Putting Old, Tired Stereotypes to Rest
It is a discussion and debate that gets played out in many cities, communities and neighbourhoods. Public policymakers, stakeholders and elected officials in our communities make decisions that affect the sport on multiple levels, but like any good policy, it needs good information in which to make that policy.
The Covid19 quarantine has already had a profound influence on daily life — even if much of it is temporary. As human activity slowed down as a result of the mass quarantines, we have witnessed nature rebound in many different ways. Satellite images showing before and after shots of places like Beijing where clear blue skies and fresh air have replaced what once was pollution so thick that it obscured the view of the land below. Streets normally bustling with human activity have grown quiet, inviting various animals such as deer, goats and others to start venturing into town, filling the newly vacant spaces.
"Golf courses are often overlooked or understated regarding the important recreational benefits it provides for people . . . it is a sport that attracts many older adults that are on fixed incomes."
As non-essential businesses and recreational facilities shut down, so too, did many golf courses. In Vancouver, Canada, the host of the 2010 Winter Olympics, municipal owned golf courses went quiet and in doing so, allowed non-golfers to take advantage. The Fraserview golf course, a municipal golf course operated by Vancouver's "Parks Board" is a full length championship style golf course, and its green fairways and large open spaces have proved inviting for many of the residents of Vancouver and neighbouring suburbs. The golf course quickly became a place for nearby residents to walk, admiring the gardens, the springtime greenery and the fresh air.
Provincial Health Authorities stated that golf courses were not considered high risk areas for virus transmission, mainly because the game is played outdoors and, with such ample space, can manage the “social distancing” aspect, a necessity to stem the spread of the virus. Although the golf courses were not required to shutter their operations during this "lockdown" period, many did regardless, owing to a sense of being good community neighbours. Now, they are starting to reopen as both the weather improves and the immediate crises starts to ebb.
Area residents though are not pleased. A petition has been started asking the City of Vancouver (and indirectly, the managing Parks Board), to keep the area closed and free of golfers until the Provincial health emergency is lifted. And, so starts another discussion about the relevance of golf as a sport and recreational activity. Those in favour of keeping the course shut, have trotted out their own set of misleading facts. The Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) reported on April 30th, that the petition stated that “the Vancouver Park Board wants to kick out the local community in favour of 12 paying customers per hour” as part of its rationale in support of the petition. Anyone that follows or has played golf even a little, will know that full bookings for the hour can be up to 60 players with 10 minute intervals.
Golf courses are often overlooked or understated regarding the important recreational benefits it provides for people – people that in most cases cannot physically run half-marathons, participate in triathlons or hike mountain trails. Furthermore, golf is not for the rich, famous and powerful; it is a sport that attracts many older adults that are on fixed incomes. Youth golf programs run on weekends throughout the spring and summer, introducing our young people to a game that they can play for a lifetime.
The old, tired stereotype of an uber-rich, older white male being the dominant participant, conveniently overlooks the scores of individuals that show up to play at their local municipal courses. It is the municipal course where the green fees are much more affordable, the companionship of fellow participants brings needed social activity, and the physical activity helps improve quality of life. There are recent surveys that have looked at the health benefits attributed to golf, noting the strong correlation of above average life span with those that play golf.
These are topics that deserve to be further examined but, is beyond the scope of an editorial. Suffice it to say that golf is truly one of the few recreational activities that a person can play from their youth through to their golden years. It is long overdue that we put the old stereotypes and tropes to rest and recognize golf as a sport or activity that we can all enjoy for life. In future, lets hope that there is more informed discussion because an Informed discussion benefits us all.
A gallery of Fraserview Golf Course taken on May 5, 2020.