By Sue Tiffin
Within 24 hours of Chris Near seeing the Carnarvon Family Golf listing on the PGA Canada website, he had driven from Orillia to see it. Now Near, along with his wife Kelsey, are the new owners of the recreational facility, which had previously been owned by the Kent family for almost 15 years.
“Like a lot of us, I’ve always had that entrepreneurial bug, and wondered if there was a way to combine my passion with a business – and those types of opportunities come few and far between,” said Near. “This was that opportunity, so the minute it came up we jumped on it right away and went to have a look. Kudos to the Kent family, they’ve created something pretty special here, and we’ve just got to do it justice and continue it.”
Near is a longstanding Class ‘A’ Member of the PGA of Canada – for almost two decades now – and has a deep history managing operations at private clubs across Ontario, including in Muskoka and Toronto. He became interested in golf, “probably by accident,” he said when, at the age of 13, he went out on a par-3 course in Acton with his father.
“I immediately fell in love,” he said. “That was the moment when it was like, OK, what’s next, where do I need to go to school to make this a career, and where do I want to end up? Once I’d been up here a couple of times – for obvious reasons, with its beauty and atmosphere, there’s no better place.”
Near said his family has been welcomed by the community, even when he’s just stopped into the hardware store, with many people expressing their happiness that the business has been purchased and will remain a golf facility.
“It’s that small town feel that you only get in a small town,” he said.
In their first year, Near said he and Kelsey plan to make very few changes at the site, which includes a driving range with both grass and mat hitting areas, an 18-hole mini-putt and a par-3 golf course.
“We’re adding a retail presence to the property,” said Near, noting the pro-shop is being renovated. “So one thing we found and have heard is, golf products, they’re not easily accessible in Haliburton or Muskoka unless you’re a member of a club, so we’re adding that accessibility for our guests and consumers, and family and friends as well in the convenience of Haliburton.”
With Near being at the facility full-time, robust programs including private and semi-private golf lessons, instructional clinics and half-day junior golf camps for kids aged seven to 13 will be available.
Additionally, fitting days, in which vendors from TaylorMade, Callaway and Titleist are on site will be held.
Near said typically, most people go to golf merchandise shops and buy a set of clubs off the shelves, not realizing that major brands and vendors will fit products for the golfer as they’re not intended to be “one size fits all.”
“The clubs will be tailored – just like your pants to your length and your waist – your clubs will be tailored to you, your stance and your swing,” he said.
Glow-in-the-dark nights on the par-3 course, in which the course is lit with LED lights and guests can play until the early morning hours will be offered soon.
“We’ve done some in the past and they’re a riot,” said Near. “I’m hoping we can rally the community to come out and give it a try.”
Near said golf has thrived during the pandemic, being an activity people could engage in outdoors.
“Golf has been one of the many beneficiaries of this chaos,” he said. “Obviously I feel terrible for those others, but I’m grateful that we’re in a business that was able to be that escape and got a little bit of a bump as a result of this mess. Golf has seen a 30 per cent increase across the country, and some of that is people that were playing or are playing more, but a lot of it is that people who weren’t playing have been introduced to the game. Obviously now we have to do our best to keep them engaged and involved, and enjoying the game for life.”
For more information about Carnarvon Family Golf, located at 9145 Highway 118, call 705-489-3473 or visit carnarvonfamilygolf.com.