According to the International Golf Federation, the history of golf goes way back to 100 BC, where Roman citizens played “paganica” using a bent stick to hit a stuffed leather ball. Incarnations of the game are also seen in the historical record of Scotland – where it caused a bit of a problem.
In the mid-1400s, Scottish golfers were so enraptured with the game that golf (along with the game of soccer) were both banned by King James II. The pastime was stealing away from archery practice, which was the region’s national military defense.
Consuming, controversial and extremely popular, why does golf have such a hold on us? Canada boasts over 5 million active golfers, raises millions for charity ($533 million in 2013 across Canada), creates over 300,000 jobs and adds more than $10 billion to Canada’s GDP. Most telling of how much the game is beloved worldwide, however, is this interesting statistic from the National Allied Golf Associations’ (2014) Economic Impact of Golf in Canada: “Canadian travelers make more than 1 million trips involving golf, spending $2.5 billion annually on golf-related travel within Canada (including on-course spending at courses visited). Foreign visiting golfers spent $1.6 billion on golf related travel and on-course spending.”
Edmonton is no exception when it comes to attracting golfers. In fact, while West Edmonton Mall, Rogers Place, ICE District, and our famous festival season are thought to be the region’s attributes, our local golf courses, as it turns out, are a huge tourist draw.
“With mid-summer daylight lasting 17 hours, and over 80 golf courses in the Edmonton region, our urban centre is a great destination for golfing enthusiasts,” confirms Renee Williams, director, communication & distribution, Edmonton Tourism. “We market the destination, Edmonton, and the experiences within that a potential visitor may want to participate in. Golf is part of our outdoor adventure pillar, so we definitely do promote the golfing experience in Edmonton to potential visitors.”
According to the popular consumer review aggregate site, TripAdvisor®, Victoria Golf Course, Rundle Park Golf Course, and Legends Golf and Country Club are the 6th, 7th and 8th rated outdoor activities for tourists in Edmonton, and golfers and non-golfers alike are very familiar with the amenities on and off the greens of popular favourites like Lewis Estate Golf Course and The Ranch Golf & Country Club.
Edmonton golfers are not out of the loop when it comes to golf tourism. When they are ready to test their skills on different courses, Travel Gurus, Edmonton’s own award winning independent local travel agency, can’t wait to customize their travel golf experience.
“For individuals, we offer carefree planning of their golf vacations,” says Travel Guru Hidar Elmais. “From tee times to caddies, we make sure everything is taken care of so you can just focus on the game. One of our most popular individual golf packages are the Masters. This year, it’s April 2-6 in Augusta, Georgia. Our Masters travel options include hotel packages, ticket badges to your choice of rounds, VIP hospitality club access and private housing rentals.”
Travel Gurus has packages for corporate golfers, too.
“Most of our corporate incentive trips include activities while in destination, and the majority opt for golf. Our last corporate incentive group we had saw two agents from our office accompany the group right to the destination to help with logistics in getting a company tournament organized. We also provided video drone footage to be used for their recruitment marketing.”
Why is golf taken so very seriously? It’s because golf is more than a sport. It’s a challenge that can be played long-term to maximize health and wellnesses on every level: business, personal growth, physical development, mental health, social development and giving back to charity. It’s a one-stop shop in the world of sports for ticking all of the “life improvement” boxes.
The phycology of golf as a life improvement mechanism extends into the corporate world. It’s one thing to get to know your colleagues and clients in a corporate setting; the boardroom comes with expectations of looking and being your best business self. On the golf course, however, you can’t hide. Corporate tournaments mean teamwork. It’s a great way to see which personalities gel and how the team performs under pressure. There’s also the added benefit of being able to “play” together, which strengthens the bonds and promotes a more productive, happy workplace. Most corporate golf tournaments also incorporate a charitable element, and everyone feels good about giving back. Again, golf is so much more than a game. It’s a complete and complex experience, and for many, it’s a lifestyle.
Thankfully, it’s a lifestyle that Edmonton is well positioned to offer to locals, tourists and corporate event planners – those looking to enjoy the local course and those looking to test their game abroad.
“Like the game itself, our clients want no stress; they allow us to help plan [their golf experiences], making sure it goes as smoothly as possible. Travel industry professionals are your one stop shop to get everything planned, from flights, transfers and accommodations to tee time,” confirms Elmais. “We have teamed up with some of the best golf courses in Edmonton to provide this experience to our inbound clients who are coming to visit Edmonton. Edmonton is a major up-and-coming market for summer and golf tourists from all over the world.”
Remember good old King James that banned the game because it was interfering with the country’s military defense? By 1500, the ban on golf in Scotland was lifted and King James IV took up the sport as a hobby. In 1567, Mary, Queen of Scots, was on the golf course just days after the murder of her husband. In 1900, golf was played at the Paris Olympics. In 2016, the game of golf made history again for its return to the Olympic stage after a 112-year absence.
In every respect, golf, one of the oldest games in the world, will continue to grow, evolve, and impact our lives. Edmonton stays progressive in attracting golfers of all skill sets and ages to the game, hosting outstanding golf tournaments and attracting tourists to the greens. If you have yet to experience the game as an individual, or if your company has not yet hosted a tournament, head down to any of Edmonton’s golf courses and be pleasantly surprised by the many programs available, and if you are an avid golfer, contact a local travel agent today to get set up on your next golf adventure.