Properties in Indiana, New Mexico and Utah mirror what’s being seen nationwide—a considerable increase in rounds played over the last two months. “I think they see that golf is something you can do and do at a safe distance during this pandemic,” said Angie Hasenour, Manager of Huntingburg (Ind.) Country Club.
While many businesses across the country have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic, a large number of golf courses have enjoyed a resurgence of activity. Properties from Indiana to Utah to New Mexico show the national scope of recent success.
The Dubois County (Ind.) Herald reported July 21 the county unemployment rate for June was up to 7.1 percent, higher than the 5.7 percent rate in May. The Herald added on July 22 that Dubois County is now a hot spot for the virus with the most cases per capita of any county in the state.
However, local golf courses sure aren’t hurting during this time, The Herald reported. In fact, courses like Buffalo Trace Golf Course in Jasper, Ind. are seeing higher numbers this summer than they have seen in past years.
Buffalo Trace Manager Kurt Uebelhor told The Herald that the course has provided a safe environment for people to play—preaching social distancing and providing a safe environment for golfers to play. The course has also stayed on top of sanitizing everything and requires employees to wear masks.
Uebelhor added that Buffalo Trace brought in $30,000 more in June 2020 than it did in 2019, The Herald reported, and the course has also raked in more revenue this month than it did in July 2019.
“I’ve been up here for 26 years, and I haven’t seen this much play in the last few months in a long time,” Uebelhor said.
He hopes the pandemic fixes itself soon, but wants to see the numbers at Buffalo Trace continue to rise, The Herald reported. Uebelhor has seen golfers turn out who hadn’t golfed in awhile, telling of how he worked last weekend as the activity keeps zipping along.
“It’s just nonstop; people keep on playing,” he said. “We have tee times every 10 minutes. We’re busy, busy, busy.”
It isn’t just Buffalo Trace that is seeing a larger turnout on the links. Huntingburg (Ind.) Country Club Manager Angie Hasenour has seen good business, with the club dealing out golf cart specials for Monday through Thursday, The Herald reported.
“The course has actually been pretty full,” Hasenour said. “We’ve had some really good play.”
Hasenour estimates the course is entertaining a capacity of 80 percent to 90 percent during the weekdays, and nearly 100 percent during weekends, The Herald reported.
“I think they see that golf is something you can do and do at a safe distance during this pandemic,” she said. “So, there are a lot of people that come out to enjoy the nice weather and just to get out of the house with everything that’s been going on with this pandemic because you’re so limited to what you can and can’t do.”
Sultan’s Run Golf Club in Jasper, Ind. has joined Buffalo Trace and the Huntingburg Country Club in increased turnout and revenue, The Herald reported, and Sultan’s Run co-owner Chris Tretter thinks the pandemic has played its role in that.
“If you think about what options there were for entertainment, a family could not pack up for a weekend and go to St. Louis or Cincinnati and watch a couple of baseball games because Major League Baseball was not playing,” Tretter said.
Tretter finds it encouraging that people are turning to a safe form of exercise while other options are not available, The Herald reported. He noted that the National Golf Foundation has reported a nationwide surge, and different groups of people helped fuel that increase at Sultan’s Run.
Younger golfers drove an uptick during the spring when school was out and spring sports were canceled, The Herald reported. The Forest Park boys golf coach said youth rounds are up about 400 rounds year over year. He added that the members have been playing more, and out-of-town groups have been coming to Jasper in recent months as well.
However, not everything has been peachy for Sultan’s Run, The Herald reported.
“We have a food and beverage business here that also includes an events center, and we have been hit pretty hard with that,” he said. “We have seen cancellation of anniversary celebrations, birthdays, weddings, wedding receptions—those kinds of things, and we’ve also seen cancellation of golf events, which, of course, affects our food and beverage component, too.”
Nevertheless, Tretter said the course is doing OK for itself despite that, and both co-owner Steve Braun and he are happy with where things stand, The Herald reported.
In Albuquerque, N.M. Fred Brust, who works in the pro shop at Arroyo del Oso Golf Course, has seen the city course busy, but it hasn’t been this hectic in a long time, the Albuquerque Journal reported. The action at Arroyo and several golf courses in Albuquerque has been non-stop since the courses reopened May 1 after being shut down for a little over a month due to the coronavirus pandemic. There are several guidelines for golfers to follow—now they must wear face coverings at all times—but golf is one of the few activities available at this time. So, golfers are flocking to the courses.
“We’re busier than hell,” Brust said as June came to an end. “Since we reopened, we have been slammed. Sometimes, we don’t have enough tee times.”
Tee times at the city’s municipal courses—Arroyo, Ladera, Los Altos, and Puerto del Sol—are booked throughout the day, the Journal reported. Golfers are calling seven days in advance to schedule a tee time.
At Arroyo, Head Professional Tony Hidalgo said it has been “super busy,” since the golf course reopened in May, the Journal reported. Arroyo saw 10,907 rounds of golf played in May, according to records provided by the city. That’s an increase of more than 3,000 rounds from last year when Arroyo had 7,782 played in May of 2019.
And, it’s not just the city courses, the Journal reported. The public and private courses are totally busy as well and managing a steady flow of golfers each day.
Last year, the city of Albuquerque made a concerted effort to increase rounds at its municipal golf courses, director of parks and recreation Dave Simon told the Journal, as rounds of play were dropping. Business picked up a bit last summer, but the work has been non-stop for staff at golf courses over the past two months.
There would most likely be even more business, but golf courses are adhering to the guideline of starting groups 15 minutes apart, the Journal reported. Golfers also make sure to avoid touching points. Since there can only be one cart per golfer in most cases, all the carts are out by midday at most golf courses in Albuquerque.
Local pros said the heavy business is a silver lining during a strange year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Journal reported.
“Even days that were slower in the past are very busy for us now,” said Colby Reddoch, the Head Professional at Los Altos Golf Course. “The tee times go late into the afternoon. We typically slow down later in the day, but that’s not the case now. The tee times go till 5 or 6 o’clock.”
Before golf courses were shut down in March, Ladera typically experienced a lull in business from 2-5 p.m. on most days, Head Professional Bill Harvey told the Journal, but that is not the case now.
“We’re packed till 5 o’clock every day,” Harvey said. “That’s a good thing. Golf is so great for mental health. It’s a good release to be outside and in a safe environment. I think it’s very important.”
Harvey said the staff at Ladera has had to work longer hours since reopening, the Journal reported.
“At this point, that’s a good trade-off,” he said. “The people are glad to be working.”
At Puerto del Sol, General Manager Mark McFall told the Journal he is seeing record numbers with the amount of rounds played since the golf course reopened in May. Puerto saw 8,912 rounds played in May and June combined, up from the 6,711 rounds played in those two months in 2019.
“This is easily the best business we’ve had in at least the past six years,” McFall said. “Our driving range has seen very good business, too.”
Puerto del Sol has a night range. The last ball is sold at 9:30 p.m., McFall told the Journal, with the range closing at 10 p.m. He said some golfers stay right to the end.
Golfers in Utah have had to face crowded tee sheets, too, the Provo Daily Herald reported. The lure of being able to compete outdoors while social distancing have sent large numbers of golfer to the courses this year. Since only four golfers can start every 10 minutes, sometimes it has been tough to find a slot.
Golden Holt, who owns the Links at Sleepy Ridge golf course in Orem, Utah, told the Daily Herald reported in a phone interview earlier in July that it’s been a busy time.
“For Sleepy Ridge golf and Utah County in general, it’s been really good,” Holt said. “We follow government guidelines like everyone should, but we never got into the strict lockdown mode. There were other places where they couldn’t golf or had so many restrictions. That pushed a lot of golfers to Utah County.”
Holt said he has talked with the people who run other Utah Valley golf courses and the surge has been felt everywhere, the Daily Herald reported.
“Just about everywhere is up this year,” Holt said. “For us, the golf has been really good.”
Efforts to help golfers feel comfortable and safe, combined with excellent weather, created great golfing conditions, the Daily Herald reported.
“We had the perfect spring where it wasn’t very rainy,” Holt said. “We had a congregation of golfers that we had to manage in a COVID way.”
He told the Daily Herald he’s loved having golfers come to his course and experience what it has to offer.
“I love having them experience coming up the 18th fairway and seeing the clubhouse and Mount Timpanogos,” Holt said. “We love to expand our base of golfers. We’ve had people come to Sleepy Ridge who haven’t before and that’s good for business. You want everyone to have a go at your course like they do at other good courses in the state.”
But he said the best part has been sitting in his office and watching golfers complete their round, the Daily Herald reported.
“It’s everything I want golf to be,” Holt said. “They are smiling, they’re happy, they give someone a fist-bump. It’s just good to see people doing that. I’ve enjoyed that golf has been a refuge, a place where young and old alike can come out and be with their friends and enjoy a sport.”