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Opinion: In defence of Edmonton’s city-run golf courses



Opinion: In defence of Edmonton’s city-run golf courses

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As an avid user of the municipal golf courses, and the Edmonton river valley system generally, I am writing in response to the article by Kael Kropp and Stephen Raitz on Tuesday.

Their article appears to rely on a view of golf that I don’t think is accurate. While it has traditionally been an elite, exclusive, and “white male” game. In recent years, there has been a shift to increased participation by younger people, by women and by visible minorities — to say nothing of our country’s most successful current golfer, Brooke Henderson.

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I can all but guarantee that these shifts aren’t occurring because people are just joining expensive and exclusive country clubs. If you want the game to grow and diversify, there needs to be opportunities for that to happen.

The authors’ only apparent perceived benefit of having municipally run golf courses in an appealing and centrally located destination is “the advantage of letting people play golf close to downtown.” They shared no appreciation for the important role that municipally run golf courses — that people actually want to use — play to foster access to the game of golf in an affordable way. Shuttering these courses only would only heighten the barriers to the game.

The apparent “small number of users” of these facilities that the authors refer to include the hundreds of people that are lining up to hit a bucket of balls at the Victoria driving range on a nice summer day — many of whom are not avid or experienced golfers — or the many people going to practise their chipping or putting, for free, at the Victoria and Riverside practice greens. These are family-friendly and highly affordable activities — just not the activities the authors appear interested in participating in themselves.

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Environmental concerns ring hollow. Surely, the alternative infrastructure they discuss and envision (other sports facilities and festival/concert venues) are as resource-intensive to upkeep and at least as disruptive to nature. And if drought conditions do arrive this summer, I can’t envision anyone advocating for an exemption from water restrictions for the city-run golf courses. I know I won’t be advocating for that.

They appear to be concerned with a supposed lack of options in the Edmonton river valley. I would suggest they are actually suffering from a lack of imagination about what’s already here. Edmonton’s river valley system is amazing, and we should be proud of it. It’s also massive — host to 160 kilometres of maintained pathways and 20 major parks within the system. To say nothing of the thousands of acres of untouched, undeveloped, and peaceful wilderness.

The opportunity for engagement with the river valley is already vast. Why the authors view this as a zero-sum game is beyond me.

The authors’ position seems to be that they simply would prefer that this land be used for something else, something that they would be more interested in participating in.

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The city will never be able to create a space that will be usable by everyone at all times. Off-leash dog parks aren’t ideal for people who don’t like dogs, festival space is an annoyance for people who love serene walks in the forest, and golf courses aren’t much use for people who don’t golf. But that isn’t a reason to close down dog parks, pull the plug on music festivals, and shutter golf courses.

The simple fact of the matter is that because of courses like Victoria and Riverside, golf is a game that is available to almost everyone to participate in if they want to. You don’t need to partake, but if you are curious and decide you want to give it a try, there is no better place to do it than the local municipal golf course. It’s accessible, affordable, and friendly.

Eliminating or “reallocating” these golf courses simply risks putting up further barriers for those who may be interested trying golf.

Graham Rapson is an avid user of Edmonton’s city golf courses and runs a weekly golf league that plays often at city-run courses.

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