How the pandemic reinvigorated suburban golf

How the pandemic reinvigorated suburban golf

For almost a decade, many publicly owned suburban golf programs hardly ever met income targets and needed to depend on extra tax {dollars} to cowl prices.

Then got here the pandemic.



“We positively had yr,” stated Dave Peterson, government director of the Dundee Township Park District. “It far exceeded what we did final yr. And I would say even going again 5 years, that is in all probability the perfect yr we have had, and that is even with the month of Could once we had been solely letting two (golfers) exit at a time.”

Peterson stated golf revenues by way of September on the district’s two programs have exceeded budgeted income targets by 20%, and the variety of rounds performed exceeded the district’s anticipated quantity by the identical margin.

As curiosity within the sport waned considerably after a growth within the Nineties, publicly owned golf programs all through the suburbs noticed a resurgence this yr as a result of it was one of many few athletic actions allowed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I feel this actually put a highlight on the sport of golf, and we imagine it was bringing out individuals who had by no means golfed earlier than,” stated Brian Meyer, director of recreation and amenities on the Arlington Heights Park District. “I feel it appealed to lots of people who both needed to participate in one thing new or have some sense of normalcy.”



Meyer stated the district, which operates an 18-hole course and nine-hole course, has seen 6,000 extra rounds of golf performed this yr than in 2019, and its golf revenues are up roughly $300,000 over the place they had been anticipated to be.

That is a typical chorus at different publicly owned programs. “We had been in a position to exceed funds in simply 5 months’ time,” stated Kevin Carlson, director of golf on the Naperville Park District. “With the restrictions on different leisure alternatives, golf definitely benefitted.”

Many golfers nonetheless working from residence, somewhat than conventional workplace areas, has solely elevated their skills to get in a spherical this yr.

“That has had an enormous function,” stated Alex Eichman, superintendent of golf course administration operations on the Lake County Forest Protect District. “Golfers have informed us that every one season. Extra folks working from residence means extra versatile schedules for a lot of staff, and meaning extra time for golf.”

The season often begins in March for a lot of suburban programs, however the pandemic primarily shut down all leisure alternatives all through the state. It wasn’t till Could that state officers allowed golf programs to reopen, after which it was with extreme capability limitations.



Golf programs did not have the identical restrictions in Indiana and Wisconsin. However as soon as June arrived, the state of Illinois loosened restrictions on golf programs and the golfers arrived in droves.

The Lake County Forest Protect District’s golf operations at its 4 18-hole programs at three golf equipment had barely damaged even the earlier two years, in line with its annual audits. This yr, they’re already someplace between 25% and 30% above funds expectations.

“Golf is a sport that is very straightforward to socially distance your self from others,” Eichman stated. “This has given golf the shot within the arm golf wanted, and it is our job to maintain that enthusiasm going.”

Rory Spears, host of Golfers on Golf Radio on WCPT 820-AM, stated the game ought to be capable to maintain the renewed curiosity. He cited a Golf Digest report noting how July had bested a 13-year-old golf gear gross sales document, with retailers reporting $388.6 million in gross sales of balls, golf equipment and different objects.

“If you do not have folks spending a ton of cash on different actions and occasions, they’ll have the time and sources to play golf,” Spears stated. “And who is aware of what is going on to occur subsequent spring?”

But, whereas golf has seen a growth, different park district actions have gone bust. The extra income being created by the golf resurgence is not sufficient to cowl losses elsewhere.

“We have eradicated 5 positions,” Dundee Township Park District’s Peterson stated. “We’re really forward financially as a result of although we did not open up our aquatic heart this summer season, it saved us about $100,000 (in personnel prices) as a result of that program is sponsored by tax {dollars}.”

In Arlington Heights, Meyer stated 400 workers members had been furloughed at one level and the district has skilled layoffs as effectively.

Unbudgeted prices for security gear and cleansing provides incurred by most golf operations ate into any earnings.

However it was such yr for golf, even the climate cooperated. A reasonably dry spring and gentle summer season helped maintain the hyperlinks open with larger frequency than golfers had skilled over the previous two years, specialists agreed. And golf officers reported few issues with golfer habits as tee instances booked up and the programs crammed with golfers.

“There are lots of people who I do know who stated to me that if it takes 5 hours, that is nice as a result of I am bored with being cooped up in my home,” Spears stated. “And so they’re out someplace the place you do not have to put on a masks. I feel all people was simply glad to be exterior.”


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