It’s no secret that the sports industry is starting to climb aboard the cannabis train. From sponsorships of events and athletes to entire multi-sport events embracing its use, cannabis has been moving from the sidelines to centerfield. Its latest segue, however, might prove the biggest surprise of all.
A group of investors has purchased a Canadian golf club and has announced its intention of turning it into what appears to be the world's first openly cannabis-friendly golf facility.
Under the plan, the semi-private, 18-hole Lombard Glen Golf & Country Club in Smiths Falls, Ontario is set to be rebranded in April (as Rolling Greens, no less). Main owner of the new joint venture, Gordon Weiske, has stated, “Our tag line is going to be ‘Come roll with us.’”
Cue the inevitable Caddyshack jokes, the line that golfers will yell “FORE-20,” the question as to whether the rebrand will come on April Fool’s Day, the remarks about an all-time high in business – and of course, the out-loud wondering about what the pro shop will look like. That latter question, however, has a rather mundane answer: the pro shop will do business as usual (save for probably offering Rolling Greens logo clothing – undoubtedly about to become a collectible among the burgeoning marijuana tourism industry). Weiske has stated the club will not itself serve as a dispensary, point of sale or anything else for cannabis. Those who choose to bring their own, however, will be welcome.
TSN notes, “That’s a far cry from what most Canadian golf facilities are doing since the Canadian government legalized the use of cannabis last October. Most have ruled against its usage in their clubhouses and on their courses, all of which makes the news of Rolling Greens that much more impactful.”
Oh, and planners, take
weed heed: “Weiske and his group expect to turn the local facility into a destination, adding to the golf with other activities such as a themed resort. He’s also hoping to bring golfers from Toronto via plane and has been working with a small airline to set up charter flights.”
Already, Weiske told SDM, the club has been contacted by event owners, and contacts have already been signed for events. The first of these is a tournament sponsored by Spartan Wellness, a Canadian group that works with military veterans and helps them return to society following injuries suffered, including post-traumatic stress disorder. The tournament, a full-day buyout of the club's resources, is something Weiske believes would not have reached that venue had it not been for the news of the rebanding. More events, he says, are in the future.
Prior to the announcement about its new ownership, Lombard Glen was a course that was a favorite for small local tournaments such as the Smiths Falls and District Chamber of Commerce Golf Tournament.
"It had an older demographic," Weiske says. "But since then, we've heard from a lot of other courses. There are other courses across Canada that have approached us about creating a Canada golf link." At some point, he notes, a Cannabis Cup may be in the cards -- "but I think people have to get past the Cheech and Chong aspect first."
Golf Advisor notes that in addition to renaming the course, the new ownership plans to renovate the clubhouse and improve the outdoor patio setup, “presumably to foster a sense of kumbaya among its clientele. Other amenities like miniature golf, a drive-in movie theater and resort accommodations are part of longer-term plans.”
With every potential gain, there is loss, however. Once the rebrand takes effect, the course will no longer be able to host junior golf events since under Canadian laws, those 18 and under are unable to be on the premises where cannabis is used.
Inside Ottowa Valley also noted, “If you’re wondering whether the older golfing crowd will embrace what’s going on at Lombard Glen, only time will tell. But studies indicate that seniors are the largest growing market of medical cannabis users in the country. Part of the course’s mandate will be centered around cannabis education.”
But…why a golf course? Well, according to Weiske, it’s a natural fit. Golf clubs allow both a liquor license and smoking – a combination Weiske says can support the cannabis business model. However, it’s not all about smoking. Weiske expects people to be consuming edibles and CBD-based products on the greens. CBD, unlike THC, does not make users high, meaning it avoids legal and ethical questions.
"I think," says Weiske, "the club will serve as a scientific experiment, with people being able to see if CBD relaxes them and makes them able to play better. We can focus on the health side and the science side, and see which are the best strains for certain sports, like golf."
Since legalization, the market not just for cannabis but for CBD-related products, is booming as well. Smiths Falls is a natural home for a weed-friendly facility since the area has achieved its own notoriety in the cannabis scene. The town is the home to Tweed, a licensed cannabis producer and Canada’s largest cannabis company. That organization set up shop in an empty plant once the home to chocolate maker Hershey. It now has 4.3 million square feet of greenhouse and cultivation space for its operations. It has revived the economy in Smiths Falls and set the town up as the most notable cannabis destination in Canada.