Toronto municipal golf courses focus on winter recreation

Most golf courses in cold climates are fallow during the off season. In an effort to add winter utility to its five municipal routes, the City of Toronto has added hiking trails for hikers and cross-country skiers.

The idea to expand the use of city-run courses was born using the GPS mapping service of what is now the USGA. Deacon tool, a facilities management platform that can be used to identify and analyze high play areas, cycle times, pace of play bottlenecks and a host of other critical data points that can be utilized to streamline operations and maximize performance.

“Usually with this service we try to find out where golfers are going on a golf course so we know where to focus resources. We don’t spend as much time maintaining areas where golfers don’t go as high play areas, ”says Zach Nicoludis, Central Region Agronomist for the USGA.

The city used data from the analysis of golf course player usage to help mark trails in low traffic areas often passing through cart tracks, off-boundary and rugged areas as well as roadsides. Strategically positioned fairway crossings where impact on turf is minimal. The “snow loops”, as they are officially nicknamed, were first marked with markers last winter and have just reopened. Trails on the nine front and back on the 18 hole courses and single loops on the smaller trails range from 1 to 2.5 km and always return to the clubhouse.

“To my knowledge, these are the only golf courses that have used the Deacon platform in this way. We did not anticipate that this is how it could be used, but there are many golf courses in northern climates and whether they are snowmobile trails, cross country ski trails or observation trails. birds, it can help confirm where to place these different areas of use, ”adds Nicoludis.

The city of Toronto was looking for ways to increase opportunities for outdoor recreation during the pandemic and embraced the project from the start.

“What better way to showcase our golf courses than to invite citizens to come and see these beautiful properties in winter. We hope they come out, see the properties and want to come back in the summer and play golf, ”said Goran Mitrevski, the city’s park manager who oversees the golf courses.

“Developing the Game” has been the refrain of the golf industry for decades, but bringing non-golfers to courses for alternative recreational use is actually an idea with much longer roots. The Old Course in St. Andrews, the birthplace of golf, turns into a public park on Sundays, open to dog walkers, joggers and tourists looking to take a selfie near the Swilcan Bridge.

Municipal courts are currently under fire from local governments who fear subsidizing large properties that are valued only by a small segment of the community. The five fitted courses (Dentonia Park, Don Valley, Humber Valley, Scarlett Woods and Tam O’Shanter) that had 170,495 rounds played last year are currently under review by the City of Toronto.

“They are just deciding what strategy to take for these properties in the future and how these properties can be used in the larger park, forest and recreation plan,” said Craig Loughry, director of services. Golf Ontario golf course.

Two of the golf courses are only a short walk from metro stations and all five are accessible by public transport, making them accessible to young players and car-free city dwellers.

“Public golf holes are chargeable. Supply is low relative to demand in the city of Toronto and municipal golf courses are one of them. If there is a cut that will hurt gambling and I think it will hurt the city as well, as they will close the door to opportunities for young people and communities that use these facilities, that would be unfortunate, ”Loughry adds.

As to where the chips land when all is said and done with the government review process, Loughry believes all five courses will survive, but predicts that there could be reductions in the number of holes on one or two of them. between them, perhaps in the service of improving the existing city of trail connections that could then cross golf courses. The added utility provided by the winter snow loops could serve as a lifeline while keeping the courses largely intact.

“I think it can make a difference and I hope it does. Hopefully golf comes out as is or even better and the city starts investing in these properties both in the form of golf and maybe winter activities when not in use, ”Loughry said. .

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