Advocating for Golf in Parks

by Dave Turner (retired Parks and Rec Manager)

A 1200 square foot golf green for the public to utilize in North Vancouver, BC at Sam Walker Park

The recent articles in the national papers, The Globe and The Vancouver Sun advocating for the closure of municipal golf courses to free up the land for other more beneficial uses caught my interest and I started to do a little research. The articles gave the impression that golf is a dying sport and that kids aren’t entering the game. It doesn’t take long to go online and get the information about sport participation numbers published by Statistics Canada. I would have to think those are the most reliable numbers that we have. 

A major report was published by Statistics Canada 2005 showing the sports that Canadians participated in the most. It showed us: 

• golf engaged the largest number of adult Canadians of any sport 

• 1.5 million golfers. Ice Hockey came second with 1.3 million participants 

The 2005 study was followed up by another study published by Heritage Canada siting 2010 numbers of participants. Again golf topped the list: 

• golf has been Canada’s most popular sport since 1998 

• in 1992 golf was fourth most popular sport behind ice hockey, swimming and downhill skiing 

• In 2010 there were approximately 1.5 million golfers 

The most recent publication by Statistics Canada shows 2016 numbers with golf placing second to hockey as the most participated sports in the Country 

It is clear from the statistics that golf is one of the healthiest sports in the Country based on participation. There is cause for concern however for golf and indeed for all sports other than soccer. The number of kids taking up the games are dropping. Soccer is the only one showing an increase in participation. 

This brings me to the advocacy part of this letter. I sat on Sport Council for the North Vancouver Recreation Commission as a staff representative for twenty years. There were advocates representing the major sports that are played in the parks. My observation was that soccer were the most successful advocates. They raised a lot of money when kids registered for soccer and that money was used to help the municipalities put in new soccer facilities in the public parks. Is it any wonder that soccer is the only sport showing growth and bringing kids into the game. 

The glaring omission to me as a golfer was that all of the major sports in the Country were at the table advocating for municipal support for their particular program. There was hockey, swimming, track and field, tennis, pickle ball, baseball, soccer and others but not golf

You have one of the top sports in the Country, golf, and they aren’t at the table advocating for their sport where they could connect with kids the best. In their neighborhood park. 

I have looked into what is possible that could be placed in a neighborhood park that would introduce kids to the game. All of these would be low cost additions relative to other facilities that are placed in parks and they would go a long way to introducing kids to the game of golf. Kids would then have the same chance to learn golf basics of hitting, putting and chipping a ball the same as they do with the other major sports. 

Putting, just as we did in Sam Walker Park. Install a small synthetic turf putting green. Chipping, similar to putting, install a synthetic turf chipping area. Hitting, install a hitting net where a kid can practice hitting a ball into a net. These are all, low cost, resilient surfaces that are easy to maintain, they are safe and they don’t take up much space. They would go a long way in getting a kid exposed to the game and would get them ready to move onto real golf. 

The real key as I see it is the golf community would have to start advocating for these types of facilities in their neighborhood parks. That is where you really reach kids. Imagine if soccer, tennis and baseball weren’t reaching kids in the parks. They would be nowhere. Golf has done very well on its own but there is so much competition now for a kids interest I think golf needs to step up and start advocating for golf at the neighborhood level the same as all the other sports people advocate for their sport. 

If the little putting green that we put in Sam Walker Park is any indication then this kind of addition would be welcome and popular in any park and would go a long way to bringing kids and others, often new Canadians into the game. I am reaching out to the golf community with this letter to introduce the idea of getting basic facilities in local parks that would give a kid the chance to at least learn the basic skills as they can with all the other sports. I hope this letter will generate some interest and get people talking about getting golf in your local park so kids can give it a try. The other sports have been doing this for decades. 

I would be more than happy to discuss this idea further. 


Dave Turner 

  • please leave a comment or email and he will be sure to answer your questions and comments. He is as passionate about bringing the great game of golf to kids, and others who wouldn’t otherwise get the chance, as anyone around.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *