In recent years, some people have called for municipalities to repurpose city-owned public golf courses for other uses like housing or parks. They believe that golf is a sport exclusive to the affluent and that the land used for municipal golf courses does not cater to a broad or diverse group of residents.
As the national governing body for golf in Canada, we fundamentally disagree and encourage people who hold this view to learn more about the modern realities of our sport. Golf will be played by approximately 6 million Canadians from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds this year. In fact, golf is now the most-played sport in Canada.
Municipal courses provide affordable golf opportunities for people of various ages and economic means. They also serve as community hubs for recreation, events and gatherings that bring together people from all walks of life. In Canada’s major cities, it’s common to see people hopping on public transit or riding their bicycles with golf bags on their back as they head to their local municipal golf course for social time outdoors and away from their screens.
City governments should treat municipal golf courses as community resources that support the health and well-being of residents. Recent research has shown golf is a sport that encourages physical activity, mental well-being, cardiovascular health and muscular strength and flexibility, while also providing safe and fun opportunities for in-person social interaction. Golfers walk between six and eight kilometres over 18 holes, burning up to 2,000 calories.
Municipal golf courses are especially welcoming for kids and offer high-quality youth recreation at an affordable price. For example, an annual junior pass providing access to all five of Toronto’s municipal courses costs $378, with financial aid also available for qualifying families. An annual pass to Cedar Hill Golf Course in Victoria costs $325. Membership at a municipal golf course provides kids with an entire spring, summer and fall’s worth of outdoor activity and in-person social time for a cost that is more affordable than many other activities.
Some junior golfers at municipal courses dream of becoming the next Brooke Henderson or Nick Taylor, while others simply enjoy having fun with their friends. Several municipal golf courses across Canada allow junior golfers to play for only $5 per round through Golf Canada’s Youth on Course program. And other municipal courses also operate First Tee, a program that introduces golf to Canadian youth of all backgrounds and teaches them life skills through the sport. RBC, a major sponsor of professional golf, including the RBC Canadian Open, has also invested significantly in these grassroots programs to help them thrive at municipal courses.
In addition to being affordable, municipal golf courses are highly utilized outdoor green spaces. They are constantly occupied from sunrise to sunset due to golf’s format, which allows for a continuous flow of players. Different than soccer fields and baseball fields, municipal golf courses are used all day by golfers engaging in physical activity, whether it be during early morning tee times or late afternoon rounds. And in winter months, municipal golf courses are used for non-golf outdoor recreational activities of all kinds, such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Municipal golf courses are important sources of health and physical activity for a broad cross section of Canadians from varied socioeconomic backgrounds. By prioritizing them, municipalities can demonstrate a commitment to the well-being of their communities, while also providing accessible and affordable opportunities for residents to enjoy the numerous benefits that golf offers. We encourage city governments to think of municipal golf courses just as they do other recreational facilities — as key contributors to healthier, more connected and inclusive communities.
Written by: Kevin Blue, Golf Canada Chief Sport Officer