From the earliest stages of the coronavirus pandemic, finding safe sources of entertainment has been challenging.
Heading outside seemed to be the obvious choice, as bikes and other outdoor recreation items flew off the shelves throughout the spring.
While those individual items have become popular, when it comes to a game, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that’s grown more than golf, as it seems to be designed for a global pandemic.
“We are on hundreds of acres of land. You’re playing in small groups,” North Links Golf Course General Manager Mike Thomas said. “It’s easy to social distance. As I watch people throughout the day, I don’t see many people not social distancing.”
At Shoreland Country Club in St. Peter, General Manager Jason Harrell said the club is up about 300 memberships this year after being in the neighborhood of 240 last year. In a normal year Harrell said the club sells 18-20 youth memberships, but that number is up to 48. In total, the club has added 79 new members this year.
Minneopa Golf Club and Terrace View Golf Course have seen similar increases in memberships, as operations manager Brittany Linder estimates the two clubs have about 100 new members combined.
North Links Golf Course doesn’t have members, but the course has still been buzzing. In a normal year, Thomas said the club averages about 150 rounds per day, but that’s been up around 200 amid the pandemic.
At the Mankato Golf Club, General Manager Dave Torbenson said the rise in memberships has been significant and that the course is nearly full.
“The game of golf is so special in many different ways,” Torbenson said. “It’s great that we can have so many people come back to the game and start playing the game.”
While memberships and rounds being up is certainly good for golf courses, they’ve still felt the impact of COVID-19. Tournaments are a major source of revenue for local courses, and many have been canceled because of the virus. Along with tournaments, wedding receptions that courses generally host also have been a causality of COVID-19.
Despite those losses, local courses are still doing well. The future may be even brighter.
Linder, Thomas, Harrell and Torbenson each said they’ve seen increased numbers among young people and families, a positive sign for a sport that doesn’t always get a lot of participants in those groups.
Harrell knows not all of those people will stick with golf post-pandemic, but some will. With tournaments and events returning whenever the pandemic ends and a whole new group of people playing, the good times might just keep on rolling for golf courses.
“When you see the young families out there, that’s the future of our club,” Harrell said. “We’re trying to do our best to make sure their experience this year is fantastic. Maybe next year ... they’ll come to realize ‘Maybe our families are golfers now,’ instead of whatever activity they were doing before.”
Follow Kevin Dudley on Twitter @Dudley7Kevin.