I’ve spent part of the last four days driving the roads of Eastern Ontario.
In concert with our second print issue of the year (and first to be distributed to golf courses) our team was out ensuring copies were available at more than 160 golf courses around the Ottawa Valley, Outaouais, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and the Kingston & Quinte regions.
I commonly refer to this first big loop of the year as the “Hugs & Handshakes Tour”. It’s a chance to renew acquaintances after the winter and an opportunity to speak one on one with the many owners. operators, and pros we have become so close with after two decades of publishing Flagstick Golf Magazine.
It’s also a great chance to assess what is going on in the marketplace, gathering news on the condition of courses, the programs and plans for each facility, and the outlook for the season ahead.
After a fairly mild spring I was not surprised to hear that turf conditions were good and that many courses were even pointing to the fact that their layouts were already in exceptional shape.
On a significant note, many course operators seem to be making some real efforts to develop their businesses and work to attract golfers based on enhanced facilities and programming. It’s a good sign. but not the one that stood out to me the most during my tour.
On Friday I spoke to a number of courses who mentioned the uptake on junior memberships was on the rise. In fact. while standing at one course who shared with me they had gone from about 35 to 80 junior members for this year, a father walked in with his two young sons in tow and purchased two more.
That was all reinforced on Saturday when I rolled through the Quinte and Kingston regions. At course after course I noted the heavy presence of junior golfers. In fact, at one range the tee line was full of nothing but juniors.
Many, many of the young golfers I saw were under ten years of age with a very healthy smattering of girls among the groups.
Yes, it’s anecdotal evidence and a small sample but it’s encouraging. I’m used to seeing junior golfers around in pockets here and there but this was the first time in years I have witnessed so many juniors out in late April/Early May is such widespread fashion.
I can’t point to a reason behind it, and I didn’t ask the kids why they might be coming out to try or play the game; for now I am just happy to see them.
It’s a positive sign for the season ahead.
One I think everyone in the golf industry is happy to see.