Golfers in the National Capital Region have come to expect it. They receive the news differently now, often with a notice on social media, but the message is just as welcome each season as it year’s past – the Kevin Haime Golf Centre (KHGC) is open for the season.
Unless you’re one of the eager golfers paying attention, you likely won’t understand the significance of the occurrence, especially if you are not from Ottawa and surrounds. Yes, there are other golf facilities in the region, but traditionally the range and teaching centre operated by the Haime family in Kanata, Ontario has become the 1st to throw open their doors each Spring (and often in late Winter).
It may take a plow to clear the landing grounds for golf balls, but as long as the weather is reasonable, the Haime’s strive to make it happen.
This year it took place on March 17 and golfers flocked to the business to scrape the rust off their swings and renew their chase for the perfect shot. The pursuit of golf hope had begun.
“We start getting questions in January about when we’re opening,” says the man whose name adorns the golf centre, Kevin Haime. This usually takes place as he and his team, including son and fellow PGA of Canada Professional, Jake Haime are teaching and fitting indoors at the Superdome at Ben Franklin Park.
While many might find the question repetitive and annoying after many years it has just become a bit of tradition within the Haime household.
The Tradition Begins
It all started back in 1990’s at their previous location in Kanata, a few roads over from where they are situated now, at their previous business iteration, the Double Deck Golf Centre.
At the time the decision to have an early opening was not much of a decision at all. Kevin, who owns and operates the business with his wife, Lisa, says that frankly, they needed the cash. As a new business with thousands of dollars in retail product lining the shelves that had to be paid for they looked at it as a way to start their cash flow for the season.
“For sure, it was an urgency thing to start, and once you start doing it then people keep coming out and it almost became a challenge each year,” Kevin shared by phone earlier this week between customers. “Everybody seems to know about it, we don’t really have to advertise it much. I guess if there is something out there that people want, they look for it.”
And look for it they do. In fact, word often gets out before they even get to announce it themselves.
Kevin says that an eager spotter who lives near their facility has beaten them to the punch the last few seasons. Apparently she lives in a house within eyeline of the property and when she spots the plow begin to clear the snow from the range area she has been known to Tweet out the news. She’ll even tag the Kevin Haime Golf Centre directly in her posts.
Of course, in years past, the pent up excitement to hit golf balls outdoors would lead to some interesting situations. Being that they were the only game in town, the line-ups for the range were often overwhelming. A nice problem to have but unwieldy at times. Changes made to the business during the Covid-19 pandemic have tempered that a bit as the KHGC moved to a reservation system, more akin to buying a movie ticket online.
“It’s an organized chaos now,” says Kevin. “People are not three and four deep waiting behind a hitting bay but it is sold out.”
The real mayhem in unseen by the golfers, and comes at night, after they leave. With soft grounds, traditional ball picking methods, ones that are mechanized and less labour intensive, are out the window. There are 25-35,000 balls to pick each night. By hand.
As challenging as that can be, it’s done willingly.
“It certainly takes a village of people and rubber boots to make it happen but we like doing it. We get the honour of announcing that Spring is here in a way. People know that if we are open then the golf season is near,” concludes Haime.
“There are certain checkpoints in the outdoor golf season and we think this might be the first of them all. That’s fun for us, and golfers too.”