With any luck, the blustery cold Calgary winds and dumpings of snow are now done, at least for the next six months or so.
Golf diehards and weekend warriors are over-ready with clubs, new balls and their favourite bits of equipment. Driving range and swing conditioning has begun. And it’s time fore Inglewood, Shaganappi, River Spirit, the Hamptons, Bearspaw, Confederation Park and Priddis Greens.
Passionate golfers bristle at the mention that it’s only a game and selectively shrug off common-sense caution that, no matter how gung-ho and anxious to “get out there” and start the season, golf is athletics. And as with any sport, not listening to your body can be a mistake.
Kinesiologists explain that even the most relaxed and friendly golf involves about 500 muscles. To minimize post-game aches and pains, flexibility is a crucial part of the game. Regardless how casual or competitive, a proper golf swing is all about flexibility. When you’re stiff, you can’t go as far back.
Particularly at the start of the golf season, basic stretching is important. Loosely swinging two clubs. Stretching legs, hamstrings, the back and shoulders (rotator cuffs). It’s all part of the “physics of the swing.” And it matters!
The golf swing has been studied by scientists and mathematicians. Respected Calgary-area golf pros, like popular coach Terry Carter, a 25-year member of the Canadian PGA and director of Calgary’s National Golf Academy, agree that a successful and consistent golf swing requires precise timing and mechanics, from the grip and position of the fingers to the position and movement of the feet. They emphasize that, at any moment of the swing – whether backswing, downswing or upswing – anything can go wrong that will throw off the whole body, resulting in a miss hit.
Allowing for common sense and technique, and acknowledging the two Calgary golf factors nobody can do anything about – weather and the economy – the 2018 Calgary season begins.
Golf is still the highest participation sport in Canada – despite iffy weather and two years of Alberta economy speed bumps – and with many popular private and public courses, Calgary continues to be a hot spot of Canadian golf.
Barry Ehlert, Calgary golf course executive, managing partner and owner of Windmill Golf Group, enthusiastically underscores, “The past 20 years have changed the game more than the previous 80 years put together. Equipment and technology have had major impact on the popularity of golf and made the game so much more enjoyable.”
Calgary golf courses – private or public – live or struggle with the basic measure of the business of golf: rounds played.
The six Calgary public courses – Confederation Park, Lakeview, Maple Ridge, McCall Lake, Richmond Green and Shaganappi Point – don’t have the revenue stream of memberships and therefore rely on green fee revenues of rounds played. As a result, weather makes it a hit or miss for rounds played.
“All things considered, last year was a reasonably good season,” says Greg Steinraths, the city’s manager of golf operations and sport and partnership development. “Weather-wise, 2017 was a sluggish start and tough finish. We had a loss of 67 weather days but summer was phenomenal and we made up a lot of ground. There were 340,000 rounds played last year and, according to the numbers, Confederation Park and Lakeview were the most popular.”
Contrary to common misunderstanding, the city is not involved in most aspects of golf course operations and the six public courses are not ‘your tax money at play.’ “The only city involvement is the mandate that the public courses function on 100 per cent cost recovery,” Steinraths points out. “We must pay our own way. And we do!
“We rely heavily on customer feedback and staying in touch with our peers across the country,” he adds. “We are proud of our 98 per cent customer satisfaction and our primary focus is ‘what do families, juniors and seniors want from a value perspective?’”
After the heavy February and early March snowfalls, the city’s public courses are ready for the 2018 season, with one significant change. “McCall Lake will be closed for major construction, but will open in 2019.”
Ehlert’s excitement about Windmill’s newest Calgary golf jewel is palpable. The Phil Mickelson National Golf Club in the master-planned Harmony community in Springbank. “It’s going to be spectacular. Building a golf course is more about art than science. Mickelson was on site for three days recently and his level of engagement and commitment is terrific. He’s so hands-on. He made some changes and enhancements.
“The construction should be all done by mid-year and then we let it grow in. The soft opening should be all set for – weather dependent – late-2019.”
He speaks with positivity and expertise about golf in Calgary. “Whether it’s trends, the economy and cyclical changes like most businesses, golf has stood the test of time and 2018 will be exciting and strong.”