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Not just an elite game any more

View of the 18th hole on The Quail course at The Okanagan Golf Club in Kelowna.
July 29, 2019 - 12:00 AM

You won’t see many golf clubs being thrown through the air in frustration at The Okanagan Golf Club’s Bear and Quail courses like you may once have.

General Manager Dan Matheson chuckles recalling a time when flared tempers saw golfers lose their cool due to a lousy drive, putt or final score of their game.  It was a serious game after all. Things have changed, however.

“The new influx of golfers is fun-related players. Our most popular leagues are the fun ones. Golf is not an elite sport any longer,” says Matheson, who’s been with The GolfBC owned Okanagan Golf Club since 1998 and with GolfBC since 1989.

There are still the serious, focused players, and those who strive to improve each game, but Matheson says the game is appealing to all levels and ages now more than ever, as it has become more affordable and offers a welcoming environment to varied levels and ages of players.

Like most courses in the Okanagan, Bear and Quail are open to the public. Players don’t need a membership to hit some balls at the practice facility, play a round or enjoy the restaurant and patio; though there are 550 members between the two courses, set amongst ponderosa pine forests and emerald greens.

A change in attitude around golf certainly has helped grow the game in recent years making it attainable, but golf courses are working at changing the game itself. The length of time needed to play a round has been shortened at many courses making it more appealing.

“Golf is trying to be a quicker game these days. Time is an issue so courses are shortening the length of golf courses by adding additional tee boxes in an effort to make golf less time consuming. Players were demanding the change,” says Matheson.

Matheson says players at the Bear, an 18-hole, par 72 designed by Jack Nicklaus Golden Bear Design in 1999, and the Quail, designed by Les Furber, built in 1993, are split 50/50 between locals and those from the Lower Mainland, the US and other areas of BC. The number of golfers from Alberta has dropped somewhat due to the Alberta economy and the relationship between Alberta and BC, suspects Matheson.

Woman’s golf is a game that has seen growth all throughout the Okanagan and province with 80 to 90 players on women’s night at the Bear and Quail courses. Junior programs are thriving as well, which has to do with more younger professional players to look up to on the PGA Tour and more affordable rates at local golf courses, says Matheson.

“We have more junior programs then we have ever had. UBCO and many Kelowna High schools have golf teams and programs, and there are plenty of youth summer camps as well,” according to Matheson, who began his golf career as a junior player in Prince George in the 1980s.

While attending UBC Vancouver, Matheson was part of the university golf team. In 1989 he landed in the Okanagan and became a golf pro at Gallagher’s Canyon Golf and Country Club. He then moved to the Okanagan Golf Club in 1998, just after it was purchased by GolfBC.

Though he doesn’t get out on the course like he once did, he enjoys his administrative position at the Okanagan Golf Club.

“Being a golf professional had its glamour at the time, but now my work is much more business oriented.” The club currently has four professionals who all instruct. That number could grow if the club continues to flourish like it has, says Matheson.

Many couples choose The Okanagan Golf Club as their destination, and local wedding location.
Many couples choose The Okanagan Golf Club as their destination, and local wedding location.

Not only are people hitting the links, but there are also weddings, business conferences, holiday events, banquets, as well as numerous charity events.

The impeccable grounds of the Bear and Quail are kept in pristine condition. The current trend, according to Matheson, is to provide a much healthier environment for players and staff. A more natural approach utilizing fewer pesticides are being used so as to cause less damage on the environment.

The Okanagan Club is full of weekly specials and regular fun events like wine and dine nights, Saturday morning junior clinics, ladies and men’s nights and happy hour on and off the course.

“Our goal is to encourage people to try us again, or for the first time, so that we can show new players to the game that golf is a fun accessible sport” encourages Matheson.

For more information visit The Okanagan Golf Club web site here.


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News from © iNFOnews, 2019

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