Owner's Perspective - This is Spring?

As we all know, weather is usually an enjoyable conversation starter – be it in the coffee shop, the gym, around the dinner table, or in weekly management meetings.

At Kelowna Springs Golf Club, I have never seen our management crew more frustrated – and it is entirely due to the unique challenges the spring of 2017 has presented.

I have worked in golf for 30 years – including 25 seasons as a general manager (22 of which have been at Kelowna Springs). I have never seen golf ‘business numbers’ be so completely thrown off because of weather. News media frequently shares stories of ‘1 in 50-year floods’ or ‘1 in 100-year droughts.’ Well, based on my detailed record keeping the last 25 years as a golf course general manager, I can officially confirm we are experiencing a ‘1 in 25-year horrific start to the golf season.’

There are a few facts that are somewhat comforting:

• We are not alone – all courses in BC are suffering – our Superintendent, Gil LeBlanc, recently called several of his peers in the Kelowna area, and the consistent message he heard was ‘we are mowing mud.’

• The golf business is like farming – we cannot control the weather. In my now 23 golf season starts at Kelowna Springs, I find it difficult to contemplate that our worst start ever (2017), and our two best starts ever (2015 and 2016) have been in 3 successive years – what are the odds of that! Prior to these 3 years, our ‘window’ of opening from 1995 to 2014 was a substantially narrower number of days. I cannot comment with any degree of knowledge on global warming, but I can certainly agree that weather volatility seems to be on the rise

• Not being able to golf in conditions that we are accustomed to at Kelowna Springs is a great first world problem… we have been VERY fortunate for many years to be in consistently above average conditions – thanks to some great Superintendents, and perhaps a little bit of luck

• Our staff is doing the very best they can with the things they can control – the conditions of our greens are a fitting example… they are built with the best drainage on the course and our crew is ensuring they are the best they can be right now


How bad has it been? The easiest metric to look at is ‘rounds played.’ If you teed off to golf, either 9 or 18 holes, we have called it a ‘round played’ forever. Check out these stats – all showing rounds played from opening to April 19th of each year.

So, our rounds played in 2017 are down 55% year to date as compared to 10 year averages. I can likely assume that the number of rounds played individually so far by Members, or regular public golfers are also down 55%. Does that sound about right?
Luckily, the starts of each of 2015 and 2016 averaged 40% MORE rounds than our 10-year average. So, as each of us experiences frustration (you as a Member, Kelowna Springs as a golf course), lets remember we are all in this love of golf and Kelowna Springs together.

As operators, we have endeavoured to provide great playing conditions for the 22 seasons I have been here. We have also continually invested in improving the course, and we have never been shy to make changes when needed. With things that we feel we can control, or at least influence, we consistently try to put our best foot forward.

Thanks for hanging in with us, thanks for putting up with no power carts on too many days, thanks for putting up with wet socks & shoes and tired leg muscles, and thanks for being a devoted regular at Kelowna Springs. We appreciate your patience and understanding more right now than ever.

The spring of 2017 will pass, and the fairways and rough will dry up. ‘When’ is the only question – I’m sure it will be top of the agenda at the dinner table once again.

Ian Robertson
General Manager & Owner