This post is inspired by a region of Canada I have had the pleasure of experiencing and would love to get back to, especially learning there are other courses in the area I should visit and tee it up at. The region between Kamloops and Golden in British Columbia is promoting a Trans-Canada Golf Pass. With five courses available to play through this card, it provides incredible value (especially with a discounted rate until December 14).
The idea of regional golf marketing through a ‘pass’ or ‘trail’ system is not new. In the United States, the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail comes to mind first and foremost. In Canada, there are others which have earned top marks for their value and their effective marketing efforts to create the awareness among public players.
The gold standard of a regional pass program is through Golf PEI. Their Green Card wins top marks for me. With access to 18 separate courses using this card, players can play throughout the Island for just over $22 each. Cards are limited and retail for $399. And while players are responsible for cart purchases at all courses this remains exceptional value. Courses like Crowbush Cove, Dundarave, Mill River, Green Gables and Brudenell River (to name but a few) provide exceptional value and unlimited access through this card program. Golf PEI offers other cards too, a Gold Card providing unlimited access across the province to all 18 cards (and sold out for 2019). There are cards for the easternmost 9 and westernmost 9, along with a Buddy Card which allows 2 for 1 access.
I have used this card before during a 2015 golf trip and staff were fabulous, even helping map out an itinerary over the week. Golf PEI is the gold star for golf marketing in a specific geographic region but the winner of this clever marketing efforts are the golfers who visit the gentle island using any one of these cards.
Vancouver Island Golf Trail
This is Canada’s year round destination for golf. Here over 250 km, you can access 13 of the Island’s top courses. Golf Is Mental has written about many of the courses on the VI Golf Trail and the overall Trail experience. All member courses have clever markers located near the first tee to help players know they’re playing a VI Golf Trail course and for visitors from away it shows the expansiveness of the trail, which is impressive. My experiences are limited to Victoria area courses (an issue I acknowledge I need to remedy). VI Golf Trail, like Golf PEI, offers a pass card. But my goodness, talk about a pent up demand. In 2019 the cards sold out in three hours. They invite people to place themselves on a waitlist for 2020 to get proper notification. I will advise people you need to be a Vancouver Island resident to get one but for travelers to the Island there are services to help tailor a package for you with links to activities off the course like fishing, wine tasting, spas, wildlife viewing and the increasingly popular Victoria Ale Trail.
For people contemplating their own Canadian course bucket list, there are many from Vancouver Island you’ll want to experience. It is truly a unique part of the country and with almost year around access to golf (in Victoria, anyway) it will leave you wanting to come back and experience its courses again and again.
Niagara Golf Trail
The Niagara Falls area boasts 48 courses and 7 of its most popular public courses are profiled in the Niagara Golf Trail. The Trail offers stay and play packages for people who want to visit the area. Of course, Niagara Falls is one of the world’s natural wonders and with a growing wine industry and the picturesque Niagara-on-the-Lake community minutes by, it is a destination location. NGT is strong in terms of its courses offering and is well marketed in southern Ontario. It also provides volume rate discounts at hotels, restaurants, theatres and of course, their courses. The technical infrastructure is less than VI Golf Trail and Golf PEI but for players willing to do a little more leg work to explore a golf itinerary or course access, NGT still provides one-stop-shopping. The Trail does not offer a pass system for golfers. It is set up as a golf and wine destination coordination site and as such is clear and consistent in its approach.
There are certainly other trails and passes in the country. British Columbia leads the marketing efforts here with a Kootenay Golf Trail and a Columbia Valley Golf Trail and complement the Trans Canada Golf Pass I mentioned. There is a Nova Scotia Golf Trail, though surprisingly a marketing link between the Cabot Trail and the bounty of excellent courses in and around there are not marketed as a Cabot Golf Trail. (Golf Cape Breton can help set one up for you with excellent stay and play options).
The idea of trails and passes is an excellent one to market and promote golf in Canada. There are jurisdictions that are doing this well. The winner is the golfer seeking adventure, value and easier access to golf within a geographic region.