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Golf courses expect rebound in business next year

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Its been a little easier to get a tee-time on the links locally this year.

Like some other businesses in the resort the golf courses are feeling the effects of a roller-coaster stock market, a softer than expected economy, and the after-math of the terrorist attack on the US last Sept.11.

But when people play here they love it.

This week Whistler was ranked number one in B.C. and sixth in the overall "Best Golf Resort in Canada" category in SCORE Magazine’s 2002 ratings.

The number one golf "resort" in Canada was listed as Banff. It only has one golf course.

Whistler’s four courses also placed in the top 100 in Canada. Of the top 10 courses only one, The Capilano Golf and Country Club, was not in Eastern Canada or the Maritimes.

Nicklaus North placed 23rd, Big Sky Golf and Country Club placed 34 th , the Chateau Golf Course placed 53 rd and the Whistler Golf Club placed 71 st .

"There is a definite move back to classic layouts, those that are tree-lined, with undulating fairways and that carry an aura of tradition," said Bob Weeks, SCORE’s editor.

"As well, difficulty, it seems, has been replaced by playability in importance."

Of Nicklaus North SCORE’s survey panel said: "A fun course to play but might not be so well regarded if it weren’t in the mountains. The scenery makes it."

SCORE’s rating are released every two years and are based on the results of 110 surveys given to professional and amateur golfers, administrators, leisure players, and the head grounds-keepers of golf courses across the nation.

For the local courses the year to date has been a good one although all agree they had hoped to do better.

Most have noticed a decline in the destination golfer but an increase in the regional or local golfer.

"We’ve definitely found that we have had a lot of success filling our local’s nights at Nicklaus North and twilight rates are always quite full," said general manager Chris Hood.

"We are about half way through the season and July, August and September have been really good and we have been busy and fortunate with really good weather."

Nicklaus North has seen a decline of about five per cent in golf rounds over last year with a corresponding drop of about 10 per cent in revenue said Hood.

"We are down on some of the corporate business that would normally be in hotels like the Chateau and the Westin and those types of things. That group hasn’t been around this summer.

"But we have filled up with smaller groups and we are negotiating on rates a little more than we did last year.

"We would always love to see it busier but over all it has been a pretty good year."

It’s the same story at the Chateau golf course.

"The mix of golf business has changed somewhat," said the Chateau’s Director of Golf Rod Cochran.

"We have had to rely a lot more on local and regional markets as opposed to our long-haul market. And there are definitely more peaks and valleys in the tee-sheets. When it is a popular time to travel we are busier than ever but when it does get quiet it can be a lot quieter than usual."

Overall the Chateau expects to have as many rounds played this year as last.

But that can translate in lower revenue as local and regional players get a better deal on their round than destination visitors.

However the Chateau and others are already seeing a solid year in 2003.

"It’s looking healthier than ever," said Cochran,

Said Alan Kristmanson, director of golf at the Whistler Golf Club: "A lot of people who cancelled this year deferred to next year because of Sept 11.

"So next year is looking really strong and we are anticipating a solid year this year and coming back with a killer year next year."

Whistler is up about 2,500 rounds over the same time last year. But, said Kristmanson, revenue is down.

"We don’t have as many people paying the full rate," he said.

"We have more regional business, more wholesale business, more local business.

"So the person coming here and paying full rate at all four courses, that person is not here as much as he has been."

It’s the same story at Pemberton’s Big Sky Golf and Country Club.

"We are still realizing the effect of the lower US traffic," said Dean Larsen sales and event manager for the club.

"We have looked at trying to get more Pacific Northwest rubber tire traffic and we are still seeing a lot of that traffic which is good."

But Larsen sees the trend as relatively short term and expects next season to be stronger.

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