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Is This Canadian Golf Destination in Jeopardy?

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It’s no secret that there’s a bit of an imbalance in the world of golf at the moment—too many golf courses and not enough golfers to fill them.

It’s not just an American problem, either. Pressure on golf course operators north of the border has mounted as well, and in the case of one particular province that has a reputation for natural beauty and a collection of scenic, pleasant golf courses, that could spell doom.

I’ll explain…

Green Gables - Golf PEI, Green Gables Golf Club

Are this beautiful Canadian golf course’s days numbered? (Golf PEI, Green Gables Golf Club)

This issue revolves around the province of Prince Edward Island, which is known as one of the best-kept secrets in North American golf.

A recent study by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS) was released last week that took a look at the effect of government involvement in the Prince Edward Island golf industry over the last three-quarters of a century.

I’ll spare you the boring details, but the upshot is this: the AIMS study concluded that the provincial government should not have been so hands-on in developing the P.E.I.’s golf courses, calling the enterprise “a policy failure.”

Indeed, the province has taken an average of a $1.4 million loss on the courses it manages each of the last three years. The seven courses under provincial control have all been for sale for more than seven years, to no avail as yet. Will P.E.I. get tired of holding onto some of the courses and decide to close them, cutting their losses?

An opinion piece in Canada’s The Guardian newspaper says P.E.I. “would sell its courses if it got fair value for the properties, plus guarantees to protect Island tourism and golf industry.”

But we’ve heard that tune before. There are numerous examples of golf courses being bought out of trouble with the “promise” of being kept alive, only to be run into the ground in order to make way for housing or eyesore commercial development.

What do you think? Should Prince Edward Island sell off its golf courses and take their chances with the word of private owners and developers? Is this a real threat to the future of one of Canada’s great golf destinations? As always, let us know in the comments.

9 Comments

  1. Rich Carle

    February 24, 2015 at 11:13 am

    Your first sentence said it all. Too many golf courses, not enough golfers. The law of supply and demand. PEI maybe needs 2 courses, max. We would love to go there from Massachusetts but the airfare is ridiculous, the ferry is worse, and it is a hell of a long auto ride. Too bad they couldn’t move some to our area. Our muni’s are in terrible shape, except for a couple, the private clubs are bastions of WASPS and brahmins, and the newer public courses all think they are Pinehurst #2 with greens fees to match.

  2. Jim McCann

    February 24, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    I agree with Rich. I also live in Massachusetts and have looked at doing a golf trip to PEI but there’s no easy or inexpensive way to get there. It’s more than a 10 hour drive. Also, after these last few miserable winters it counterintuitive to head NORTH to play golf. Instead of driving for 10 hours I can hop a plane to Tampa and be there in 3 hours for R/T airfare around $200. The airfare I’ve seen to PEI out of Boston is close to 3X that with at least one stop. I’ve heard great things about the courses and PEI but is ot really worth the expense and difficulty getting there when there are numerous other options?

  3. Bill in Ontario

    February 24, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    As a visitor to PEI’s wonderful golf courses most summers, I think the Island government should consider the $1.4 million annual operating “loss” as part of their tourist promotion budget. Instead of selling or closing them they should be advertising them on TV in eastern Canada and USA, just as Newfoundland promotes its rugged beauty to draw visitors to the province.

  4. David in Ontario

    February 24, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    As a former resident of P.E.I. I can honestly say that, while the quality of Island golf courses is second to none, there are simply too many of them for both residents and tourists alike. As much as the “Islanders” would like to keep control over them the choice is simple; either sell them to the private sector for what they can get or continue to operate them and be prepared to shell out more tax dollars to subsidize them. Of course there is a third option; close the non-profitable ones down completely. Hopefully it doesn’t have to come to that.

  5. John in rizona

    February 24, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    A few years ago I was working in New Brunswick. On one of the trips there, my wife and I went to PEI for a week’s vacation. I golfed at the Links of Crowbush Cove, probably the best course on PEI. One of the locals told of a tournament there that John Daly had played in. That made think that Canada should have more tournaments there, possibly the Canadian Open. That could stimulate more interest in golf on PEI. PEI is a beautiful place. It is a throw back to the 1950s.

  6. Mookie

    February 24, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    they should offer all inclusive packages like other Caribbean resorts are offering, especially from Northeast area to attract more golfers.

  7. Linda

    February 24, 2015 at 10:04 pm

    Hey American friends did you know your $1.00 buys at least $1.20 of our Canadian ones. So for $100 you get $120. Thats a pretty good deal. PEI is absolutely gorgeous and stunning with great golf. Come for the golf and stay for the super friendly people and awesome sights and music. You won’t die of heat like in Florida and no scary bugs. I am from the west but it is a place everyone should visit. Beautiful!

  8. Randy

    February 26, 2015 at 12:43 am

    PEI is a wonderful golf destination, and well worth the trip if you’re travelling from the Eastern US. As Linda mentioned, the exchange rate is quite favorable for our American guests, and once in the PEI/Nova Scotia/New Brunswick area, the travel is quick and easy.

    Everything is pretty much within an hours drive once you’re on the island. Great seafood, lots of family activites and cultural events to see and do after your round.

    Fly in and out of Halifax and drive the Cabot trail, playing Stanley Thompson’s Highlands Links (#1 rated course in Canada in the early 1990s) and of course, Cabot Links in Inverness, Canada’s only links course(awesome). The sister course, Coore and Crenshaw designed Cabot Cliffs, opens summer 2015, with early buzz saying it’s better than Cabot Links.

    Take the ferry over to PEI at Pictou after crossing back over the causeway, and play Crowbush(best of the bunch) I also enjoyed Green Gables, another Thompson design(with a recent restoration by Tom Mcbroom)

    When leaving PEI, cross at the Confederation Bridge, and then back to Halifax.

    You can go to Florida for less money, but it won’t be golf like this.

  9. Marcel

    February 28, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    Some golf clubs could be experimental with larger holes, family attraction (free cart for wife or partner) controlled pet allowed, free lunch on patio,
    9 holes deal, combine with inexpensive accommodation, free lessons, discount at local shopping facilites, free wifi for kids at hotel, ddiscount at proshop

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