Winter weather dampens B.C. golf industry prospects

An unusually cold and wet winter meant more down days than usual for Metro Vancouver

Heavy rain and snow hit Vancouver especially hard this past winter, which meant that golf courses around the city were closed more often than not from January to March.

David O’Connor, assistant director of golf services for Burnaby Mountain and Riverway golf courses – first and second on Business in Vancouver’s list of top 10 public golf courses in Metro Vancouver (page 18) top 10 public golf course list – said this past winter was particularly devastating for them.

“I would say to date it’s probably five times the total lost days we’ve experienced,” said O’Connor. “Burnaby Mountain had snow for an extra five weeks over the others just because of its geographical location and elevation is 500 feet higher.”

Vancouver had 28 days of rain in March, and in February alone there was 36.6 centimetres of snow. There was plenty of rain throughout 2016 as well, with an annual 1,273 millimetres of rain measured in Vancouver, according to annual weather statistics. Public golf courses across Business in Vancouver’s annual top 10 public golf courses list experienced a 10% to 15% drop in rounds played from 2015 to 2016.

In response to the bad weather, O’Connor said Burnaby Mountain’s and Riverway’s focus was on upgrading and maintaining their facilities to get through the winter.

“Grid drainage we’ve installed over the last five years has been a major advantage because that way our equipment can be on the surfaces, maintaining it at a high level all winter. Our golf course recuperates hours after excessive rainfall versus days [for] another golf course that doesn’t have a system like that.”

During the past three winter seasons, bad weather was felt by golf courses throughout B.C. A March 2017 National Golf Course Owners Association (NGCOA) report looked at B.C.’s 18-hole golf courses over the last three winter seasons and found an average 44% decrease in rounds played.

“Usually B.C. is showcased as a fantastic winter location, [with people] being able to ski and golf on the same day,” said NGCOA regional director Erica Beck. “But unfortunately, being covered in snow for most of the beginning part of this year, followed by some awful rain, has not allowed that to happen.”

With spring and summer approaching, the golf industry is looking to pick up the bulk of its business in the warmer days to come.

“The majority of our players play in April through October, so the lack of play in January, February and March doesn’t affect us as much,” Beck said. “Usually we’re open year-round, but we haven’t been this winter season due to the weather that we’ve had.” 

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