From The Vault: Tee To Green Summer 2003

Ed. Note: This month, our From The Vault feature includes two stories which ran in the Summer 2003 edition of Tee To Green Golf Magazine.

Around The Green:
Mike Olizarevitch Study Suggests Overpopulation Of Local Courses
by Jeffrey Reed, Originally Published Summer 2003 by Tee To Green

Mike Olizarevitch, winner of the 2011 Heart Award

London’s Fanshawe Golf Club head pro Mike Olizarevitch, after hearing “complaints (from the local golf industry) that business is slow,” has not only produced a brief report for the City of London; he has also raised the question, “Where have all the junior golfers gone?”

In short, report indicates there are enough golf courses in and around London to support a population of 1,050,000, more than three times London’s population of 330,000. In his study’s findings, Olizarevitch uses the National Golf Foundation’s rule of thumb which estimates, in order to sustain a viable trade, one golf course should be built for every 25,000 people.

The long-time Fanshawe pro reports there are 42 golf courses within a half-hour drive of London’s City Hall – 21 courses within city limits.

A 1991 City of London study conducted by Canadian Golf Marketing stated there were 81,000 golfers in London, 29,000 of whom were recreational golfers, and the balance avid golfers. That study reported, in most other municipalities those numbers were reversed. The ’91 study indicated more than 1,250,000 rounds of golf were played each year at London and area’s 20 courses.

In 12 years, the number of area courses had increased two-fold. The city owns and operates Fanshawe (est. 1958), River Road (1993) and Thames Valley – opened in 1924 as one of the first public courses in this part of Canada.

An estimated 90,000 adult Londoners – 60,000 men, 30,000 women – are playing golf this summer, spending $22 million on clubs, green fees and memberships.

While Olizarevitch’s recent study points to an over population of area courses as reasons for fewer tee times, it’s a lack of young golfers on the greens which has him scratching his head. The City of London’s three courses boast 3,000 total members, who will play more than 160,000 rounds this summer.

At Fanshawe, there are only 51 juniors (ages 14-18), and 16 bantams (ages 9-13). The National Take a Kid to the Course Week July 7-13 saw only 40 youngsters play a round at Fanshawe – down from 120 in 2002.

“Where are the young golfers?” asks Olizarevitch. While Mike Weir and Tiger Woods give golf a cool image, Olizarevitch says, “I don’t have a study, but I bet they’re playing computer games.”

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Around The Green:
Vink’s Program Promotes Golf As A Game Without Limits
by Jeffrey Reed, Originally Published Summer 2003 by Tee To Green

Golf is a game without barriers. London’s wheelchair-accessible Fanshawe Parkside Nine opened in 1998 as North America’s first course specifically designed for physically-challenged golfers. Forest City National Golf Club in London hosted the 2002 Canadian Amputee Golf Championship. Both have helped educate the community about golf without limitations.

Now, additional initiatives are promoting golf as a game without boundaries.

Carole Vink, who owns Woodstock Meadows Golf Centre with her husband, Henry, wondered what special needs children thought while watching other children golf. Thanks to inspiration from her 13-year-old daughter, Natalie – a special-needs pupil – Vink initiated Golf Oxford, a pilot project which allows children with unique challenges to learn the game of golf and to play alongside able-bodied children.

Following through with Vink’s concept, the London District Catholic School Board implemented the first-year program in Oxford County. Sixty children, 50 of whom had never picked up a golf club before, participated in a three-day program. Woodstock golf instructor Tom Farlow, along with local teachers, Huron Park SS students and community volunteers taught the children the finer points of the game. A nine-hole shotgun tournament followed lessons.

“There was awesome support from the entire school board and from the community,” says Vink. She says the National Golf Course Owners Association Canada’s Take a Kid to the Course Week July 7-13 also inspired her to start Golf Oxford. Vink hopes the program will spread board-wide, outside of Oxford County.

The Golf Association of Ontario and the District School Board of Niagara, with assistance from the Trillium Foundation and BMO Financial Group Future Links program, successfully launched a program for children this year. Pupils in grades 4 to 6 were introduced to the game through their physical education programs. The Muskoka District School Board independently launched a similar successful program last year.

All of these efforts are scoring an ace for the game of golf.

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For more than 40 years, Jeffrey Reed has covered golf in Southwestern Ontario for local and national golf publications, including The London Free Press, Ontario Golf and SCOREGolf. Reach him at jeff@londonontariogolf.com.

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About jeffreyreed

A leading Canadian communications professional. Corporate office www.JeffreyReedReporting.com established 1989.