ROTHESAY – On a spring morning, Kristi Vienneau will put her six-month-old son in a stroller and wheel him to Riverside Country Club a couple of streets away from her house.
For 20 minutes or so, she’ll hit golf balls at the driving range. For a while, he’d sit in his stroller but he soon realized that’s “no fun,” so she started laying him out on a blanket.
“The members there like him a lot,” says Vienneau. “He just started rolling over, so I put him on a blanket and he was rolling and laughing and talking to everybody.”
Vienneau is a former collegiate golfer who has been playing the sport since she was a kid. She says the culture has changed a lot over the decades to accommodate a generation of millennials that need to balance their love for the game with busy family and work lives. Would people 30 years ago have taken their babies to the course while they drove some golf balls? “Probably not so much,” says Vienneau.
Riverside is adapting its programming to meet the needs of this generation, and the one coming along behind it.
Those changes can involve subtle cultural shifts like making a young mother feel comfortable taking her baby to the club with her. It also means programmatic changes like “nine and dine” night where members can take friends out for a round of golf and then have dinner and drinks afterward.
There was a time in her life where golf was a highly competitive pursuit that was time-consuming. With two young children and a full-time teaching job, she welcomes the club’s efforts to cater to people with busy lives who don’t have time to golf 18 holes.
“Golf is a long activity, too long,” she says. “[My husband] and I laugh all the time. People ask us to go play golf, and we’re like, ‘okay! Five hours [for 18 holes] plus an hour on each end getting the kids ready. It’s a six- or seven-hour process. Nine holes at this stage of our lives is a huge win.
“Our outlook on golf has changed. We’re just happy to be out in the sun enjoying time with friends or family.”
Riverside member Joe Thompson has a similar outlook. He plays a couple of rounds a week with friends and doesn’t take it too seriously at this stage of his life.
I do like the challenge of the game,” says Thompson. “I like slowly watching my game get better and better – emphasis on slowly. I like being outside, and the group of guys I play with.”
The golf course has a reputation for being a place where mainly men network and do business together. Vienneau says that was once true but it’s becoming more inclusive and way to make friends, not just business deals.
“People used to say to me, ‘Golf is such a great way to form those relationships and build those business relationships with future clients. Then I realized very quickly that any time I tried to do that on the golf course it was always men. I was always the only woman.
“Nowadays I find there are a lot more women – both in business and in golf. I’ve made a lot of connections through other women. They have a program called the “Business Ladies” night, though you don’t have to be in business to take part. Working moms, retired women, anyone who wants to come out. You can network and play nine holes and go have supper and a drink. It’s super fun.”
Thompson owns a landscaping company and he admits you can pick up good business connections there. But he says he’s mainly interested in socializing and playing golf.
“It’s a social thing for sure, but I have definitely got some business through it,” he says. “But it’s not an ulterior motive for me. It’s because I love the game of golf.”
Alex Palmer, one of Riverside’s board members, was a collegiate golfer who still plays competitively at the provincial and national level. The game has been an important part of his professional and personal life since he started spending a lot of time there when he was a kid.
“It was a place I could go in the summer, my parents would drop me off and give me a few dollars, and I’d eat French Fries and play golf all day. I’d practice and goof around with other kids. It became central to my childhood.”
Palmer is an accomplished golfer but he highly values the social aspect of the game. He isn’t originally from the area, and the club offered a unique way to meet a lot of people quickly.
People who are new to the area have a ready-made social circle at the club, which can be a real challenge for people in their 30s and 40s, with busy lives who are new to an area,” says Palmer.
He plays a lot of shorter rounds these days, maybe a trip to the driving range or a quick 4 or 9 holes here and there. But, he also says there are opportunities to build stronger personal and professional relationships in an 18-hole game – especially at a time where people have shorter meetings and social get-togethers because they lead such busy lives.
“There aren’t many opportunities in 2018 to spend four straight hours with the someone, but golf can provide that,” he says.
“Golf is one of those things you can do from the time you’re a child until you’re 80 or 90, and that is unique across most other games,” he says.
Being a member at Riverside is more than just unlimited golf. The club is member-owned, member-governed, and the experience is tailored to meet the highest standards. Join the club you can make your own.