A Quick Nine with Scott Simmons, CEO of Golf Canada
@36aday is pleased to introduce interviews with leaders in the game of golf in Canada. Nine questions are presented to probe important issues of the game, personal experiences, stories and insight. Just like 9 holes of golf, I hope you find this enjoyable and that it leaves you wanting more
This closing segment will have Mr. Simmons reflect on accomplishments during his tenure as CEO, how Golf Canada is working to engage the public player and closes with him sharing what would be his ultimate dream round at Augusta National.
SS – I’d say the biggest one is we moved our name to Golf Canada from the Royal Canadian Golf Association. That isn’t just a name change and a logo change. It is a complete philosophical change which I am very proud of. The RCGA, which has been around since 1895, the word association, by definition means that we’re associated with a certain group of people and that group historically has been our members – our member clubs and our member golfers. And that is still critically important to our organization, is working with our member based clubs across the country and providing value to our member clubs and our member individuals, overseeing the game in terms of governance, rules, handicapping, course rating, amateur status, national championships from the Canadian Junior up to the Canadian Open. All those things that the RCGA did, Golf Canada still do and are core to our mandate. They are really why who we are. But Golf Canada, which by extension means we want to provide value and help people enjoy the game of golf regardless of whether they have a direct association with us. Public players, kids, people of all backgrounds, and this comes with your mandate as the national sport organization for golf in Canada. That title was given to the RCGA by Sport Canada in 2005/2006. With accepting that title came the responsibility for the entire game of golf in Canada and not just the association based elements I spoke of previously. So I see us now as a much more inclusive, proactive entity then we used to be. We’re still doing exactly what we did for 110 years, we’re now doing more and for more people.
36 – I certainly saw the move as an opportunity to modernize and redefine the brand. And like you said, expand the scope of activity to engage people who may not otherwise see themselves as being part of the RCGA.
SS – I guess it depends on who you are and what your needs are. Hopefully we have value and services that would appeal to any type of golfer or facility. We’re actually evolving that as well from our membership based programs to what’s available for free for the casual public golfer. So from a facility point of view it’s the ability to have an official course rating, access to the score centre, being an official course of Golf Canada and their provincial body, host championships, give back to the game. From an individual point of view there is a wide spectrum; those that want to keep an official handicap and compete, compete in national and provincial championships, all the way down to the public golfer where we now have a bronze membership which is free and provides you with some online tools. We have things like insurance in case you lose your clubs. We have a new club label system where you put labels on your clubs that have bar codes. So when the club comes into the shop it can be scanned and you know exactly who they belong to so you can contact them.
36 – Excellent. I just renewed my membership so I look forward to getting those.
SS – There you go. I encourage you to look at our website because all the updated membership benefits are listed.
36 – Having been a member now for about 5 or 6 years and in terms of tracking a handicap and being as engaged as I can, I think the organization has done a good job to enhance the value proposition. I can appreciate the challenge around articulating it but if you look at support around membership helping grow the game, I like the fact that a portion of my money goes back to support the development of the junior game.
SS – That’s where the majority of it does go. We are a non-profit entity. We’re an RCAAA (Registered Charitable Amateur Athletic Association). We’re not here to make big profits and pay dividends to shareholders. We put all our money back into the game. That’s the other thing that people who love the game can appreciate. Whether they’re getting anything in return by supporting Golf Canada and their provincial associations, they’re helping them run and grow the game that they love. Most successful entities are supported by the athletes and the members. Sure, we try to do the best we can with government funding and corporate sponsorship, and so on, but the money that comes from the golfers is the difference between good to great for what we can do for the game. That is the biggest thing people can get from being part of this community is that you’re helping sustain and grow this game that you love.
36 – Well said. It’s nice to look across all the professional tours and see the Canadian flag up there so prominently. But between that and the offerings that available for myself as a public player, I want to commend you and your team. You’re always seeking ways to enhance the value proposition and I’ve enjoyed the experience of membership.
SS – Boy, there is a lot of people. My late grandfather introduced me to the game as did my father. My father is still alive. He is now 85 and doesn’t play a lot of golf anymore. I’d love to be able to have my grandfather, my dad and my brother together into a foursome, to play a game and go back to some of the old courses that I played growing up in the Brantford area. There are so many great courses in Canada and around the world. I’m not sure I could pick just one. One course I’d love to have a chance to play is Augusta. That’s one course that is very hard to get on to but it is on my bucket list. If I could play that course with my brother, my father and my grandfather, that would be the ultimate for me.
36 – That’s sounds ideal. I know I have been fortunate to travel with work and play so many great courses coast to coast. The quality of the courses and the incredible golf value that exists in this country is simply staggering. Mr. Simmons, I can’t thank you enough for your time. I really appreciate this.
SS – No problem, my pleasure. And that last point you made, many people don’t realize that Canada has more golf courses in the world than anybody except the United States. At 2346 facilities we are the most blessed nation on earth when it comes to access of golf facilities. Of those 2346 facilities, only roughly 200 of them are private. So the perception of golf being a private, elitist game couldn’t be further from the truth. There is a facility of every type, variety and price for every golfer. From 9 hole ‘munis’ all the way up to exclusive private clubs and everything in between. So it’s a very accessible and open sport.
36 – Thank you for the great work you and your team are doing and thank you for your time, it means a lot.
SS – Anytime, I appreciate what you’re doing to promote the industry.
Reflections – It was a genuine pleasure to have an hour of Mr. Simmons’ time to learn more about the complexity of their policy decision this winter. However, the real surprise for me was the genuine passion to which he spoke about initiatives of Golf Canada to grow the game. His leadership, and the stewardship of Golf Canada in supporting the sustainable development of golf in this country, is sincerely appreciated. I left the conversation feeling very proud to be a member of Golf Canada.