A newly approved operating model for five city-run golf courses in Toronto promises environmental accountability and increased access to free recreational activity.
The five golf courses be operating under the new hybrid model are Dentonia Park, Don Valley, Humber Valley, Scarlett Woods, and Tam O’Shanter.
“Maintaining city golf facilities in a prudent way that delivers a better experience for golfers, supports affordable access to the game for Torontonians and expands opportunities for how we use these spaces year-round is the right thing to do,” Toronto Mayor John Tory said.
Under the new operating model, the city’s press release explained that the City of Toronto will take responsibility for the maintenance and approval of green fee rates, providing safeguards to citizens for affordable access.
The changes are in response to an external review of Toronto’s golf operations, and the new model aims to improve golf programming while also expanding public access for complementary uses.
The National Golf Course Owners Association Canada’s yearly report showed that increased demand for golf in 2021 resulted in an upward trend for participation in the sport across the country, despite a shortened season due to COVID-19 related closures.
“Providing public access to these areas, primarily in the off-season, creates more opportunities to be outside and active, including for hiking, running, snow-shoeing, or cross-country skiing,” Tory said.
The city release stated that expanding youth programming and affordable access to golf for equity-deserving groups will be a main priority for the five facilities affected by the newly approved operating model.
According to Golf Canada, there is an affordability barrier with golf that affects the ability to participate in the sport for many Canadian youth. This new operating model aims to ease financial limitations and increase community participation.
Another factor that pushed Toronto to reconsider their operations of outdoor spaces is the fact that access to the outdoors has become especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Canadian Journal of Public Health recently published new evidence showing a correlation between COVID-19 restrictions and decreased outdoor play for youth in Canada.
“These improvements to the operating model will provide more opportunities for participation and help make these courses more financially and environmentally sustainable.” said Councillor Jennifer McKelvie, chair of the Infrastructure and Environment Committee.
Beyond golf, the city’s press release explained off-season public access to the courses will provide opportunities for enhancing environmental stewardship by restoring natural areas, improving ravine and trail access, and growing the urban forest.