Interview with Golf PEI’s Mark McLane – Part 3 – Challenges, Opportunities and Bucket List Options

@36aday is pleased to introduce interviews with leaders in the game of golf in Canada. Nine questions are presented to probe important issues of the game, personal experiences, stories and insight. Just like 9 holes of golf, I hope you find this enjoyable and that it leaves you wanting more.

A Quick 9 With Executive Director of Golf PEI, Mark McLane
7. @36aday – What are some of the unique or special events and services that Golf PEI offers?

MM – I guess from our perspective Prince Edward Island has done some significant events in the past; Legends of Golf – Mike Weir, Freddie Couples, Vijay Singh so we’ve done that. Those are significant investments and that’s not something that Golf PEI and this organization is really mandated to do, they’re more tourism department driven events from that perspective. So, they’re always looking for the right event but it’s all about return and the brand is extremely strong; it remains strong. We do trips in our office; we have a group from South Carolina coming this year. We have groups from Texas; we have groups from the Boston area. We had a major corporate outing from the New England area. The brand is very strong and we’re looking for those unique events but nothing on the agenda at this time.

Another picture of the stunning 16th at Crowbush Cove - Photo Credit - Golf PEI
Another picture of the stunning 16th at Crowbush Cove – Photo Credit – Golf PEI

8. @36aday – What would you identify as both the greatest challenge and opportunity for your organization and the golf industry in PEI in the next 10 years?

MM – I think a little of the challenge for PEI, and it will never change, will be access. Air access to major markets – we have a direct flight from New York City to Charlottetown, that operates in the summer months, we also have direct flights from Toronto, Montreal, Halifax and others. It’s always about access, getting to Prince Edward Island, sometimes it is not as easy as it should be so that is a challenge. Lifestyle is a challenge. Setting aside that four or five hours, but again back to our destination, you have 15 world class courses within 40 minutes of each other. You’re going to spend time driving your ball, not driving your car (laughs). So when you want to go to the golf destination you can play golf, you can be finished at noon and you can have a lot of other things to do.

@36aday – I know for myself, heading down there this fall, my friends were just blown away with the fact that the farthest we have to travel to the course is a little over an hour. Most are just 5-10 minutes away.

MM – That’s right. From an opportunity perspective it is to continue to let people know that we have quality and quantity which is again, back to some other destinations, they may have quality but they don’t have our quantity. In our reservation centres we tend to get two different schedules; they play the eastern courses one year, they play the north shore courses the next. I guess that’s the issue for us, to have that quantity is a real competitive advantage.

@36aday – So it sounds, to summarize, that you’re confident and optimistic about the organization and the industry moving forward.

MM – it’s all relative. You’re seeing some destinations with double digit (percentage) declines. If you go back to last year we were down 3.3% overall but again we had awful weather. Our courses were 1 to 3 weeks later in opening. So if you take May out and compare June to close we were 90 rounds off. 90. Which is a half-hour of rain. So flat is the new up in the golf industry so that’s not a bad thing. We’re staying strong, none of our courses are closing, and all of them are very positive, very happy. Last year was a big year for tourism in PEI with the 2014 celebrations which resulted in 1.3 million visitors so we’ll just keep the momentum going from that perspective.

The 7th hole at Crowbush - Photo Credit - Golf PEI
The 7th hole at Crowbush – Photo Credit – Golf PEI

9. @36aday – Lastly, how’s your golf game and what are your favourite courses to play on the Island?

MM – (laughs). Wow, I have a young family so I don’t play as much as I should (laughs). To pick? I’ve done some travelling with my position and have seen a couple other golf destinations and I’ve been at some significant ones and I’ve played golf with some guys and I’ve said, ‘this is a nice course we’re playing today, but we have about 8 or 9 at this level on Prince Edward Island and they’re all about within a half hour of each other’ so Crowbush is definitely high on the list. I played there a lot; my Dad was a member there. Crowbush is very unique, you could play it two different days and depending on the wind on a par 3 you could hit 7 iron to 5 wood. Dundarave is really unique with its bunkering style; there are about 130 bunkers and it’s the red soil of PEI. It’s a unique golf experience. It’s a big course, big greens. The local favourite course is probably Brudenell. It has 6 par 3’s, 6 par 4’s and 6 par 5’s and really beautiful, pretty, and it’s a nice contrast to Dundarave considering they’re on the same property. Then you go the Cavendish and you have four – I mean there’s Green Gables, a Stanley Thompson design, everyone loves it, you have Glasgow Hills which for PEI is considered a mountain-type course with lots of elevation changes and then you have Eagles Glenn and Anderson’s Creek which are friendly and enjoyable to play, walkable. We’re really spoiled. Sometimes our operators and even the local residents are under-appreciative of the product we have. I have done some travelling in my others jobs and played some golf and it’s like, ‘it’s nice but…you know’.

@36aday – Well then you have that card program, and folks who are able to get the Gold Card which is unlimited play on all the Island courses that would be a price you can’t even touch with the Greater Toronto Area.

MM – And that’s the way our courses contribute to our organization. They contribute rounds through value card programs which help us do marketing. Again, back to the foresight they have to support us, it’s great that we get some other support but without that kind of contribution we likely wouldn’t exist. It’s a great product, you can play 16 rounds of golf on Prince Edward Island for $400.00 We have a limited supply but again about 50% of those cards are sold to Island residents and about 50% to non-residents. Our operators continue to understand the power of cooperating together. It’s unique and they should be commended for it because it is why the brand is as strong as it is. And it is why our industry is not experiencing double digit declines. My Dad works at a golf course one day a week as a starter in Florida and he says two things to me: People say (about PEI), ‘I’ve played there and they have beautiful golf’, or, ‘I hear they have beautiful golf’. People know the destination, and sure there a lot of Canadian snow birds down there but he says not a lot of people are asking; Where? What? How? I like to tell this story, last year we had a grandmother from California who when their grandchildren turn 16 years old she takes them on a trip anywhere in the world they want. The child chose PEI for a golf trip. And she’s a golfer, a former club champion. And you hear these stories. California, unlimited means, and they chose PEI for 5 or 6 days. You hear a lot of neat stories like that.

@36aday – I want to thank you very much. I wish you a successful year and hope we can meet up in the fall.

@MM – Thank you.

In closing, my sincere thanks to Mark McLane for being so generous with his time in meeting with me at the Toronto Golf and Travel Show.  Mark really embodies the PEI spirit; being so welcoming and gracious.  I look forward to visiting this fall.

The Rodd Crowbush Resort - Photo Credit - Golf PEI
The Rodd Crowbush Resort – Photo Credit – Golf PEI