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Partners Glendale and ClubLink Keep Curling on the Ice

They’ve been curling at the Glendale Golf and Country Club in Hamilton, Ontario, since 1960, but when ClubLink stepped in to take over management of the golf facility two years ago, the big question arose: will Glendale continue to offer curling as well as golf?

Absolutely! Although ClubLink’s focus has traditionally been on the golf course, Glendale’s golf and curling partners are working hard today to keep curling on the ice now and into the future.

(Photo courtesy Glendale Curling Club)

For its first thirty years, Glendale offered a thriving curling program. Membership started to drop in the 1990s, but still the club celebrated a number of highlights, including sending one of its teams (Peter Corner, Todd Brandwood, Drew Macklin and Dwayne Pyper) to the 2000 Brier in Saskatoon.

The sale of the Glendale Golf and Country Club – including its curling section – to golf and resort management company ClubLink in 2010 was the first step in a new chapter for curling at Glendale.

“The next step was for ClubLink to make a decision regarding the future of curling at Glendale beyond the spring of 2011,” says Neil Osborne, Vice-President, Operations at ClubLink.

The new owners undertook a thorough assessment of Glendale as well as at other curling facilities in the region. When almost 90 percent of the curling membership committed to the 2011-2012 season at Glendale, ClubLink showed their commitment in return.

“ClubLink’s first and most important initiative was to hire the extremely skilled, motivated, popular, and hard-working former Glendale ice technician, Mike Braker,” says Osborne. “This sent a message that ClubLink cared about curling and knew what was required to make curling successful.”

ClubLink also invested in success by hanging on to Barry Macklin, the club’s knowledgeable curling coordinator. Macklin says he’s working to improve the curling program at Glendale by using initiatives learned at Ontario Curling Association and Canadian Curling Association Business of Curling workshops.

(Photo courtesy Glendale Curling Club)

“In my opinion there is no better way for a curling club to give themselves a chance to be successful than to listen to the successful and unsuccessful experiences of other clubs,” he insists.

These initiatives include scheduling lots of mixed leagues, allowing members to select their own teams, providing daytime curling, and encouraging youth curlers to join parents and grandparents on the ice.

Another approach being used is to allow daytime curlers to rate themselves, so that they can play the position they want rather than being relegated by a match committee.

Of course, recruitment is a huge part of the Glendale plan as well.

“This season, Glendale initiated a ‘member recruit a member program’ where both the new member and the Glendale member, who recruited him, or her, receive a $50.00 credit or four golf passes worth $300.00,” explains ClubLink’s Osborne. “Members who paid their 2012–2013 curling fees in full by September 30th were allowed to curl for the 2011–2012 curling fee.”

Osborne also emphasizes that ClubLink’s commitment to improving the curling facility is the same approach it takes to improving conditions on its golf courses. At Glendale, that meant repairing and improving the curling rink floor, lighting and roof.

The benefits of the new partnership also extend to the operation and staff of the clubhouse, which remains busy during the curling season instead of hibernating during the normally quiet golf off-season.

ClubLink and Glendale Curling Club are taking a strategic business approach to operating together, but the results are still to be confirmed.

“Despite all of this support from ClubLink, and these new initiatives, the curling membership at Glendale has not increased – yet,” cautions Osborne. “Hopefully this will change with ClubLink’s latest example of support, the hiring of a curling professional, Greg Balsdon, to provide instruction, support, and assistance to Glendale’s curling members.”

Balsdon’s arrival also means that Macklin has more time to spend in the community, attracting new curling members and business to Glendale.

Macklin is strongly aware of the contribution made by ClubLink to Glendale’s success, but he recognizes the importance of the club’s current membership as well.

“ClubLink’s decision to continue curling at Glendale and to give curling an opportunity to be successful was influenced by a significant number of curlers making a commitment to join the club and working to increase the membership,” he says. “Glendale’s approach is to emphasize the benefits of curling at Glendale and illustrate how people are getting value for their curling membership. Time will tell if we are using the right approach.”

(Photo courtesy Glendale Curling Club)