More than $100,000,000 is invested in golf in Canada and it costs the Canadian fan $50,000,000 a year to play the game
A FEW years ago a popular song writer revealed to this worried world that he knew where the flies went in the wintertime, and through his telling he gained wealth and fame. Today there are similar rewards awaiting any Canadian who can prove to his fellow countrymen that he knows where all the golf balls go in the summertime. Perhaps many solutions are now deeply buried or lost in the woods, but the fact is that last year nearly three hundred and fifty thousand of these spherical tantalizers were imported into Canada, and a prominent national manufacturer has informed me that the combined totals of home and foreign production would indicate that about one and a quarter million golf balls found their way into Canada’s golf stream during 1929.
Where did they all go? Well ! That mystery is but one of the many associated with the grand and ancient game, for even its origin is hidden in the fog of history. It is generally admitted that most modern games have an ancestry travelling back to that period when Nero proved himself a better musician than fire fighter, but golf in its rudimentary stage began with the origin of man, and its real age will perhaps never be determined until scientists have discovered those long-sought missing links.
But despite this early start, and notwithstanding the many evidences that golf architecture was known to the Mound Builders, the pastime made little progress until the Middle Ages. During the fourteenth century, golf was fairly popular in Holland; and anyone who visits a locker room on a busy day will undoubtedly observe that windmills are still associated with the game. Eventually,
however, the multiplicity of Dutch water hazards created a tremendous loss in golf balls, and with the desire to remove this “sinking fund’’ the sport was transferred to Scotland where the Scotsfolk carefully nurtured, developed and almost guarded the secrets and joys of their adopted play child. Ultimately, though, the possibilities of the sport and the fame of St. Andrews and other clubs became better known, and golf accompanied the Scottish emigrant as he ventured into new lands. So, in the early seventies of the last century the turf-lifters’ union began operations on Canadian soil and the Royal Montreal, the Quebec and the Toronto Golf Clubs came into being.
During many summers the progress was almost as slow as a ladies’ foursome. Indeed, after forty years of competition there was only one publicly owned course, less than a dozen eighteen-hole courses, and not a hundred golf clubs of any size in all Canada. The golfer of this pre-war period was supposedly a wealthy gentleman who had retired from daily business strife, and who as a time-killer chased the little white pill over the real estate of an expensive, exclusive club. Moreover, the club member of fifteen years ago was not very popular with the average man, and the golfer’s clothes invited such uncomplimentary comment that only the hardiest ventured out in the open in the accepted regalia of a full-fledged club swinger.
Yet, in less than one generation this golf game has risen from comparative obscurity to such prominence that it is now recognized as the most popular, the most costly and the most richly endowed sport of Canadians.
Can all this supposed greatness be proved?
It is impossible to obtain absolutely accurate support for such an assertion, but if the class
will spend a couple of minutes in mental arithmetic some confirmation of the immensity of golf may be obtained. A short while ago a reliable United States golf architect gathered figures and estimated that in his country there were 4,200 courses; that forty per cent of them were nine-hole courses constructed at a minimum average cost of $25,000; and that the remaining sixty per cent were of regulation size built at the mean expense of $200,000. Now let us apply this valuation to Canadian links. In the Dominion there are about 700 clubs, and 280 of them constructed at $25,000. Each would require an expenditure of $7,000,000; the remaining 420 courses would involve an investment of $84,000,000 or a total cost of $91,000,000.
This valuation may appear to be surprisingly high,
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but in reality it is likely much below the actual cost of clubhouses, courses and equipment. Ralph H. Reville, editor of Canadian Golfer, believes that a very moderate estimate of the Canadian investment would total $100,000,000, and when we recall that Hamilton Golf Club values its assets at $325,000; that the Colwood Golf and Country Club in Victoria, B.C., owns a clubhouse that cost $140,000; that the C.P.R. course at Banff cost $400,000; and that the Essex Golf and Country Club at Windsor, Ontario, recently appraised its assets at nearly $700,000, our estimate seems very conservative. But even the minimum investment is sufficiently large to confirm the assertion that golf is our most richly endowed game.
That’s Where the Money Goes
AND is golf also the most costly game to the individual? Well! The annual amount contributed by golfers is likely to exceed $50,000,000 and if you think this estimate suggests a trifling with the truth, just recall some of the many expenditures associated with this pastime. Golfers must finance the interest on that odd $100,000,000 investment and contribute sufficient additional funds to allow for depieciation, repairs and expenses of operation; they must buy suitable clothing, golf clubs, and balls; pay the fees of professional instructors—and there are at least 250 pros, in Canada; buy meals and entertain friends; pay the cost of transportation and the many smaller expenses known only to a golfer. Add to these expenditures the “big money” paid by thousands of Canadian men and women who journey south in winter to improve their game on hothouse courses, and remember that entrance fees in many clubs are $500.
Some idea of the required annual club revenue is revealed in the last report of the Lambton Golf and Country Club, which indicated that the 1929 income was approximately $120,000. What, then, would be the average cost to the individual? Jack * Daray, professional at Olympia Fields links at Chicago and a famous designer of courses, estimates that in his country the total expenses average $500 each, and Stanley Thompson, prominent Canadian golf architect, has made the same appraisement for Canada. If you think those computations too high, you may reduce them $200 each and still
be faced with the fact that Canadian golfers annually pay $50,000,000 for the privilege of banging an inoffensive white ball into a little sunken tin. When you recall that Canada’s income tax revenue is less than $60,000,000, you must admit that golf’s right to be considered our most expensive sport is fairly well established.
But is it true that this moneyed game is also the most popular? There is much evidence to support this conclusion, for if the 700 clubs had an average membership of only 250, it would be evident that somewhere between the Atlantic and Pacific 175,000 of Canada’s sons and daughters are enjoying this costly sport. And this estimated average membership does not seem high, for some club memberships exceed 1,000 golfers and in one group of thirty-three of the better known clubs the average membership exceeded 600, while the public and pay-as-youplay courses have lists of “regulars” that make the totals of private club memberships seem very ordinary. In the larger cities golf is almost a contagious disease, and seventeen cities have three or more clubs. Winnipeg has eighteen courses, Montreal has twenty-one and Toronto requires twenty-eight courses to satisfy the “patients.” Even these totals are likely to be increased almost any week.
They All Fall for It
'T'HIS popularity is not solely dependent I upon older men, for golf is so suited to all statures and strengths that the years mean very little. Last year, at North Bay, a nine-year-old caddy made a holein-one. A couple of seasons ago when the Ontario junior championship was being fought on the Mississauga course, some of the entrants were only twelve years old; and just a few miles away, the British and Canadian seniors were fighting a friendly combat and a few of the players had passed the three-score-and-ten age. In 1929, the Manitoba junior title was sought by more than 100 boys and the winner was a fifteen-year-old lad—“Bud” Donovan. Just as age is no barrier, neither is sex; and this universal popularity is not even confined to the actual players, for a rapidly increasing interest is developing in the regular run of sport fans, many of whom have never swung a club. Newspapers, alert to public sentiment, have so reflected this public desire that the records of Hagen, Jones,
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page Ray, Duncan, Mitchell, Deigel, Smith or Sarazen are better known to thousands of Canadians than are the names of the members of the Federal Cabinet.
Indeed, the newspapers have not only catered to the increased interest in golfology, but in no uncertain manner the sports editors have been the Pied Pipers who have led the tired business men out from the city streets to the great open bunkerlands. Most Canadian daily or weekly papers furnish racy golf news and many of the better circulated papers have assigned special writers to this one sport. This contribution to golf development has been decidedly stimulating, but the Press has rendered even additional aid through the constant publication of free instruction. In no other game has the player been so saturated with gratuitous advice, and what does it matter if the embryo Hagen is confused with conflicting opinions on when to use a putter or how to grip the club or what to say when your tee shot dives into the nearest pond? The advice Í3 at least worth the cost. In any event, when the tyro begins to practise his newspaper teaching, he is certain to learn that the summit of golf excellence, like the road to heaven, must be attained by each man in his own peculiar way.
But the printing press has not been golf’s only mechanical ally, for the motor car has also rendered more than first aid. Indeed, the gasoline chariot has made a twofold contribution, for prior to the advent of automobiles, walking along the country road was inspiring and bodybuilding. But the startling popularity of motoring and the increased speeds of cars, buses and trucks soon made highway hiking as dangerous as residence in Chicago, and so the pedestrian was forced from the roads. Then when the business man stopped this desirable form of
exercise, he was compelled to seek recreation in some other manner, and thus the motor car which drove him from the highways also drove him to the golf links, where, even though he was exposed to another form of reckless driving, he at least had morq space in which to dodge. Then, too, had it not been for the motor car’s ground-covering ability golf courses could have been constructed only on expensive property close to large cities or bordering on railway lines, but the auto has made it possible for popular clubs to be located twenty or thirty miles from business centres. So Henry Ford and his
successors have made no mean contribution to golf.
The Tools are Better Now
T'HE improvements in golf balls have also considerably aided golf’s upward swing, for every player loves to watch his drive go soaring into infinite space, and the recollection of even one real lusty wallop will provide a thrill that a score of miserable shots cannot remove. In the game’s infancy when the ball was made from hand-sewn bull’s hide and tightly packed with feathers, the possible distance to be attained was comparatively small. When this ball was replaced by another manufactured from boiled guttapercha clippings, rolled by hand into suitable sized spheres, the yardage was increased; but the ball of today is so strikingly improved that Ray, the wellknown English professional, has reached the green of a 600-yard hole in two shots with a driver and a brassie.
So newspapers, motor cars, improved tools, together with better fairways, truer greens, luxurious clubhouses and scenically beautiful locations, have made mental, social and physical appeals that few sportsmen could resist.
Has the popularity of golf reached the end of the road? No! Golf was originally the game of the people but eventually its costliness—in time and money—prevented many persons from enjoying the pastime. Now, however, many new influences are being exerted and they all tend to make it possible for the game to return to those from whence it has sprung.
The length of time required to play eighteen holes has undoubtedly confined the game to those who have leisure hours —or at least think they have; but the almost general acceptance of daylight saving now enables many to finish their
daily work, proceed to the course and complete a game before dark.
Even more stimulating than this extra hour of sunlight is the lessening of the cost of playing. In many instances the growth of cities has increased the real estate value of playing fields, and has enabled clubs to sell portions or all of their valuable areas and buy elsewhere at a lower cost and apply the profits to fee reductions. Some definite instances of this increased valuation have been demonstrated in United States courses. One Long Island Club bought property
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for $200,000, spent $100,000 for clubhouse, fairways, traps and greens, and in two years sold the property for three times the original cost. A Cleveland golf club bought a large acreage, laid out a course on the portion of the property, and later sold back an unused portion to the original sellers at a price that enabled the golfers to have their links for nothing. Quite a number of years ago, a small group of Detroit golfers organized a club, paid a membership fee of fifty dollars and bought property away out in the country. But the city of Detroit expanded and entirely surrounded the property, and while the present membership fee approaches $10,000, each membership carries with it an interest in real estate that has been valued as high as $10,000,000. Many Canadian golf clubs have experienced similar increases in property values. The St. Andrews and Bayview Clubs in Toronto are but two examples of those which have sold a portion of their holdings at a profit.
The cost of playing equipment is also being greatly reduced. It is still possible to pay $200 for a matched set of clubs and bag, but the beginner can also buy sufficient tools for less than fifteen dollars.
Profitable real estate purchases and lowered costs will naturally increase the number of golfers, but the most powerful force in carrying the game back to the people will be in the increased construction of courses by corporations, private groups and by municipalities. Already, hotels and transportation companies, trained to sense the public demand, have begun to distribute courses across the land. The Canada Steamship Lines operate a links at Murray Bay; the Canadian National Railways control the
Minaki and Jasper Park courses, while the Canadian Pacific Railway Company operates courses at St. Andrews, N.B.; Banff, Alberta; the new Royal York Course near Toronto; and in. 1931 will open a new links on historic grounds at Lucerne in Quebec; while every summer
hotel of any prominence freely announces its proximity to a golf course.
TN MANY Canadian cities the older
clubs have full memberships and waiting lists, and this condition has encouraged the organization of clubs where no membership fee is required and the player pays only as he plays. Are they popular? During the 1929 season the St. Andrews Course near Toronto was the stamping ground for nearly 50,000 games.
But even more desirable than the “cafeteria” plan or the corporation ownership is the increased interest in golf courses constructed and operated by municipalities. Three years ago United States cities owned 191 courses and every one was paying its own financial way. Last year the Winnipeg Public Parks Board maintained two city-owned courses. The Kildonan course was open nearly 200 days and was visited by 45,000 players; on the Windsor links 42,000 games were played and the combined attendances registered an increase in one season of 13,000. For six years the Parks Board of Hamilton have been operating the Chedoke Civic Golf Club and during that period the receipts have exceeded the expenditures by over $40,000 and more than 750 men and women hold memberships. Municipal courses will not only increase the prevalence of the golf disease, but they will assist in producing a better standard of play and may eventually develop a Percy Williams or a Joe Wright, who could win in a worldwide competition and fire the imagination and ambitions of their national playmates.
Yes! Golf has been coming for a long time; today it has arrived and its stay should be both welcome and pleasing, for its contribution to the happiness and the mental and physical well-being of Canadians makes it a pastime worthy of pt-pservation and encouragement.