What Price Golf?

J. HERBERT HODGINS May 15 1925

What Price Golf?

J. HERBERT HODGINS May 15 1925

What Price Golf?

J. HERBERT HODGINS

MY NEIGHBOR has broken out into golf! My family and I were having breakfast the other morning when “crash” went our casement window. A shiny golf ball sped through the room and we all “ducked” with more speed than ceremony. I looked out upon the sunshine spaces of my neighbor’s garden. There he stood, aghast, a driver in mid-air—■ and ever so resplendent. He was taking a morning round in

his own backyard. I was not so much surprised at the practice arrangement he had set up. Rather, it was the golf togs he wore that startled me. He was as completely transformed from the man I am accustomed to behold setting out for the office, as if he had been taken from the display window of an ultra tailor.

Then it was that I realized that, while clothes may not make the man, as the poet once remarked, they at least make the modern golfer.

“It used to be, the dirtier, the more disreputable, you looked, the better golfer you were,” said a veteran of the links to me the other day. “But now-a-days every man looks the part—even the professionals.”

Some of the top-notch “pros.” have several suits for a single season. Hagen, for a week’s tournament, has been known to change his costume every time he played. Now-a-days golf begins not at the first-tee but at the haberdasher’s. Which is just another way of making golf expensive.

There can be no gainsaying that more and more money is going into golf each year. Ralph H. Reville, editor of Canadian Golfer, chatting with me the other •day, estimated that ten million dollars will be spent for golf this year—on the general upkeep of properties, in fees, the purchase of balls, clubs and supplies, and the outfitting of the individual.

It seems like a good deal of cash for pastime. But there are those who will tell you that,golf has been taken out of the sport category and been classified as a national industry. One hundred thousand Canadians have taken up golf. And, inasmuch as the average golfer appears to care not a tittle what he pays out in the course of a season for his golf, it is distinctly conservative to set down a man’s ■ annual golf expenses at one hundred •dollars.

One of the last things which Walter Camp, noted sport writer, decried before his recent death was the craze for costliness in golf.

Many a man in Canada is spending •one thousand dollars and upwards «ach year for his golf.

There is a golf club in Canada— in one of the border cities—where the entrance fee, alone, is to be fifteen hundred dollars this year.

On top of that the man who would join this dub will be required to pay a substantial annual fee; after which, as Will Rogers would probably express it, he will just settle down to steady spending.

While this particular club may be regarded as a somewhat extreme •example, there are ample instances ■of where it costs upwards of one thousand dollars to get into the game. There are, as a matter of fact, a few clubs where you may get a life membership for two thousand dollars—if you are not too young!

In Winnipeg, to join the St.

■Charles Country Club you pay five hundred dollars for a share, plus

J S THIS great pastime to become the game of the rich man or the poor man in Canada? What is the secret of its amazing popularity?

one hundred dollars’ transfer fee and another hundred dollars for the annual fee. In Toronto you are “lucky” if you can pick up a Lambton share on the stock market for $450; when you have paid over that amount for the certificate you have just started your education in the higher mathematics of golf. For, of course there’s a transfer fee — and that’s two hundred dollars—and there’s an annual fee and that’s eighty-five dollars. You do well to get into Toronto or Rosedale under one thousand dollars. It all depends upon your initial success in locating a share at a “bargain” of five or six hundred dollars. In Montreal if you are ambitious to play golf at Royal Montreal, which is the oldest club on the continent, or at the newer and super-restricted Mount Bruno—well, you simply have to be in the millionaire class; that’s all.

Golf costs more each year even in some of the smaller cities. There are men now playing over the Brantford, Ont., course who remember when it was possible to play for two dollars a year. Now it costs sixty-five dollars a year and you must further qualify with a one hundred dollar share.

Nearing 400 Clubs

AT THE outset of the nineteen twenty-five season - there are three hundred and eighty golf clubs in Canada. With others in contemplation, there will probably be four hundred in operation before the year rounds out. Golf has made rapid strides when you consider that eight years ago there were but one hundred and sixteen clubs in this country.

The capital invested in these three hundred and eighty golf clubs exceeds $100,000,000.

“More people work at golf than at any other unskilled trade,” says a facetious individual. “Stand on a corner in the early morning hours, as toil’s silent army fares forth to the labors of the day, and you will see twice as many putters as pickaxes.”

He must have come from Winnipeg! Winnipeg, according to Ralph Reville, can without fear or favor be accorded the palm of the “golfiest” city on the

continent. There are seventeen courses in andjabout the city, all with large memberships. It is conservatively estimated that there are more than eight thousand golfers in Winnipeg; one to every twenty-eight of the population. This, undoubtedly, constitutes a record in this country or the United States. Winnipeg, for instance, has a municipal course over which in the 1924 season, fifty-eight thousand two hundred and sixty-two games were played from April 28 to November 6; an average of three hundred and five players daily for the one hundred and ninety-one days the course was played over.

Running Up the Costs

WHY this high cost of golf in Canada?

British golfers do not run up against expensive golf as we do. For one thing, your Scotchman or your Englishman is content with less pretentious golf. At Sunningdale, Royal St. George, or Royal Liverpool, England’s celebrated courses, where royalty plays, the fees are only £3 to £5 a year.

“Of course they are not up against the operating costs as we are; the climate helps them in England,” observed George Lyon, eight times Canada’s amateur champion, when we talked over the mounting cost of golf in this country. “For another thing,” he went on, “we spend too much on club houses.”

There’s probably the rub. In the old country, the club house is of secondary importance. The playing course is the first consideration. Here the club house is just about primary or else a few members of a club reach a point where they can go round under eighty and immediately they set up a clamor for a more tricky course. Scarboro, just out of Toronto, will probably spend upwards of fifty thousand dollars this year to get some thing a little more “sporty” than they have been getting. Then as to costly club houses: the new Royal Montreal club house is easily the most luxurious in Canada. It ought to be; more than half a million dollars was spent upon it two years ago to mark the club’s jubilee. It is architecturally perfect, of course, and no convenience which money could secure has been overlooked. Out of Quebec, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Victoria there are club houses upon which upwards of two and three hundred thousand dollars have been spent.

In the matter of their outfitting, take for example the bathing facilities; there are “showers” and foot tubs by the dozen. By con* L r J trast: at the famous Royal St.

-With Old Man George in England if you want to

Continued on page 61

What Price Golf?

Continued from, page 23

wash up after your game you go to a basin of water in a corner of the locker room. Sunningdale admittedly does better by its members; it has, or had last season, two “showers”!

Playing golf from the club house verandah has done much to boost the cost of golf , both here and in the neighboring republic. There are such details as having bell boys to bring you a drink. The annual reports of many of our best clubs disclose the financial mis-adventure of dining service; a battery of waiters or waitresses and other club-house attendants quickly eats into profits. There are clubs—Lambton in Toronto for instance—where Saturday night dinner costs $2.50 a plate. Of course you get dancing with your dinner—but dancing isn’t golf, although it must be confessed that it has proven something of the club-house allure.

There are other clubs which are paying tidy little sums each year for the upkeep of their flower gardens. One club’s report shows an outlay of $3,000 for this one item, last year. Only a few Canadian clubs spend anything approaching this amount for flowers. But it is an illustration of the trend toward more luxurious surroundings of the club-house life.

“But there are a lot of financially well-to-do men. playing golf, who do not care what they pay, so long as they are not kept waiting,” a critic has stated, thus in a sentence giving the basic reason for expensiveness of golf in a private club. These are the men who have helped to raise the caddy tariff. Not so many

years ago you paid your caddy ten cents a round; at most a quarter. To-day in Canada fifty cents is the generally accepted fee—in the United States it runs to forty cents an hour, with the result that many caddies make as much as four and five dollars, daily.

Then there is the increasing cost of entertaining a fellow golfer at your club. A few years ago you had the privilege of bringing a guest to play over your club’s course. To-day the green fees are one and two dollars at most clubs, with Mount Bruno out of Montreal setting a peak level of three dollars a day. Put up a friend at Mount Bruno for a week and it costs you twenty-one dollars for the green fees alone!

Move Toward Public Courses

HOWEVER, there is now going forward in the Dominion a brisk boom toward providing reasonably good golfing facilities within the reach of the average salaried man. There will be fifteen public courses in operation in Canada this year; possibly sixteen, if the new one started in Vancouver by the C.P.R., and upon which one hundred thousand dollars is to be invested, is completed.

Edmonton was the first Canadian city to have municipal golf. The movement rapidly spread to Calgary where, last season, seventeen thousand players passed over the course. Winnipeg’s course at Kildonan has made remarkable progress since getting under way in 1921. The

city has an investment here of fifty-four thousand dollars. Last year there was an operating surplus of ten thousand dollars. Here, there is no annual membership fee; the course is open to all paying the forty-cent green fee. Last year the city took over a second course, Windsor Park, at an initial investment of fortyfive thousand dollars. Both courses are within three and a half miles of the centre of the city. Moose Jaw, Medicine Hat and Brandon are other western Canadian cities which maintain civic courses.

In Eastern Canada, Ralph Connable, retiring head of the F. W. Woolworth Company in Canada, has given considerable impetus to public golf. It was Mr. Connable who, three years ago, got a public course under way in Toronto by starting the Humber Valley club which now has a membership of eighteen hundred, and twelve hundred on the waiting list. Inasmuch as golf at the Humber Valley club is upon a yearly membership basis it cannot be regarded as strictly a municipal undertaking, like the Winnipeg club. But it has been an auspicious start toward more reasonable golf and has been followed by the opening of a second public course, the Glen Stewart.

Hamilton has had a significant experi-

ence with civic golf, in the Chedoke Civic Club—the old links of the Hamilton Golf Club. Two years ago, at a cost of ninety thousand dollars, Hamilton Parks Board took over these links and in the first year showed an operating profit of seven thousand dollars. The city of London, Ont., started the Thames Valley Club in 1924 and St. Thomas and Windsor followed. Two years ago a nine-hole course was opened at Maisonneuve, Que., thereby giving to hundreds of Montrealers unable to afford the cost of membership in the many private clubs in the district, an opportunity to indulge in “the game of games;” last year the full eighteen holes were available.

Such is the craze for golf and such has been the success of the initial ventures into golf as a municipal enterprise that Ralph Reville is disposed to forecast: “It will not be long before residents of every city of any size in Canada will have facilities for playing the game on municipal links at a low cost.”

Golf for the masses will Only be practical in this country by strict elimination of fads and frills. “Golf is the people’s game” was a statement of Walter Camp. “It should be a game anyone can afford to play. Don’t forget this and oppose extravagance every inch of the way, in your own individual case.”