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Golf PEI's golf industry is taking on Canada's best and winning

By GolfPublisher Staff,
Staff Report

In 2003, for the second consecutive year, Score Magazine (affectionately viewed by many as the information source on Canada's golf sector) ranked Prince Edward Island the No. 1 Golf Destination in Canada. No small accomplishment for Canada's smallest province, which, until relatively recently, wasn't even on the golf industry radar screen.

That accomplishment was no accident. It started with a vision, followed by commitment and good management. And the other requisite ingredient, some good luck.

Back in 1989, a group of six golf course operators had the foresight to realize that to grow their own businesses, they needed to grow the golf industry on PEI. They also recognized that they needed to work together to maximize the effect of their efforts. To do that, they formed Golf PEI, an industry association devoted to the promotion and development of golf on PEI.

In 2004, Golf PEI has grown to 25 members representing golf courses right across the province. Working both collectively and on their own, Golf PEI and its individual operators have made PEI a golf mecca for visitors across the country and across the continent.

When Score Magazine named PEI Canada's No. 1 Golf Destination, it was recognition from the highest level of experts in the golfing world — golfers themselves. Score's Golfers Choice Awards are an online awards program developed by Score Magazine. with award winners determined by the results of on-line voting by golfers. To prove the first year win was no fluke, PEI followed it up with a second consecutive win the following year.

There were also numerous individual medal winners from among the Golf PEI member courses. Perennial award winner, The Links at Crowbush Cove, was voted Gold for Best Scenery; Silver for Best Course; Silver for Best Public Course; Silver for Best Condition; Bronze for Best Value. Not to be outdone, Mill River Resort at the other end of the Island received Silver in the Best Value category.

In the Best Service at a Public Course, category, Mill River Resort was awarded a Silver, followed closely by Fox Meadows with a Bronze. Brudenell scored a Silver for Best Clubhouse, with Fox Meadows receiving a Bronze. And Brudenell surely shows how well it understands golfer's needs with Silver in the Best Half-Way House Meal category!

Finally, but potentially the most valuable information for all golfers who are serious about improving their game, Anne Chouinard of the Canadian Golf Academy at Brudenell was voted Gold for Best Golf Instructor, and the Academy received Gold as the Best Practice Facility.

If you love golf, it's easy to see why PEI is popular.

Start with variety. Golf PEI offers 25 different golfing challenges. From 9 hole courses designed with the developing golfer in mind to 18 hole championship courses that give even the finest golfers a stiff test, Golf PEI has something for everyone who wants to play the game. Price is another aspect of the variety that's available. Starting prices for nine or 18 holes are very affordable and even the highest priced courses are still very modest by national standards.

Proximity is another reason visiting golfers love PEI golf. Many course developments have taken place in clusters which put several courses with a 15 minute drive of one another. And given PEI's small size, even the most distant courses are a very easy drive from any of the main overnight destinations.To achieve the success it's enjoyed in recent years, the golf industry has made a commitment to develop the game, the product (as the operators like to call their courses) and the public's awareness.

With support from Golf PEI and its members, the Provincial government made golf a core part of its tourism marketing strategy a decade ago. With that promotional commitment in place, new courses soon blossomed across the province. Glasgow Hills, Anderson's Creek, Eagles Glenn, Fox Meadows and others gave golfers the variety of courses they were looking for, and business was soon booming.

In the late 1980's and throughout the 1990's, golf exploded across North America. The growth in golf was readily apparent in PEI. A 1994 study estimated the number of rounds played on PEI annually would grow to 325,000 by 2002, but that total was already exceeded by more than 35 percent as early as 1998, with total rounds played numbering 444,000. A 1999 report estimated the demand potential for PEI to grow to some 580,000 rounds by 2003.

In addition to new courses and services offered, promotion has played a significant role. For example, Golf PEI members make presentations at Golf Shows in Canada and the United States every winter to promote. In 2004, they participated in seven golf shows, with estimated attendance in excess of 100,000 golfers and travel organizers.

The financial impact of the industry on PEI has grown in a similar fashion. Golf generates an estimated $85 million for the PEI economy, with almost 80 percent of that total — $68 million — being non-golfing consumption. Restaurants, retailers, accommodations, entertainment venues, etc. all benefit directly from the influx of people who came to PEI to play golf.

Today's Golf PEI is a very different organization than the six member association of 1989. Golf PEI now has its own on-line and direct call reservation centre to book play on any member course.

Packages including accommodation, transport and other services are available, both as standard or custom.

There's no doubt, things have come a long way. From a blip on the radar screen to leader of the pack, Golf PEI has shown what a group of committed Islanders can do when they put their minds to it.

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