‘Nothing else to do’: Leisure golf in Peoria has thrived through the pandemic

'Nothing else to do': Recreational golf in Peoria has thrived during the pandemic

PEORIA — Elevated participation within the sport of golf nationally and within the Peoria space has proved a small silver lining because the coronavirus pandemic continues.

Rounds of play within the nation have been up considerably over June via September final yr, based on a report from Golftech. Will increase have been 13.9% in June, 19.7% in July, 20.6 % in August and 25.5% in September.

In all, 37 million extra rounds have been performed throughout these 4 months.

It’s been an enormous increase for an business that has been faltering for the previous decade. Coinciding with the autumn of Tiger Woods and an uneven economic system, rounds have steadily declined, inflicting tons of of programs to shut, together with Donovan and Detweiler in Peoria.

“As dangerous as this pandemic has been throughout the board for everyone, it was the shot of adrenaline golf wanted, to be sincere,” mentioned Peoria Park District golf director Greg Walker. “Going into June, rounds (at Kellogg, Newman and Madison) have been down 45% yr over yr. However by the top of September, we have been up 8% complete over our earlier yr. We haven’t seen most of these numbers for rounds of golf because the early 2000s. And this October will beat final October most likely by 30%.”

The rise was felt at higher-end programs within the space as properly. Coyote Creek has proven an uptick of 10-15 % in rounds over final yr, even with none being performed for a five-week interval within the spring when the course was closed.

“One distinction was we didn’t have many outings, however we had much more common play,” mentioned Coyote Creek professional John Kohler. “Individuals couldn’t journey and had extra free time on the weekends. And we noticed an enormous demand for pull carts, classes and newbie golf equipment for the intermediate or newbie golfers.”

The golf golf equipment at each Weaver Ridge and Metamora Fields have been up 15-20% from final yr in rounds performed from July onward, based on Darrell Smock, the pinnacle professional at Weaver and assistant at Metamora Fields.

“April and Could have been null and void, however starting in July, it’s been good,” Smock mentioned. “We’ve had a variety of new golfers popping out. We’ve had a variety of fathers/sons, moms/daughters most likely as a result of individuals have been working straight at house and needed to spend time with their youngsters.”

Smock mentioned Weaver Ridge didn’t conduct a junior golf program this yr, however began a brand new golfer program in July.

“Each Sunday we did clinics and had a $10 particular for a rental set and a bucket of balls,” he mentioned. “I do know programs that did have a junior program did properly as a result of so many summer season actions have been canceled. Baseball, soccer and summer season camps have been canceled. So all people was looking for one thing for his or her youngsters to do they usually moved them over to golf.”

Contemplating Illinois programs have been ordered closed in March by the governor and most didn’t re-open for weeks — after which with social distancing restrictions limiting golfers on the course — it was a surprising turnaround. However not such a shock, on reflection.

“There are lots of issues that contributed to the curiosity,” Walker mentioned. “First, there was nothing else to do. To get out of the home and do one thing, you have been taking part in golf. We noticed an enormous improve in households popping out taking part in golf. It didn’t harm that every one three programs have been in phenomenal form your entire summer season. The income is nice for the golf price range. Going into subsequent yr, we’re trying to proceed to capitalize on what we did this yr.”

That may embody advertising to households and new golfers to proceed their newfound curiosity within the sport.

“Golf (embraces) one of many park district pillars of well being and wellness,” Walker mentioned. “Individuals aren’t comfy going (indoors) to the fitness center. In case you’re used to staying lively by going to the fitness center, strolling 18 holes is fairly lively.”

Whereas the Park District golf venues won’t ever once more method the all-time excessive of 225,000 rounds established 20 years in the past (with two fewer programs), Walker did see similarities to what he was instructed {the golfing} scene was like on the flip of the century.

“I can let you know our parking tons are so much fuller so much later into the day than they’ve been within the 4 years I’ve been right here,” he mentioned. “Our programs typically have been packed (lately) from 6:30-1 p.m. This yr, we have been packed stable from 6:30 a.m-6 p.m. That’s the way in which it was (20 years in the past).”

Golf programs in Illinois and past are hoping the resurgence within the sport will proceed as soon as the pandemic subsides.

Dave Reynolds may be reached at dreynolds@pjstar.com. Comply with him on Twitter at davereynolds2.

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