Athlone Golf and Sports
Wayne Morden, the President of Athlone Golf and Sports is a curious soul who has played golf since he was a young boy. Growing up in Woodstock, Ontario and having lived in several Ontario cities, he now lives in West Kelowna, BC. He has been fortunate to experience playing many of the finest courses. He is now a member at Kelowna Golf and Country Club. His history allows him to provide his clientele with memorable and personal golf trips to anywhere they want to go.
THE MORDEN STORY —
Our family of six all played golf at one time and I started when I was 5 years old at Craigowan in Woodstock, Ontario. My father Terry gave me the advice to always play the game because it would be helpful in business and social settings. He was right.
I played competitively as a young man and made the Queen’s University team for two years. Golf became my dedicated summer game when few of my friends even considered it a sport.
After I played the Old Course at St Andrews with my best friends it propelled me to write my book, Golf Shorts and Plus Fours: Musings from a Golfing Traditionalist. I thought that the telling of my experience playing at the birthplace of golf along with other golf short stories would resonate with other golfers. The three year writing process connected me with many interesting individuals in the golf industry that I continue to have.
Luck reunited me with Alistair Davies at Athlone Golf and Sports whom I’ld known from years back. I had been organizing golf trips on behalf of my Verma Cup friends and was given the opportunity to work with Alistair on a trip to Ireland and Northern Ireland in 2014. When he decided to leave the golf travel business he thought of me as a person to pick up the torch and rejuvenate the Athlone brand.
Today our company provides personalized golf trips both within Canada and to popular outbound golfing destinations like the UK, Ireland, the US and the Caribbean including other select countries. The combination of being passionate about the game since I was young, being a writer and having spent my business life in sales and marketing makes my new golf and travel career a perfect fit.
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MATT WARD: How did golf travel fare in ’16?
WAYNE MORDEN: Pretty well — Scotland continued to be popular as well as the sunny US, Cape Breton in Nova Scotia and Western Canada.
MW: What’s your assessment for golf travel in ’17?
WM: Canada as a golf destination continues to gain traction on both ends of the country and now some interest in Ontario in the Toronto and Niagara regions. Scotland is still in the minds of golfers and with the Brexit vote is the least expensive to play links golf in many years. Ireland and Northern Ireland are other destination that pique interest. US States like California, Arizona and Florida are topics of discussions.
MW: What are the global hotspots worth contemplating a visit?
WM: South Africa intrigues me and they know their tourism. The expense is in the flights. Once there it’s relatively inexpensive for hotels, wine, golf and food. And safaris appeal to everyone don’t they? I like Biarritz, France near the Spanish border. Fine golf and culture and you can slip into Northern Spain too. Iceland has done a great job and you can golf by a volcano or use the country as stopover before venturing to Scotland or Ireland for links golf.
MW: What locations are not doing as well?
WM: Any country experiencing unrest resulting in terrorism. This could impact places like France, Turkey and Egypt. I think the US will see a decrease in golf tourism for many reasons including cost and politics.
MW: As someone who books golf travel — beyond the quality of courses — what’s the most important item for your clients?
WM: It’s different for every group but a comfortable coach with a personable driver when going to the UK or Ireland. A private final last night celebratory dinner is often requested.
MW: Biggest mistake people make when going on a golf vacation?
WM: Underestimating drive times — especially in the UK and Ireland.
MW: Canada has been making significant headway in recent years — clearly with the likes of Cabot on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia leading the way. What’s responsible for that happening?
WM: Canada is seen as welcoming and more recently, a “cool” country to visit. The charismatic and youthful Prime Minister Trudeau has contributed to this reputation. I think people are slowly recognizing our golf is impressive. Cabot has put us on the world map, not just in North America and gives golfers a true links experience unavailable in the rest of Canada. Our 30% lower dollar compared to the US helps immensely. And Canadians are friendly. We also have 2200 golf courses from coast to coast offering challenging ocean, valley, mountain, desert and parkland courses.
MW: What proactive steps are various facilities and courses doing in order to keep themselves high on the radar screen for visitors?
WM: Some are marketing themselves more and they need to do so to attract golfers, especially young golfers. The young are not coming in the numbers required and clubs need to earn their business. They need to be enticed since they are competing with other sports and the time they spend on gadgets. Some courses are using social media strategies. Local rates are being offered and in some cases, initiation fees are being reduced or eliminated.
MW: If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be?
WM: Get golfers to walk more and feel more connected to the land when playing golf if this option is available. I am a traditionalist and too often people rely on power golf carts. Golf should be a physical and mental challenge. Everyone should try one round of golf walking a links course once in their lifetime so they know what the game felt like centuries ago.
MW: Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from?
WM: A former boss, Ray Stanton, asked me to call someone to see if they were interested in our product. I told him I would. As he stood there he asked me why not do it now? Indeed. I picked up the phone right then. Just do it!WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?