The pandemic-proof golf season came to a jubilant end last week.
At golf courses across the state, business was up more than 25 percent — a surprising end to a year that should have been dreadful.
“It’s been untouchable,” said Dan Moris, Operations Manager of Eagle Valley Golf Course in Woodbury.
The course broke an all-time record Oct. 13 for number of rounds played, as golfers kept pouring in.
“If you reach out to any other golf course, they will have a similar story to tell,” said Moris.
On Minnesota courses, the increase in rounds played was as much as 45 percent. Total U.S. rounds played are projected to increase 10 percent in 2020, according to a report from the National Golf Foundation and Golf Datatech.
It shouldn’t have been a good year.
COVID derailed recreation and fitness in Minnesota in March, keeping millions huddling inside their homes. Movie theaters, bowling alleys and sports venues closed.
The statewide COVID lockdown ripped three weeks off the golf season, which started April 18. Then the fall weather clipped the season from the other side — as Tuesday broke records for the earliest snowfall.
But golf turned out to be adaptable.
As the summer wore on, COVID shut-ins began to look for ways to exercise and socialize. “You can only go to the park and walk on trails so many times,” said Eagle Valley’s Moris.
They found that golf is naturally socially-distant. “The beauty of golf is you can be more independent,” said Clare Cloyd, marketing manager for St. Paul Parks and Recreation Department.
St. Paul made golf even safer by spreading tee times from every eight minutes to every 10 minutes.
Eagle Valley’s Moris discovered another way COVID helped golf. Customers were able to come in whenever he had openings, because they were unemployed or working from home.
Best of all, golf courses have seen a surge in newcomers.
“Our practice facility was busier than I’ve ever seen it,” said Dennis Neitz, manager of River Oaks Golf Course in Cottage Grove.
Neitz said that despite a season approximately four weeks shorter than average, River Oaks revenue jumped 25 percent to about $2 million.
“I hate to say it, but coronavirus has been good for golf,” said Neitz.
Como Park Golf Course in St. Paul saw a whopping 45 percent increase in rounds played through August.
St. Paul’s four courses increased by an average of 11 percent, kept lower because the city kept Highland 9 Golf Course closed until June 15 for coronavirus walkers.
Golf managers were running out of adjectives to describe the season. As Neitz put it: “It’s been good-busy-crazy.”
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