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Many golf courses around the country were closed for play starting in March, including those here in New Mexico. Nearly all of our courses opened May 1, thanks to the efforts of several golf-related organizations, most notably the Sun Country Section of the PGA of America, along with PGA consultant and Las Cruces resident Dave Kimble, who has just been named New Mexico Amateur Golfer of the Year for 2020.
Yet another indicator of how golf is doing is the fact that, nationwide, 99 percent of golf courses are open for play, albeit with some adjustment and concessions to social distancing and contact protection.
Many clubhouse amenities and services, including pubs and restaurants, have not yet opened or are operating on a limited basis. Naturally, the number of golf rounds played in March and April decreased by 20 million, compared to 2019, but there was a major increase in May and June, almost making up the deficit.
The National Golf Foundation reports that, based on current trends, 2020 could actually see even slightly more rounds than 2019, despite the pandemic. And the non-profit group, Youth on Course, reports that golf rounds YTD for kids ages 6 to 17 are up 80 percent compared to last year, with people of color accounting for one-quarter of those rounds.
So what about the future? My research indicates that things are looking quite positive. Golf has been able to adapt and adjust to a somewhat new reality. Golf fits well with the premium on “safe” activities outdoors, which makes it more attractive. More nine-hole rounds are being played than ever before.
Local golf courses are more available to people working at home and with flex hours. Some see golf taking advantage of health benefits with time-saving shorter versions involving six holes, nine holes and practice sessions. Golf epitomizes “a walk in the park.” And golf is ideally suited for social distancing, as courses typically cover 100 to 200 acres; that’s less than one golfer per acre at a time, where folks enjoy open space and fresh air without crowding.
However, the fact remains that many facilities depend on food and beverage revenues, especially events for large gatherings (like post tournament receptions, weddings, meetings, etc.), to be profitable.
Who knows when, or in what form, these types of events may return? Regular dining, if it’s continuing to be available, is going to be at reduced capacity, whether inside or outside, for some time to come.
Dr. Charlie Blanchard is a licensed psychologist specializing in sports and leadership. Contact him at email@example.com.