Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Green assets must be treated seriously

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Normally, our company, GolfNorth Properties, is only written about in the sports pages. We run golf courses. That's our focus and we do it very well. Lately, we've been mentioned in some news coverage as the City of Winnipeg considers our proposal to become the manager of four municipally owned golf courses.

Under the circumstances, we're not surprised there's a high level of interest in GolfNorth. Golfers tend to love their courses for both recreation and relaxation. We look at the golf courses we operate as fabulous green spaces made for a very popular sport. We also know many of our courses are integral parts of our communities' recreational infrastructures for young and old.

We treat the management of these urban "green" assets very seriously and have a track record of greatly improving the courses we manage. That means enhancing both the physical courses as well as the services we offer. Our philosophy is to provide the public with the greatest value in daily golf green fee play, golf memberships, tournaments, banquets and corporate functions, while also providing beneficial returns for all our various stakeholders including golfers, employees, shareholders and municipalities. We have a strong track record of doing so.

Since GolfNorth was formed in 1994, we have grown to own or operate 22 golf courses in southern Ontario. We're a pioneer in consolidating and managing semi-private and public golf courses. All of them remain completely open to the public for casual bookings today. Most of the courses we operate are clustered near our home base around Kitchener-Waterloo.

We have a history of purchasing quality, yet often under-performing golf facilities and returning them to profitability through a combination of new capital investment, efficient management, good marketing and friendly service. This gives golfers a combination of affordable green fees, easy booking, great facilities and well-cared for courses from tee to green. That is what we're proposing for Winnipeg as well.

Today, our courses annually cater to more than 500,000 rounds of golf, more than 4,000 members, more than 100 leagues and more than 1,500 tournaments. We have more than 700 employees and are proud to say we're also an industry leader in employee retention. When we assume the management of a course, we tend to keep the same employees on staff wherever we can.

We also have a history of investing in junior golf programs, giving our youth the opportunity to experience the game of golf at some of the lowest possible costs.

We specialize in golf course management. Our management team has decades of experience running golf courses. Over the years, we've learned a lot about how to run them well so we can keep the quality of the golf experience up, while keeping our fees affordable.

For example, because we operate multiple courses, we are able to take advantage of economies of scale. We have proven our ability to cut overhead costs and take advantage of our group buying power. That allows us to consolidate our advertising and other purchasing, which then gives us the ability to offer better golf experiences at a lower cost.

We've developed customized systems that give our customers the ability to book tee times and banquet facilities online. We also operate a centralized call centre that gives our customers easy access to all of the facilities we operate. If you buy a membership to one of our courses, it gives you equal privileges at all of our courses. And if you find your preferred course is booked up, you are just a mouse click away to find an alternate tee time or a different banquet room.

Some of our courses have even become known for their professional quality. In 2012, our Grey Silo Golf Club in Waterloo, Ont., played host to the inaugural Manulife Financial LPGA Classic. Before we began managing Grey Silo in 2008, it had been an under-performing municipal golf course that needed some care and attention. Yes, we invested in the course to improve it physically, but the real improvements were driven by being part of the GolfNorth network of courses.

We would be honoured to be selected as the new manager of Winnipeg's Kildonan Park, Windsor Park, Harbor View and Crescent Drive golf courses. If we are selected, we'll bring the same enthusiasm and energy to those four properties that we have to our other courses.

 

Shawn Evans is president and CEO of GolfNorth Properties.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 28, 2013 A9

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