The government-backed '90s 'golf boom' on Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island was trying to grow its tourism just like it did potatoes.

Golf was a booming business on the Island in the 1990s

P.E.I. was betting big on golf in the 1990s. 2:45

Prince Edward Island was trying to grow its tourism just like it did potatoes.

That's why the provincial government was tending to a small crop of golf courses in the mid-1990s, as it sought to capitalize on what summer visitors wanted to see while on the Island.

"Some taxpayers here believe the government is wasting money investing in golf courses, but tourism officials say it's paying off," the CBC's Kas Roussy reported on The National on Aug. 5, 1996.

Roussy reported that the P.E.I. government was then operating three such golf resorts, including one that had been converted from a campground at a cost of $6 million.

But the government believed it had set up its shot for success well.

Demand for more activity

Prince Edward Island wanted to lure lots of golfers to the Island in the 1990s. (The National/CBC Archives)

Ron MacNeill of Tourism P.E.I. told The National that many tourists wanted to stay active while on vacation — and golf was what many of them wanted to do.

"People's attitudes and thoughts change. No longer satisfied to simply lay on the beach for hours on end, people are looking for activity," he said.

John Langdale, the owner of a private golf course, said it had taken a long time for the Island to capitalize on the potential the game had for its tourism industry.

"It's only in the last four to five years that the golf boom has driven us and made us focus on the golf industry," said Langdale, who had moved with his family to P.E.I. in 1980.

The number of courses was growing rapidly. At that time, Prince Edward Island had just 12 courses and three of those had opened that spring.

Golf remains a key tourism draw for Prince Edward Island today, though some still question the provincial government's direct involvement in running golf courses.