Updated: September 25, 2020 06:24 PM
Created: September 25, 2020 05:51 PM
Golf courses throughout Minnesota are enjoying their best golf season in about 20 years.
The number of rounds of golf played in August across the state is up 21.5% compared to last year, according to Golf Datatech.
"Definitely probably the most amazing season I've ever been through as a golf professional," said Mark Foley, a golf professional at Keller Golf Course in Maplewood. "We're at capacity, we run out of tee times from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. We're sold out literally every day here."
Gov. Tim Walz allowed golf courses to reopen in mid-April, and even though they lost about a month of their season at the start of the pandemic, many will finish the year with strong numbers.
"We thought we'd be 20-30% down and we're going to end 25-30% up," Foley said. "Nobody saw this coming."
Foley said beautiful weather and protocols surrounding social distancing contributed to the increase in golf activity.
"You naturally social distance when you play golf," said Warren Ryan, communications director with the Minnesota Golf Association. "You go to the tee, you hit your ball and everybody goes their separate ways because nobody hits the ball in the same place. Plus, golf is a relatively touchless experience. If there are no rakes in the bunker and you don't touch the flagstick, all you touch is your own golf equipment and your golf ball."
Warren said Minnesota's numbers are slightly above the national average. In August, Datatech reported U.S. golf rounds were up 20.6%.
"Golf basically exploded in May, June, July and August," Ryan said. "And it's also been an explosion of golf for kids."
Ryan said record numbers of young people got out on the links in Minnesota this summer. The Minnesota Golf Association's statewide Youth on Course program has about 11,000 participants this year, compared to 4,700 last year. Ryan said the program allows young people ages 6 to 18 years old to play golf at a significantly discounted price. They pay $15 to join and then can golf for $5 or less at 90 golf courses throughout the state. To learn more about the program or donate to it, click here.
"It's a pipeline for new golfers. Young people who pick up the game in their youth are more likely to play it as adults, so that's good," Ryan said.
He said it appears adults who have never golfed before are also getting into the sport this year.
"Golf equipment sales in the U.S. are up 32%, so what that means is there are more new people buying golf equipment," Ryan explained. "Retail sales of golf bags were up 55% as well, so that would indicate to me that a new golfer buys a set of clubs and they need a golf bag to put those clubs in, so those are good signs."
Foley said he has also noticed more women and couples golfing this summer.
He expects the positive trends to continue into the fall.
"Even when we've had marginal weather days, our golf course has been packed. It's been packed even when it’s cold, rainy, windy, doesn't stop them. I don’t foresee fall slowing down," Foley said. "It's a great thing. I hope we go to Christmas."
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