Question about golf course

Re. Kelowna council can't get out of its own way while discussing Kelowna Springs motion (Castanet, Feb.27)

I am in support of (Kelowna city) Coun. Luke Stack’s motion to change the future land use designation of Kelowna Springs back to private recreational.

The following is speaks to the economic impacts of the golf course closure for the overall Okanagan golf industry and for the tourism sector, in general.

How will the closure of Kelowna Springs affect the overall Okanagan golfing community as well as the tourism related business community?

At first look, it would appear the closure will negatively impact only a few people (Kelowna Springs golfers and neighbouring property owners). However, that is not the case.

Over the last couple of years, Kelowna Springs has accommodated more than 70,000 rounds of golf per year. Assuming those 70,000 rounds of golf need to be booked somewhere else in the future, and with the understanding there are seven other full-length golf courses within the city, it would seem logical these rounds will need to be spread out amongst the other seven courses. (Kelowna Golf and Country Club is semi-private, so is not included in the seven).

Some questions for Kelowna-area golfers:

• How will an extra 10,000 rounds per year be accommodated at your favourite course?( i.e. 10,000 extra rounds at each of the seven other full-length courses.)

• With Kelowna continuing to grow, and with no new golf courses planned, is tee-time availability going to get better or worse at your favourite course over the next few years?

• With the understanding that pricing for any commodity is based on supply and demand, how do you think this extra demand for tee times will affect the price you pay for a round of golf on your favourite course? How will the extra demand for tee times affect the cost of your yearly membership?

Although Kelowna may not be considered a golf-Mecca like Myrtle Beach, North Carolina or Scottsdale, Arizona, it is widely known (and documented by Tourism Kelowna) that many tourists enjoy playing golf while they are in the area.

An enjoyable week might include one or two rounds at a high-end course, such as Predator Ridge or Tower Ranch, followed by one or two rounds at a less-expensive course, such as Kelowna Springs.

Based on this, the following are some questions for Kelowna-area, tourism-related business owners:

• With tourism being a $2 billion-plus annual industry in the Central Okanagan, will golf-playing tourists continue to come here if they can’t get tee times or if the price for a round of golf is out of reach?

• Will the Shuswap, North Okanagan, South Okanagan, Thompson, East Kootenays or Vancouver Island become a little more appealing for a family vacation?

Some final thoughts.

1. I recently had the pleasure of meeting with the general manager of a Kelowna area golf course. The meeting was not related to the Kelowna Springs closure, but I did take the opportunity to ask him what he thought about the impending closure of Kelowna Springs.

I expected he might grin and say (or at least think to himself) the closure of Kelowna Springs will help his bottom line as his tee sheet will be full and he will be able to increase his rates. Instead, he had a very short answer: “We can’t absorb an extra 10,000 rounds per year at our golf course.”

2. Why is the closure of Kelowna Springs such an important issue to everyone? Where was the public outcry when Central Park and Fairview were closed? These is a valid questions. The difference between then and now is when Central Park and Fairview closed, there were eight golf courses which had either recently opened, were being built or were being planned (Kelowna Springs, Shadow Ridge, the Bear, Quail, Sunset Ranch, Harvest, Black Mountain, and Tower Ranch).

As noted above, no new golf courses are being planned within Kelowna, even though the population continues to increase. In fact, one additional course will close in the next few years, that being Shadow Ridge.

3. In January, I was lucky enough to go on a vacation to Playa Del Carmen in Mexico. While there, I decided to check on the pricing for a round of golf. The going rate was about US$250 (C$350-plus).

Knowing the overall cost of living in Mexico is far less than in Canada, I was shocked when I saw what the going rate was for a round of golf.

Why is the cost so high? The answer is simple, there are only five or six golf courses in an area with a population of about 300,000 people. The Playa Del Carmen golf courses charge C$350 for a round of golf because they can. Is Kelowna headed towards $200 or $300 for a round of golf?

A final question, should we negatively impact our $2 billion-plus tourism industry for an extra $1million in city tax revenue from an industrial development?

James (Jim) Roe

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