I was flipping through Friday’s on-line articles on the Globe and Mail website and came across an interesting read by Lorne Rubenstein titled “Dismal showing points to stalled development“. Of course knowing of Mr. Rubenstein and his great writing on Canadian Golf I was interested, but what really caught my attention was the tag line – Not a single player who has been through any of the RCGA‘s programs will be on next year’s PGA Tour. It should be noted that the same statement would also apply to the LPGA Tour.

Click here to read Lorne Rubenstein’s full article.

The article really opened my eyes to two things, one, the RCGA Player Development Programs have been around for 10 years and this is the outcome? Two, something that has been bothering us for a year now is the lack of progress that we feel has been made by the National Allied Golf Association (NAGA) to Grow the Game in Canada. NAGA officially launched Play Golf in late 2007 (after two years of stakeholder meetings and planning) with some fundraising initiatives and best practices in the industry section of their website. However, over on the consumer side of the website, a nice banner on the opening page states “The Consumer Section will TEE-OFF in early 2008!” At the time of this writing, December 14th, 2008, the Play Golf website has the same message on the consumer section and no new information has been posted, to my recollection, on the industry section.

As most are aware, Tara and I have great passion for growing the game of golf as it has done a lot for us both personally and professionally (we were one of the first to buy our Play Golf Industry Cards), but we have concerns about the pace and direction things are moving along. Last year the RCGA and the Canadian PGA jointly announced a Long Term Player Development Program. This program was heralded as “Canada’s first-ever long-range, systematic, and comprehensive approach to growing the game of golf in this country”. Correct me if I am wrong but does NAGA as a group of National Golf Associations not have a similar objective with Play Golf? While it may be a good program it certainly didn’t have any mention of being a NAGA or Play Golf program but rather a partnership of the Canadian PGA and RCGA. Funny thing is, I have rarely heard anyone talk about the program in the 23 months since the press release announcing the program was sent out.

Last week NAGA announced that it is “conducting a landmark study to understand the economic impact of golf on the economy of Canada”. Click here to view the press release and / or participate in the survey. While this is going to be a valuable tool, one I believe will ultimately be used to lobby government for funding of Play Golf, I asked myself – Are we too late?

Please don’t think we are naive to think that you can do something as bold as launching a National Grow the Game program without funding, but given the current economic times and the upcoming 2010 Olympic Games this may not be the most opportune time to be seeking any type of government funding. Many owners and operators have already taken it upon themselves to create individual grow the game programs for their own facilities in an effort to sustain their own businesses. If enough individual owners and operators (whether they are NGCOA, Canadian PGA, RCGA or other NAGA Members) take this initiative on themselves, will this be enough? Should NAGA and / or its member Golf Associations consider supporting this type of ground level effort instead of trying to take on such a gigantic task as a National Grow the Game program costing many millions of dollars?

Final thought on this topic – when the Play Golf initiative was originally launched in 2005 I was fairly adamant that we follow the U.S. model, take their ideas and “Canadianize” them. However as their National Grow the Game programs finish their 10th year there has been no real progress made in bringing more players into the game and rounds of golf remain basically flat or down during this time. Guess I’m glad we didn’t do that, however, are we far behind in reporting similar 10 year results?

If anyone has the answer we would sure love to hear about it!