Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

The Impact of Climate Change on Golf Participation in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA): A Case Study

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

The Impact of Climate Change on Golf Participation in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA): A Case Study

Article excerpt

Introduction

Weather and climate have a major influence on the outdoor recreation sector, including the length and quality of recreation seasons. The impact of the 2002 drought and wildfires on park visitation, fishing and rafting in the State of Colorado (Butler, 2002), reductions in boating opportunities on the Great Lakes from lower than normal water levels in 1999 to 2001 (Environment Canada, 2003), and the shortened ski seasons in the US Midwest from 1996-1999 (Scott, 2005) are just three recent examples. Despite the importance of weather and climate to outdoor recreation, the sensitivity of individual recreation industries to climate variability has not been adequately assessed (de Freitas, 2003; Scott, McBoyle, & Mills, 2003; Wall, 1992). Understanding of the potentially important implications of global climate change for the outdoor recreation sector also remains very limited (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2001; Scott, McBoyle, & Schwartzentruber, 2004; Wall, 1992).

The golf industry is one of the largest recreation sectors in North America and one that is highly influenced by weather and climate. There are approximately 20,000 golf courses (World Golf Foundation, 2001) and some 30 million amateur golfers (Royal Canadian Golf Association, 1999a; World Golf Foundation, 2001) in North America. In 2000, golf accounted for US$62 billion worth of goods and services in the Unites States alone, of which US$20.5 billion in revenues were generated directly at golf facilities, mainly through green fees (World Golf Foundation, 2002). By comparison, the golf sector is estimated to approximate the economic size of the motion picture industry in the United States (US$57.8 billion) (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001).

Before further discussing the sensitivity of the golf industry to weather and climate, it is important to distinguish "weather" from "climate" because the two terms are often erroneously used interchangeably. Weather is defined as the day-to-day conditions of the atmosphere (e.g., sun, cloud, rain and fog, amount of rain, wind speed, temperature and humidity). Weather tends to affect golf on a short-term basis-hourly to daily. For example, the time required for thick morning fog to dissipate could delay a course from opening for hours, while an afternoon thunderstorm could suspend play for several hours because of the threat posed by lightening or by heavy rainfall and standing water. By comparison, climate is defined as the long-term average behavior of weather in a given location (Aguado & Burt, 2004), and generally affects golf on longer temporal scales-weeks, months and years. Climate is a primary determinant of the length of the operating season of a golf course at a given location and has an important influence on golf participation. From a golf operations standpoint, climate also has important implications for irrigation, turf grass selection, and turf disease and pest management.

As evidenced by a range of media headlines, golf industry reports and professional journal articles, the golf industries in the United States and Canada are very aware of the importance of weather and climate to their business. Table 1 highlights a number of recent newspaper headlines associated with stories about the impact of weather and climate on golf participation in different regions of the United States. According to the 2007 Golf 20/20 Industry Report, the single most important factor impacting rounds played [both positively and negatively each year] continues to be weather1 (World Golf Foundation, 2001). In a survey of 2,426 golf courses in the United States, 52% identified climate variability as the leading reason for lower than expected rounds played in 2000 and 2001, while 35% cited climatic variability as the primary reason for higher than expected rounds played (World Golf Foundation, 2004). By comparison, less than 10% of golf courses participating in the same survey identified the economy or course renovations in positively or negatively influencing rounds played. …

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