Golfers are driving away winter blues

By Dana Granville

On one of the coldest days of the year, Steve Wagner, 27, has been golfing for over an hour without a jacket.

As he takes a swing, the ball arcs straight in front of him, leaving a smile on his face as it hits the net on the other side of the dome.

The Coliseum, a dome that covers Lansdowne Park, has hosted a variety of sports over the past three years, including indoor soccer, ultimate frisbee and touch football. Because these sports run as evening leagues, the large space was unused during the day.

It was the empty space that prompted Steve Ball, part owner of the Coliseum, to look for a way to keep people coming in all day.

“We were always throwing out the idea of golf, since we had so much unused room,” he says. “We wanted to maximize that space.”

The space is well-used, Wagner says. “There’s a lot more room here to see your ball fly than in an average indoor golf setting,” he says. “I’ll be back for sure.”

One of the Coliseum’s instructors, Gregg Foley, says the dome not only has the advantage of size, but also year-round heating, along with quality turf and balls.

Although the golf program at the Coliseum runs from Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., many of Ottawa’s avid golfers are finding time to visit the Coliseum.

“We have early morning regulars, and then a rush at lunchtime,” Ball says. “We start to pick up again around three, after people start getting off work.”

The program’s hours have been the clientele’s only complaint, Ball indicates.

Since many of the golfers have nine-to-five jobs, their golf time is limited.

However, Ball also says they wouldn’t be able to change their hours without “ruffling a few feathers.”

Since the athletic leagues who share the dome already have their rental times established, playing times would have to be changed in order to accommodate the projected influx of golfers.

The hours are the only drawback Wagner finds with the program.

“It would be better for people who work if it were open late at night,” he says.

The atmosphere draws in a lot of his clients, Ball indicates.

“Our clientele isn’t only made up of avid golfers. We have some, but others just come to let off steam,” he says. “I think we offer a very unique service to anyone who enjoys the game of golf.”

Foley agrees. “It’s a great place to practise during the winter,” he says.

“The people here are just great. Whether you want to practise for a trip down south, or you’re picking up a club for the first time, it’s a great place to golf.”

The Coliseum offers lessons, designed based on the schedule and needs of its clients.

“We ask them what they’re looking to improve, and then match them up with an instructor best suited to their needs,” says Ball. “A lot of people thank us for that.”

While the clientele is small, Ball says it’s growing quickly.

“We want the community to embrace us, but we aren’t being pushy about it. We advertise, and word of mouth tends to get around,” he says.

Ball adds that their location is a key factor in attracting new customers.

“Fifteen to twenty per cent of our new golfers just wander in because they’re curious about the big, white dome,” he says. “Our location is just awesome.”