “The grasses on a golf course are some of the best producers of oxygen we have,” said Gilhuly, who has been involved with First Green initiatives in the Pacific Northwest for many years. Gilhuly’s high-profile position has allowed him to get more publicity for these educational initiatives.

Gilhuly was the USGA’s point man for the 2015 US Open at Chambers Bay, just outside of Seattle, and the First Green was featured in a public service announcement which ran throughout the summer on all FOX Network broadcasts of USGA championships. This tremendous level of attention introduced First Green to more 200 million viewers of the USGA broadcasts. “I would not be involved with this if I didn’t think it was a great program that allowed kids to learn and was a lot of fun as well,” said Gilhuly. “I drove 160 miles to be here because I believe it’s important that kids see how connected their environmental studies and golf courses can be.”

During Gilhuly’s presentation, conducted alongside Capilano Golf & Country Club’s superintendent Jamie Robb, the duo were able to show the students how deep grass roots can grow and how something as simple as a pebble can we worth $1,000. “We cut grass with some pretty expensive mowers,” said Gilhuly. “If we don’t know what’s in those grasses we cut, and rocks get into our mowers, they can cause thousands of dollars in damage. That’s why we need to know everything we can about our golf course environment.”

For Mary Polak, the MLA for Langley and the BC Minister of Environment, it was important to see how this new program can be beneficial in so many different ways. “There’s lots to see and do at a golf course,” Polak told the young students. “Take note that golf courses are places where you can learn so much and have an amazing career.”

“The best part about First Green is that it can happen at any golf course and there are golf courses in practically every community in our province,” stated WCTA President Trevor Smith. “This makes the program accessible to kids everywhere, not just those in larger centres.” Smith said an added benefit for the program is the kids see how many different careers are indeed available at a golf course. Whether it’s working on the grounds crew, or in the golf shop or in the hospitality side of the business, golf courses are a vital part of the local economy. 

Holding the event at The Redwoods was easy because their golf course superintendent, Peter Szarka, is a big believer. “We have 180 acres here, we have bird sanctuaries, we have a wonderful place for kids to learn about the environment,” said Szarka. “It’s a lot more than just cutting grass. It’s about engaging with our community to show them we are so much more than just a golf course.”

The First Green program is based on the STEM learning concept, an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math. The inaugural event held on Canadian soil, and the first international First Green event ever, took place in May 2014 at the Vancouver Golf Club. Closer to home, Elizabeth Buckley School in Victoria, BC, has shown interest in First Green as they are going with a ‘STEAM’ program (the added “A” stands for arts). Last summer, the First Green Foundation formalized its relationship with the WCTA through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed August 24, 2015 after a successful train-the trainer event held at the Redwoods.

The MOU comes after more than a year of the two group’s efforts introducing Western Canadian golf course superintendents to this unique program. “First Green will do very well in Canada because of WCTA members’ commitment to sharing the benefits of golf courses for communities,” said Karen Armstead, First Green executive director. “We are excited to see First Green flourish in this environment.”

As part of the MOU, First Green will train WCTA staff and directors in the program, participate in WCTA demo events, provide an annual report and offer support resources to help promote the First Green program. WCTA will promote the First Green program in Western Canada. It will also provide updates to First Green on local programs and training, and assist First Green in collecting survey feedback information during field trips and share this information with First Green.

Rousseau said there is still a lot of work to be done, namely working with local teachers, school boards and school districts to show them the direct educational benefits of being involved in the program. Rousseau was happy to see Polak attend the demonstration and the WCTA has already engaged with the BC Ministry of Education to see what more they can do to get the program up and running in the near future.

Supporters of First Green include the USGA, Washington State Golf Association, Pacific Northwest Golf Association, the Northwest Turfgrass Association, Western Washington Golf Course Superintendents Association, local golf clubs, public and private school systems, and individual contributors who assist the organization through monetary grants and participation in field trips.

For more information, go to www.thefirstgreen.org.