ambassadors_ryan_patsy_ilona_1I was born and raised on PEI, and believes I’ve been quite fortunate that my 29-year golf career is the result of being in the right place at the right time. I worked his way from the back shop at the Brudenell River Golf Course at the age of 15, to the key role at both Brudenell and Crowbush golf courses today. As a result, I’ve experienced just about every job there is at a golf course, and can tell the tales that go with them.

MATT WARD: What’s your take on the golf season ahead for PEI?

RYAN GARRETT: Things look positive for the 2016 season at our properties. Early bookings are pacing ahead of last year — the US dollar is low which may help bring some Americans to the East Coast but more importantly keep more Canadians traveling in their own country. Our courses have wintered very well, so there is a positive vibe from locals and the guests that have come to play our courses.

MW: Total number of rounds played in 2015 was what? How does that compare to 2014 and what do you expect for 2016?

RG: Total rounds in 2015 numbered 57524 — split 38,396 non member and 19,128 member. Total rounds in 2014 numbered 56969 — split 37433 non member and 19536 member. Our rounds booked to date show a 5% increase for the same time period last year. Should the weather be decent this season I expect we’ll have a better season than last.

MW: Approximate revenue generated tied to golf visits in 2015 was what? Again — compared to 2014 and what are the approximate estimates for 2016?

RG: The most recent study done by NAGA (National Allied Golf Association) in 2014 indicates that the game of golf generated $147 million in total gross production through direct, indirect, and induced spending impacts.

MW: Given the strength of the US dollar do you anticipate a record year for American visitors?

RG: Time will tell, our US visitation stays pretty flat, traditionally about 4-5% of our guest play comes from US guests. We may start to see a bump from the media attention the Cape Breton product is receiving through the States.

MW: What are the major non-golf attractions that bring people to PEI?

RG: As an Island, we’re fortunate to never be too far from the water, hence beaches are a huge attraction for people coming to PEI. The thrust of the Tourism PEI marketing campaign this year is identifying PEI as Canada’s Food Island. Local produce, fresh seafood, and culinary experiences highlight that campaign.

MW: Courting Millennials is touted by many as a key ingredient in building up the base of golfers for the future. What steps are you doing in that regard?

RG: We realized there was a gap in the millennial group a few years ago. Junior members at our courses start to find jobs, head off to University, have other things that occupy their time and money that golf used to take up. In the past as these individuals left the junior category they would be into a Full membership category at our club. Now we offer an intermediate rate which can be purchased until the member is 26 years, old. We’re also adjusting our policies to allow music on the course, looking into a fleet of Golf Boards, whatever we can to keep that group in the game.

MW: Similarly, what steps are being done in promoting golf for women and minority groups?

RG: Truthfully we haven’t done a good job promoting golf to those two groups in the past. This season we will be hosting a ladies night (league) at three of our properties to test the waters of that group.

ryan_jack_2MW: What impact do tee time provider companies such as GolfNow have on course owners / operators?

RG: Fortunately there are no courses on PEI that deal with Golf Now at this time.

MW: What steps are being taken by courses in PEI in dealing with slow play?

RG: At our properties we have a time par that the starter makes our guests aware of prior to their round, the on course player’s assistant monitors groups to ensure they stay within what we feel is reasonable amount of time to play without feeling rushed. We do other things as making sure the course hazards are clearly marked, identify drop zones on the opposite side of a forced carry, keep our rough at reasonable height, and have a new, shorter set of tees designed with the senior player in mind.

MW: How do you solicit customer feedback and how is that information used for future situations?

RG: Our guests are asked to participate in our customer experience survey by the starters. Those guests that provide us with their email are sent the survey. We use the results to evaluate our guest satisfaction and if and where modifications need to be made.

Ryan Garrett is the General Manager at Prince Edward Island’s Finest Golf.