Sports

Golf course’s high-playing rates detrimental to sport’s progress

It was four decades ago when a group of talented locally produced golfers were known throughout the region as the “Young Lions”, and the sport was thriving. This was the case because those who guided and mentored the young players, did not have great challenges to find a course(s) for them to play on, at modest costs.

That glorious regional (Caribbean and Central American) era ended, sadly, because there came a time when playing prices for the youngsters and many adults became prohibitive. That trend within the golfing facility circle continues to this day.

Through Craig Flowers’ ingenuity and financial generosity (with the co-operation of the sports ministry) a nine-hole course was built in New Providence at the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre about 10 years ago, thus affording players, young and old, based on the capital island, opportunities to fashion their games.

The lack of an affordable 18-hole course, however, still thwarts the golf development potential on New Providence. In the other islands, the fate of aspiring youthful golfers is worse.

On Grand Bahama for instance, once the mecca of golf in the region, the island became reduced to just one “somewhat quality” playable 18-hole golf course, at the Lucayan Reef Country Club. The members have to pay $300 every three months to have their actual playing fees downsized.

How many parents or guardians can afford to come up with $300 “every three months” to enable their children to become members? Then, still with the membership, there is the playing fee to be addressed each time out to the course for action.

Not many parents and guardians are in that “affordable” category. So, the list of young players has become quite limited in recent times.

When the government of The Bahamas bought the Grand Lucayan Resort, which owns the Lucayan Reef Golf Course, there was joy within the local golfing fraternity. Surely, the rates would be adjusted significantly and a way would be found to accommodate the youthful players.

Well, that has not been the case. There have been discussions between golfing leaders and government officials in Grand Bahama, toward playing fee adjustments, but nothing official in that regard has been announced. Certainly, according to Bahamas Golf Federation (BGF) Northern Region Director Ambrose Gouthro, nothing much has been communicated to him.

This particular situation is one of the primary reasons the present Free National Movement (FNM) government has been criticized by the sporting public. This government makes some financial gestures, but nothing nearly in the neighborhood of what the sporting landscape needs and, indeed, is entitled to, and yes, the government-owned Lucayan course is a case in point.

At the head of the table of executives, who makes decisions for the Grand Lucayan Resort, on behalf of the government, is attorney Michael Scott. He is the chairman of Lucayan Renewal Holdings Company, which manages the Grand Lucayan Resort properties. Scott is also the chairman of the Bahamas Hotel Corporation.

Recently, he was made a Queen’s Counsel, a highly-coveted legal status. It follows that Scott, who gets to enjoy the largesse of life, should be kind to others.

Hopefully, he is able to look at the golf scenario with compassion and lead his executives in making a decision to boost the sport, by rendering the Lucayan Reef course affordable for players generally; and providing a development program that allows meaningful periods of play, free-of-charge for young golfers.

The view here is that Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis should step into this issue if Scott does nothing to foster golf development, by making the Lucayan Reef more affordable for all and sundry, especially the youngsters. Prime Minister Dr. Minnis has provided much for Scott.

Together, they can strike a good blow for golf development, on Grand Bahama, at the moment.

• To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at e-mail address sturrup1504@gmail.com or on WhatsApp at (242) 727-6363.

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