In one form or another the Golf Am Tour Canada has been around for a number of years. Previous to 2015, it was known as the Golf Town Amateur tour. Now, the tour falls under the umbrella of the Golf Channel Am Tour, which operates throughout the US, while Golf Town remains a presenting sponsor.
The concept is simple, events are hosted across the country, with mini regional tours within the overall tour. In addition to the single day 18 hole events, there are five “Majors” that consist of 36 holes played over two days. Players compete in as many events as they wish, in any region they wish, and accumulate points towards an order of merit. Accumulate enough points and you can qualify for the National Championship (the fifth major). The 2016 National Championship is scheduled Angus Glen in October.
Over the years, the tour has had stops in Ottawa and Eastern Ontario, but it has been a number of years since I have seen a local event. I have heard that the organizers purposefully stayed away from the region due to lack of interest in their events in the past. I can say first hand that there is no lack of interest in competitive golf in Ottawa, but there are a number of well ingrained tournaments that would easily “beat out” new events when it comes to peoples time and money.
2016 marks a return, of sorts, of this national amateur tour to Ottawa and area, and with the absence of the BMG Cup, I thought I would venture into the unknown and give it a try.
First (and foremost), playing on the tour comes with a bit of sticker shock, especially for the Ottawa area where we are use to getting multi day events for under $200 with top notch tee gifts, meals, prizing and professional set up. 1 event on the Golf Am tour is going to run you between $145 and $165, even more for majors. The fees include golf, cart and range. The National Championship comes with an $800 price tag. In addition to the tournament fees, you have to purchase a membership to the tour, just to be able to enter an event, this runs you $150.
The membership package provides you with the following tangibles:
- A hat (not very nice)
- A towel (actually pretty nice)
- A Golf Canada membership (I already had this through my home club)
- A $10 gift card to golf town.
Last weekend I played in my first event, the Ottawa Open, hosted at eQuinelle Golf Club in Kemptville, ON. Using eQuinelle for their first Ottawa event was smart since it is a top notch course people want to play. Unfortunately, only 11 players entered. Each event is suppose to consist of several flights for a variety of skill levels, but due to the low registration, the Ottawa Open was played as an open flight with a gross winner and a net winner.
Some observations from the event:
- The branding for the event was well done with flags and sponsor signs around the clubhouse, putting green and first tee, as well as a pop up sign in booth they set up in the clubhouse.
- The tour staff was very professional, they announced players on the first tee and had a presence on the course, checking in every few holes and taking some photos.
- For an event that is suppose to be part of a national amateur tour, I expected rules officials on course, but there weren’t any.
- While the fees didn’t advertise an included meal, they did give us a voucher for a burger and fries, which was nice.
- The prizing is pretty good, in the form of Golf Town gift cards I believe, and pays out depending on number of players in the field. Winners also get a trophy.
Some thoughts on my day:
- I went out in 37, but came home in 45 for an 82. It was frustrating to say the least. I just couldn’t get a putt to drop on back 9, leading to many bogeys, then hit one in the water on the par 3 16th.
- The weather was rough, cold and wet all day.
- Pace of play was decent, took about 4.5 hours.
- I played with two near scratch players, one who plays for Queen’s University in Kingston, ON and the other from Cornwall, ON who plays for Rogers State University in Oklahoma. They ended up both shooting 76 and going to a playoff where the Queen’s player won.
- Since my fees included a cart, I took a cart, the other two guys walked. I should have walked, I enjoy walking more, and it was awkward with me in a cart and them walking. On the other hand, the cart came in handy staying out of the rain.
- The course was in great shape, as always.
Concluding thoughts on the Golf Am Tour Canada:
I really like the concept of a national tour, integrating events from across the country. I like the line up of courses they have the Ottawa region as well. However, the price tag outweighs the positive for me. When I look at the other competitive opportunities in the region, whether it be the Flagstick Open or the OVGA City & District, I see events with as much appeal at the Golf Am Tour events, but with a lower price tag.
I am committed to playing a few more tour events this summer and really hope the fields get substantially bigger and deeper at future events, but I am not so sure its going to happen.
At the end of the day I’m not looking for the cheapest options, but the options that provide the most value. I am not sure the Golf Am Tour has found the value sweet spot yet, at least in the Ottawa region.
See you at the turn,