Bucket List Update – Spring 2017

Bucket List Update – Spring 2017

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Will 2017 bring me to exciting destinations like St. Andrews By The Sea in New Brunswick again?  Playing Algonquin was certainly a 2016 highlight.

My decision to expand my personal Canadian public course ‘bucket list’ from about 72 courses to close to 100 was met with mixed reaction.  To be more specific, one person commented that can a list of close to 100 public courses in Canada be considered a ‘bucket list’ or does it simply become just a list?  A fair and valid critique and one best argued over a pint on the 19th hole of many of Canada’s best public (or private) courses.  I am unapologetic about my bucket list and as I mentioned before, there’s a certain degree of self-indulgence in this list of mine.  But arguing for it, the 2015 Golf Facilities in Canada Report cited 2126 public golf courses in the country.  Looking at my current list of 98 courses, this is merely 4.6 percent of that total.  Picking almost 100 from over 2100 ensures strong geographic representation with a quality focus.

With the exception of the territories, my list covers off all 10 provinces.  My additions are not represented in all 10 provinces – at this time.  In 2015 I had played ten courses in PEI to complete my bucket list there.  And while none were added over the winter, I am getting some people mention to me that I should consider adding Belfast Highland Greens, a stunning 9-hole course which plays to a par 37.

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Early morning mist and shadows shrouded the second tee at Green Gables in October 2015.

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British Columbia can seem like an obvious choice for bucket list courses but getting off the beaten path can open up gems like Talking Rock in Chase, BC.

To-date I have played 31 courses on my list.  There’s a shockingly low number played in my home province of Ontario and I have yet to tee it up at all in Manitoba (which @meximenno is quick is remind me of regularly).

My goals for 2017 are to play Tower Ranch and Gallgaher’s Canyon in Kelowna while in BC on business.  Other courses will likely be in Ontario this year, understanding there’s several great options in Muskoka I hope to access this fall.  Others could be more a one-off with day trip potential to get in 18 or 36 an option for me.  I don’t see other extended travel this summer for me but we shall see.   This is a list I can work on over the years and having the anticipation of quality public golf across the country provides all the justification I need to have added to my list.

Cabot Links 16th

The par 4 16th at Cabot Links remains my favourite golf hole in Canada.  But will I discover a course that possesses a new favourite for me in 2017?

What courses are on your must play list?  Is a list of 100 public courses in Canada too large to be considered a bucket list?  And most important, am I missing any courses?  Check my list and my bucket list map to see where I still have to venture to and play.  With golf season almost here for all of Canada I hope there’s a golfing bucket list adventure planned for you in 2017.

International Women’s Day and Golf

I am sharing this submission which will be edited and posted on http://www.golfchat.org/ GolfChat is a forum that connects and engages golfers from around the world every Tuesday on Twitter (#GolfChat).

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I drafted this on March 8, International Women’s Day as a response to a call from the #GolfChat Author’s Forum on the topic of Women’s Objectification in Golf Media.  There are many places to take a topic like this and issues of social media, objectification, demographics, sexuality and history are all themes which I am certain we will see woven throughout submissions.  Any my guess is that some authors will explore the issue from a deficit model, specifically, critiquing what is not right about how women are perceived in the game today.  All understood, all recognized.  However, I am going to try to take a different approach.   Here, I want to look at the richness of the game because of women’s participation and where golf media gets it right.  I am not trying to put my head in the sand here.  I want to look at this issue and let people know there are success stories; there is some good taking place.  I am an optimistic person and believe we all have an ability to affect positive change.  Our attitudes and behaviour matter and today, while we pause to reflect and respect the incredibly important role of women in the world, here’s what I love about women’s engagement in golf.

My favourite golf commentator is Judy Rankin.  It’s not even close between her and a second choice.  She is a consummate professional.  She is intelligent, articulate, engaging and honest.  Her knowledge comes from experience on the LPGA Tour as a 26-time winner and World Golf Hall of Fame member.  She takes the time to get to know the players and helps viewers build important connections to them as golfers.  I like the fact that the team during LPGA coverage is focused on their professional roles.  The fact that she is a woman is irrelevant to me, she’s just excellent in her role and I appreciate her work.  Juxtaposed to this is Morning Drive (and I use that only as an example).  Here, I struggle to make sense of why the male co-hosts can enjoy a relaxed role – khakis, maybe even spikeless golf shoes.  Women? Cite the day where any co-host has not had on a dress and likely heels (on odd occasion one may wear flat shoes), which makes any demonstration of golf skill awkward.  This shows the pervasiveness of the issue in question.

Last summer I had a chance to play a semi-private course in Toronto, called The Ladies Golf Club.  I wrote a course review and while the course was designed by one of Canada’s foremost golf course architects, Stanley Thompson, the person most important to its development is Ada Mackenzie.  Her story of a woman golfer seeking greater access for play in Canada around 1920 is well documented.  Her perseverance and drive resulted in the development of TLGC in 1924.  This course “is the only private golf club in North America where women have priority access to tee times, and where both women and men can enjoy golf in a welcoming atmosphere.”  And while Ada was battling for greater access for golf for women around the time of women’s suffrage there is a more pervasive challenge for women as they choose to enter into the world of golf.  Cassie Norris, fellow #GolfChat author and blogger wrote a brilliant piece (https://bandwagonersguidetogolf.com/2015/12/30/bandwagoning-the-boys-club/) that shows the extent of this issue today for her as a young woman new to the game of golf.   Beyond that, Cassie makes important contributions to golf through her blog and coordination of #GolfChat.

It’s no longer 1924 but the challenges of Cassie’s participation in this game are – in my opinion – only wrapped with new and more modern layers of pervasive gender bias.  So today, of all days, it is important for us to understand the contributions that women make to our world.  Many of us will look to our mom, maybe daughter or a friend as a woman who have inspired and supported us.  Drawing from this process and in the spirit of the day here are some ideas we can employ to make golf less the ‘boys club’ Cassie wrote about.  Some simple ideas for golfers: scrap the term ‘Ladies Tees’ and let’s call them Forward Tees; consider support for Fairways Fund (https://www.facebook.com/fairwaysfund/) which provides opportunity for young boys and girls to play this game; and embrace anyone who is new to the game – boy, girl, man, women.  Learn about and support initiatives like Golf Ontario’s ‘She Swings She Scores’ (https://gao.ca/she-swings-she-scores/). It’s all about respect. I feel golfers can understand that principle, but let’s expand the circle of respect to everyone who participates in the game, in any capacity. I really believe our individual actions can truly make a difference.  As opposed to waiting for change, let’s be the change and start calling out those who engage in disrespectful behaviour.

Business Travel and Golf

 

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It’s under two hours to get from Fredericton, NB to the beautiful shores on the Bay of Fundy in St. Andrews By the Sea, NB.

Business Travel and Golf

It is now customary for me to tag along a day or two when traveling for business to get in some golf and tick another great course off my Canadian golf bucket list.  My approach is consistent.  I’ve done this already this year in British Columbia and Alberta.  Here is my itinerary from a recent trip to New Brunswick to share my planning process:

Finishing work at 4:00 pm gave me 28 hours before flying home.  This window of time allowed me to get to the airport, rent my car, drive to my destination, check into my hotel, eat dinner, sleep, wake up, grab breakfast and get to the course.  After the round, I would grab lunch, quickly tour town and drive 90 minutes back to the airport.  28 hours created some purposefulness but the trip never felt rushed.  Besides, it’s hard not to relax when you’re in maritime Canada.

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The famous 12th hole (as seen up from the left of the green) at the Algonquin Resort Golf Club.  If this won’t help you relax after two days of business then nothing will.

Here are my tips and golf travel essentials to help you make the most of your next trip.

  1. Golf course access – the focus of your pre/post trip is golf so make sure you can access the course(s) you’d like to play before committing further. Easiest thing to do is to contact the course and ask if there is tee time availability on the date/window of time you’re planning to play.  Stating you’re from away and coming in as a single helps them understand your situation and can avoid surprises for you (perhaps the day you plan to arrive is the day after aeration of the greens, or worse, they are hosting some charity event and while there are tee times the first one is too late for you).  In some cases it may open up access you may not otherwise get access to.  Calling Algonquin resort in advance allowed me to access the earliest tee time available on my day of play which helped considerably.

 

  1. Know the fixed variables – Being clear on when work ends and when the flight home are the two most critical factors. I seek to ensure I have a window of time that is realistic.  Car rental agencies are generally much more flexible than airlines (Unless you’re willing to pay) but any significant changes to the itinerary could help you by calling them in advance.  As for variables beyond your control, do give consideration to the weather forecast on the day you want to play and pack accordingly.  And always have a toque in the golf bag.

 

  1. Accommodation – My philosophy on accommodation revolves around convenience and price, (with a caveat of some standard of cleanliness and user satisfaction). I like researching prices on an aggregator site and tend to use the same one to accumulate frequent user rewards (after using the site 10 times I get a free stay).  I like reputable chains but am willing to try a quaint place that receives great reviews.

 

  1. Golf Clubs – There are two camps here – to rent or to travel with your clubs. I personally prefer to travel with my clubs and as a result there are three golden rules: lock your golf travel bag; use a Club Glove stiff arm (or reasonable facsimile) and don’t skimp on your golf travel bag.  If you’re comfortable renting then consider these three rules: bring your own golf shoes, glove and a small bag of balls, tees, etc.; research in advance about the rental club options as some courses have two levels of rentals; and lastly, be accepting.  You chose not to bring your new driver so don’t get frustrated when you get a model of club you don’t prefer.

 

  1. Transportation – for me, it’s usually a vehicle rental. I love driving and find it relaxing.  Here, again, loyalty can pay off with rewards offered at most outlets.  Airport rentals are generally processed faster and their vehicles are newer.  One important item is to map your route and budget for some extra time in the event of unexpected traffic issues.  My buddies swear by an app called Waze to get you somewhere as quick as possible.  Last, sure you’re in a rush to leave and get to the course but take the time to get the seat and mirrors properly adjusted…and if possible to sync up your smartphone so you can enjoy some travel tunes.
  2. Keepsakes – I’ve practically walked from the rental car to the first tee (with a quick check in) but I always try to make some time afterward to check the pro shop. I love pin flags and also collect golf balls and markers with the course emblem on them.  Of course, the sale rack can unlock some great value too.   Here is a good alternative to airport shopping for those at home (especially if they like golf)

 

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Took a break from my pint of Picaroons and my Lobster Roll to capture this fiery sky.

 

  1. Food – this is one area I stretch the budget. My affinity for seafood and a          willingness to ask and try local favourites means I avoid fast food and seek out local flavours.  Trip Advisor and Yelp allows me to filter user satisfaction with food types.  Sometimes it’s a pub, other times finer dining.  Food is often part of the experience for me.  I’ve traveled with people who would eat on the cheap and spend more for accommodation (meaning they’re comfortable eating McDonalds but want the assurance of a high end place to stay).  Make your own determination and know what’s important.  It is always ideal when you can get both.  When I have time, I actually like to eat at the course before or after a round.  Many courses create a dining experience that rivals their golf experience.

 

  1. Pictures – As a rule I get to a course with close to 100% battery power on my phone to allow me to take pictures. I advise playing partners I’ll be taking some pictures for my blog so as to manage their expectation.  I keep the phone in my left pocket for easy access as I seek to minimize the impact on pace of play.

 

  1. Manage expectation – The number one goal of golf while traveling on business should be fun; you’re playing a course you may not otherwise access to. Shooting a high score, especially if you’re using rental clubs, should be irrelevant and not keep you from having fun.  Besides, maybe the rental putter is the magic club you’ve been seeking for years (take a picture and note the make and model…that’s why e-Bay was created!).  Smile and enjoy the fact you’re on the course.

 

  1. Be a good visitor – I always seek business cards from the courses I play. In many cases, upon learning I am a blogger with journalist accreditation they welcome the chance to host a guest reviewer.  I like to extend thanks to courses for allowing me access to their course.  My philosophy is simple: the currency of my blog is the relationships I am able to cultivate.  I sincerely appreciate the chance to experience their home course and want to let them know that.

 

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A most appropriate place to eat in St. Andrews.  The Lobster Roll did not disappoint.

Lastly, and perhaps most important, is to budget for the side trip.  I set funds aside throughout the year to allow me to tack on the day or two and enjoy a guilt-free and pleasurable experience without impacting the bottom line.  With a flight covered from work, the additional expenses create value, help me experience great golf across Canada and help make a significant dent in my bucket list.

 

The chance to have played golf in 8 provinces now has taught me a few things about business travel and golf.  I know I am not alone.  I’d welcome hearing your tips for maximizing golf experiences on business.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Underrated Courses in My Canadian Travels

Playing golf in Canada can be about the journey as it is the destination.  Courses can surprise and amaze in aspects of beauty, quality and fun.  Over my years here are five which I have experienced that I loved.  You likely won’t see any of these on top course lists across the country so I’ve created my own modest list which places these gems front and centre.  Here they are, in no particular order.  The course link will open to my full review:

Waskesiu GC, Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan

It’s a Stanley Thompson design so right off the top I suspected I’d love it.  I drove direct from my flight to Saskatoon north of Prince Albert to the stunning Waskesiu Lake area in the heart of Prince Albert National Park.  The drive was peaceful and the course was sensational.  The rich history of this course and its iconic Lobstick Tree is worth asking about.  The butter tarts that the course sells may be the best in country but that’s another bucket list in itself.  My only wish was that I could spend time in the resort community adjacent to the lake and play this course again (and again).  Not the easiest course to access, but the memories made the drive well worth it.  My conversation with the Marshall the day I was playing was amazing as he regaled me about the history of this beautiful course.  I felt I had gone back in time.

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Lobstick Tree at Waskesiu in the first fairway

Stanhope GCC, Stanhope, Prince Edward Island

I have written much about my 2015 golf trip to the gentle island.  PEI is a golfer’s paradise, providing exceptional value (possibly the best in Canada) with variety, quality and diversity of post-golf activity to make everyone happy.  Stanhope didn’t make my top 5 list of courses on the Island but that speaks more to the quality and value options than it does about any shortcomings at Stanhope.  A true community course, this course brought a level of enjoyment and relaxation on the Island I had not experienced.  Add to it a stunning back nine, with a stretch of golf holes from 12-16 which may be the most underrated golf on the island in terms of sheer beauty.  With a breeze off the ocean on a peaceful afternoon, it was a golfing experience I need to get back and relive.

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A late afternoon sun shining down on the back nine at Stanhope

 

Talking Rock Golf Resort, Chase, British Columbia

The Thompson-Okanagan golf region of British Columbia provides more diversity for golfer than one might expect.  My spring 2016 trip west included an early morning drive (very early!) from Surrey to Chase for a morning round at Talking Rock.  First, the drive is amazing through the mountains – so peaceful and relaxing.  Arriving in Chase, just north of Kelowna, and the Little Shuswap First Nation community is the Quaaout Lodge and Spa which also houses the Talking Rock Golf Resort.  The large log-cabin style conference centre, pro shop and clubhouse set a tone for a tranquil and peaceful golfing experience.  The closing holes, notably 15 and 18, are jaw-dropping showstoppers and reflect the natural beauty of the region.  It’s well worth the visit.  Playing most of the round as a single created a sense of calm and peacefulness I appreciated.

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Teed up and ready to play the stunning 15th at Talk Rock overlooking Little Shuswap Lake

Batteaux Creek GC, Nottawa, Ontario

The Niagara Escarpment cuts along southern Ontario from a swath from Niagara to Tobermory and at various points along the way shows impressive prominence in the landscape.  Such is the case in Nottawa, south of Collingwood, where Batteaux Creek Golf Club has existed since 2002.  While not an annual play, I do try to make time in the fall season to travel the almost two hours north from Toronto, to enjoy this course in all its splendor.  Immaculate conditioning, diversity of golf holes, natural hazards and a stunning fall backdrop with leaves changing in golds, reds, oranges and yellows throughout the property and west along the escarpment.  It’s more a spiritual exercise than it is a golf game.  And for anyone who has experienced this course in the fall, you will know why it makes my list of underrated golf gems in Canada.

Early morning at Batteaux Creek on a flawless fall day.

 

 

Osprey Resort, Guysborough, Nova Scotia

https://36aday.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/osprey_andy2.jpg?w=660This is a rustic, 9-hole course set on Chedabucto Bay in scenic Guysborough, Nova Scotia.  The Marine Drive from Halifax to Canso is simply a must if you have the time.  From Canso, simply head west to Guysborough.  Don’t miss the Rare Bird Pub where after 9 holes (or 18…even 36) you can look over the water and lose yourself in the beauty of this part of the province.  The course is simple in its layout and players of all skill level will be welcome.  Take time to enjoy the views, what I think to be some of the best you will experience in eastern Canada.  My advice for travelers who have time; stop here to get your golf legs and your fix of seafood before making your way north to Cape Breton Island where you will find some of the greatest courses in the country and the world.  I love this course, its people and community.  It reflects everything I love about golfing in Canada.

 

Osprey 5th Hole

Beyond the 5th hole at Osprey, overlooking Chedabucto Bay.

 

This is not an exhaustive list.  There are more courses I’ve played I would categorize as underrated.  But I would love to hear your experiences, learn about your courses that would make your list (and that I’d need to add to mine!).

Anxiety in Golf

The Canadian Mental Health Association provides leadership in the education, awareness, research and treatment of mental health disorders facing Canadians.  On their website, they state the following about anxiety disorders,

“We all feel nervous or worried at times. This anxiety can be a helpful feeling when it motivates us or warns us of danger. An anxiety disorder, on the other hand, causes unexpected or unhelpful anxiety that seriously impacts our lives, including how we think, feel, and act.”

Perhaps we can all relate to the nerves off the first tee, a short putt to break a personal scoring record or a need to get up and down to win a match.  But what if it is more than that?  What if it hinders your basic abilities to perform and enjoy the game?

Recently, Canadian professional golfer Graham DeLaet withdrew from The Memorial Tournament, an event he loves, citing on Twitter “I’m dealing with incredible anxiety while chipping/pitching right now. It’s not fun. I needed to WD to get it sorted out and get back ASAP.”  Some people will gloss over the anxiety and focus on the pitching/chipping.  I understand; it’s a tough part of the game that can make the best player uncomfortable at times.   I choose to focus on the deliberate use of the word anxiety and appreciate its use here.  I’m glad he said this.  It helps shine a light on anxiety and its impact on people.  It also may help people to understand that anxiety disorders can be addressed, head on and with the right help.

I don’t pretend to know how serious of an issue this is for DeLaet.  But I appreciate his honest use of a term which seems appropriate.  His ability to deal with this may require more than just hitting 5000 chip shots.   It may require a more holistic program including meditation or even therapy to address its root causes.  We use the term ‘yips’ in golf often to describe the inability to perform in certain facets of the game.  I feel these are not interchangeable terms but there is a possible relationship between the yips and anxiety which could warrant some additional research, or perhaps more relevant, a strategy to connect existing research into the hands of coaches and players around the globe.

Golf is hard.  But it is also fun, relaxing and a healthy game to play.  I hope DeLaet can get back to the fun, relaxing and healthy aspects of the game and perform optimally again.  I’m an even bigger fan of DeLaet now as a result of his candor.  Addressing the anxiety can hopefully provide the foundation to progress in the short game and allow him to flourish and play his best golf ever.

Thanks for your honesty, Graham.

Reflections from the 2016 Masters

Reflections from the 2016 Masters

I’m tired today and I only watched the Masters.  Even as a home viewer (apologies if there is an official term ANGC uses for people like me) I found the back nine completely compelling.  It made up for what was, in my opinion a lackluster opening 54 holes.  But it is the most anticipated golf tournament on my calendar. My favourite major is the Open Championship but the Masters is the most unique and highly anticipated.

Here are some balanced reflections, notes and observations from this years’ event:

  1. History and Tradition Matter – Two very unique aspects of the Masters which I love are the Champions Dinner and the Ceremonial Tee Shots on Thursday morning. The Masters, more than any other tournament honours its champions and its history.  Watching Tom Watson play his last Masters was special and I was glad CBS made a big deal of it

 

  1. Drive, Chip and Putt – Not lost on me is the lead up to the week before the start of Masters week. A new tradition is the Drive, Chip and Putt competition which is co-led by Augusta National, PGA of America and the USGA.  I love that Golf Channel makes a big deal of it because it is a big deal.  It warrants players and past champions to greet these kids.  I love everything about it.

 

  1. Danny Willett – A deserving champion. He played the best.  Tournaments are 72 holes for a reason and like all major championships tend to be a grueling test of golf.  The number 12 player in the world leading up the event, his victory was a surprise to many but not those that know and respect the depth of talent in the game.

 

  1. Slow Play – While I repsect it was windy and they are playing for a major championship the time it took these twosomes to complete rounds was abhorrent. Watching players back off time and time again is a bad example to set to the public and junior players.  I love Jordan Spieth but he was a repeat offender and I’d like to see the governing bodies demand more from a time perspective.

 

  1. Jordan Spieth – The sting of the loss is real, and runs deep and it seems almost cruel he needed to place the green jacket on Danny Willett but he showed incredible class and sportsmanship and that is a lesson juniors and all players can draw from. For a game built on integrity and class, Jordan is well equipped in that department.  I suspect he will bounce back well from this.

 

  1. Social Media – I love Twitter. It opens up a real-time and global conversation around the game of golf.  That approximate 40 minute stretch where Spieth went from 5 up to 4 down was unreal to follow on social media.  But, as Adam Fonseca correctly noted, the real winner on Twitter on the weekend was Danny Willett’s brother.  Timely and humourous.  Check it out. (Adam has a great podcast too, check that out also).  Runner up in his entertainment on Twitter is No Laying Up.  A great follow.

 

  1. Golf Course Expectation – While I love the Azaleas and the incredible lushness of Augusta, I fear it may create unrealistic expectation from members at courses around the world for their Superintendents and grounds crew to replicate such pristine condition. This is problematic in that is simply not realistic, nor is it likely sustainable from an environmental perspective.  And it is here where I don’t appreciate the mystique of ANGC.  For one week, maybe.  But I prefer the more natural beauty from courses like Pebble Beach, or in Canada, Cabot Links.

 

  1. Short Game – in closing, for 54 holes Jordan Spieth was spraying the ball around Augusta and drew upon his world class short game to maintain a lead. If I am going to get better I will need to practice this part of the game so in my mind I can say I’m the second best putter on the planet (because seriously, who is going to supplant Jordan from number one putter in the world?)

 

Happy to debate on this, but I am happy today that the Masters is done for another season.  In Ontario, where I live, the official golf season starts this Friday.  I for one am ready, inspired by the lessons of the last 8 days at Augusta.

Lastly, and certainly not least, huge congrats to Adam Stanley, freelance golf writer and communications coordinator for the Golf Journalists Association of Canada for winning a spot in the media lottery to play Augusta today.  Wow.  Good things happen to good people.  Can’t wait to hear all about that.

 

A Public Players Quest for Value

A Public Players Quest for Value

Golf value, like beauty and putting styles, is in the eye of the beholder.  My very first twitter poll some time back asked people if they would rather play one top 10 course or multiple rounds at very good courses.  The responses were mixed and that is not a surprise.  In my review of Cabot Links I placed the value as high, which seems odd to some given the greens fees were about $150 at the time.  However, the opportunity to play the best course I have ever experienced and was top of my bucket list at the time provided me strong value to pay that much.  It was, indeed, an experience.

But the context of value is much broader than justification for world class course greens fees.  The opposite end of the spectrum is something I actively seek out as well.  I have paid $8.00 to play a local 9 hole course, doing so on poor weather day which allowed me the chance to play 2-3 golf balls at one time and go around the course 3 times.  Here are some tips I utilize for finding golf ‘value’.

  1. GolfNow – Based in the USA, GolfNow is expanding across the country and around the world. With an increasing listing of courses available in the Greater Toronto Area and throughout Ontario (and really, across the country), I am seeing favourites of mine added regularly.  Here, players can go online and identify their search parameters.  Discounted offerings can be had through their ‘Hot Deals’ section on their site.  What I love about this site is its ease of use, and the ability for me to filter as a single player and what are my geographic parameters to play.  If you can get onto the tee within a couple hours of logging in, there are incredible deals to be had.  They have also added a loyalty program to further incentivize players.  GolfNow is a staple for me, especially in the fall seasons.

 

  1. Golf Course Websites – Not to be dismissed are the websites for various courses. Some have a strict policy offering lower greens fees than any other site and in many cases you can find value options for foursomes which may include carts and or meals.  It is, I find in my conversations with other players, an underutilized resource to find golf value.

 

  1. Multiple Green Fee Packages – Some courses, in lieu of memberships, offer players a chance to purchase multiple round packages. I have seen offers as low as five rounds and as high as 40.  These allow offer discounts from their daily greens fees.  I would see this as an option of convenience for people living close to a course they like.  Here, you can explore other daily green fee deals but fall back on the convenience of a pre-paid package when time or funds are tight.

 

  1. Loyalty/Discount Cards – I have also experienced courses or regions offering players a loyalty card. Some courses are centrally managed or others exist within a unique geographic area.  Loyalty programs exist to reward players who play regularly with discounts on play, or ‘rewards’ like carts, apparel, etc.  While aware of some programs, I never frequent one area of golf ‘company’ enough to warrant the value but it is interesting to see and worthy of sharing.  My fall trip to PEI allowed our group to use the Golf PEI Green Card.  Through this offer, we played 10 rounds for an average green fee of $37.90.  There were six other course options we lacked time to utilize. Buy early in the calendar year, they sell fast.

 

  1. GTA Golf Club – This Company bases it operations in regional clusters of Toronto, London, Ontario and Chicago. This group allows people to buy graduated levels of ‘membership’ which provides access to a restricted number of daily discounted tee times at courses.  Here, the player simply books a tee time at a participating course than acquires one of the limited access times available that day.  The membership provides access to these deeply discounted rates and if you’re willing to pay more, you can get a certain number of round credits added in. This is where the real value is.  Credits are for $35 credit off the already discounted rate.  Courses I love fall within this price range, so for me it is often free to play.  If I wanted to play somewhere else, it may range from $5 to about $40 or so, out of pocket.  Another surprise to me this year was a returning customer I received a discount on my renewal and some ‘free’ round credits.  This gets high marks in my book and I have yet to see a value program equivalent.

 

  1. Under Par – This is an email service all public golfers in Ontario should sign up for. Throughout the season, UnderPar will email you offers for two or four players to play at courses in Ontario.  The geographic range of courses is impressive; this is less Toronto-centric than other discount programs.  Often the offers have fine print such as deadlines for use and minor restrictions but the value is sensational and I have used these vouchers on many occasions with enjoyment and success.  It’s a nice way to treat a family member or friend to play a round.

 

  1. Shoulder Season Play – Value need not be aligned to course commitment or front-end investment. Here, if you’re willing to play early or late in the season, you can often get heavily discounted rates on some of your favourite courses.  The same concept at a twilight rate (another excellent option for the value conscious golfer), here, before and after a certain time of year you can get great value.  I love fall golf and enjoy the fact it is often less wet and buggy than spring.  The chance to play a bucket list course at a reduced rate is something I always explore and the shoulder season is a favourite strategy I employ.

 

  1. Stay and Play – Not everyone has the time and resources to enjoy stay and play options but if you’re seeking value, it is worth looking into. Some courses have hotel, spa, restaurant options and the Stay and Play special could also include replay options, creating additional value for golfers.  For destination locations, the research could prove worthwhile.  Here, I like to marry Stay and Play with Seasonal play to maximize the discount options.

 

I am sure this is not an extensive list so I welcome hearing from others about how they optimize value in their golfing experience, absent a membership of course (likely one of the best value options).  After all, I have yet to meet anyone who said they wish they spent more to play a round of golf.

Penn Classic 2014 at Cabot Links