New Alberta Government Rules Hurting Golf’s Bottom Line


EDMONTON, Alberta — My oh my, how quickly things can change.

From tee sheets crammed solid day after day with foursomes hitting golf courses across Alberta to suddenly having tee sheets filled with singles and twosomes, golf course operators have seen a dramatic swing in the pace of play, and payment.

While there was little escape from the world of COVID-19 news over the past 14 months in Alberta, there was some room to avoid those ill tidings by gathering with a trio of friends on the golf course …. at least up until early May. Then, the Alberta government lowered the boom — financially, and friend-wise, on the golf industry with their latest set of safety protocols.

While no one can argue that elected officials are doing their best to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on the province, golf seemed to be the one recreational event that was safe. But, that didn’t matter as the government ruled foursomes were now out-of-bounds in high case areas, which encompass a large majority of the province. At the same time though, they didn't go as far as the Ontario government by shutting the industry down completely. Even though Alberta courses are keeping their doors open, most are seeing significant reductions in daily income due to the numbers allowed to play together.

While Inside Golf had started research on how the game was again booming, even more than it had in 2020, the new guidelines threw a dramatic slice into that idea. So, this is now a two-part document, beginning with what things were like before the latest announcement, and then how that declaration has affected courses.


When contacted May 5, just prior to the announcement changing playing protocols, three golf courses scattered about the province said that things were absolutely crazy this year, with more requests for tee times, and memberships, than in 2020.

In Cochrane, at The Links of Gleneagles, shop attendant Lorne Butt agreed that business was booming. “It’s exponentially gone up. If it’s sunny, we’re booked solid. We didn’t expect it to be this busy this year. We had to cut off all memberships. If we had kept selling memberships we would have had to call ourselves a private golf course!”

Further north at the Innisfail GC, Jim Boomer also said things were busier this year than last. “We think last year, and we count our numbers pretty accurately, when it’s rolling here it’s got to be one of the busiest places with 27 holes, we went from 32,000 rounds in 2019 to over 40,000 last year (2020) and it would appear we’re on that track again. We’re probably going to have 100 more members this year than a year ago.”

Boomer felt they’d likely surpass 40,000 rounds this year especially if, “We’re in a world where you can’t do anything else.”

In Edmonton, Taylor Scinski, the director of golf at The Quarry, which is also a 27 hole property, was in agreement with his southern counterparts about an increase in play in 2021.

“All of our April rounds this year were bonuses,” he began noting courses didn't get approval to open until May of 2020, and that trend continued through the start of May this year. “We have a lot more available golf with three starting holes and our round counts this year have been significantly higher than in years past.”Scinski noted rounds were up also due to the fact his course was sold out of all types of memberships in January.

And just when things were booming, they hit the skids.


When the government, for whatever reason, decided foursomes weren’t safe anywhere but in low-risk zones but courses in high-risk areas could still allow the game to continue for singles, couples from the same household, or 'live-alones' with close contacts, they set the industry back on its heels. In essence, courses could be as busy as they had been this year, but green fee dollars were far less.

Speaking again to Jim Boomer in Innisfail, he said his course was feeling the pinch.

“We certainly have. We are definitely doing far less (financially). We’re still teeing off just as many groups, it’s just that they’re 'onesomes', twosomes, and some threesomes. It’s just we’re finding we’re obviously way off in terms of (income). And people, if they can’t play in their social groups, they aren’t going to come and pay green fees.” Adding to the cash crunch is the fact, Boomer said, that members are making up a large part of the players they’ve been seeing on an everyday basis.

One upside Boomer noted is that they’ve seen a decrease in the time it takes to play 18 holes, “So you’re probably getting the chance to get more people out there in a day because of the speed of the rounds. We just hope that staying open and continuing to promote that when it kicks back in we’ll have lost as little momentum as possible.”

But at the same time, not every golf course in the province was in a financial pickle.

One course that is beaming due to the lower numbers allowed to play together across the majority of Alberta is the Vulcan Golf and Country Club. There, the director of golf, Gord Brayton said his club is seeing a windfall, both in new players and green fees. You see, Vulcan sits in a low case area, so foursomes are allowed. As such, tee times are at a premium.

Brayton noted there have been a huge number of people they’ve never seen at his club before, and the feeling he has is they are travelling to Vulcan from high case zones to play as a foursome.

“It’s like we won the lottery! Seriously. We’re packed all day, 12 hours a day.”

Asked if they have any safety concerns about these wandering souls descending on his club, Brayton said, “Well, we do, but we’re using all the protocols, following all the COVID rules,” as originally set out by the government in 2020, including sanitizing high-touch areas several times per shift at the course. “We are making them single-ride though, if they don’t live in a single household.”

That aside, Brayton said, “They’re loving it!” about foursomes being welcomed with open arms. “We’re the only course in southern Alberta that’s allowing foursomes. There are 112 regions in the province, 35 that are low case but most of those low case areas are in the middle of nowhere,” meaning his track, close to major centres, and high case areas like Calgary, Okotoks, Nanton, Lethbridge and so on, is one busy, busy place right now because four friends can tee off together.


As COVID numbers begin to gradually decline in Alberta, thanks to immunization, it is expected that some recently implemented restrictions may soon be rescinded. Of those, golf courses are hoping they see a wealth of groups of four friends once again teeing off on their course to help make up for lost time, and revenue. It is expected an announcement to this effect could happen on or around Friday, May 21 or shortly after the long weekend.