It was hard to find a silver lining in the coronavirus pandemic that infected 20 million worldwide, took more than 155,000 lives across the USA, and damaged economies worldwide. It affected nearly everyone on the planet to some degree. In our communities, though, we found outlets. One silver lining in those darkest days of 2020 Covid proved to shine brightly for golf in Minnesota.
Golf didn’t provide an antidote for the complications of COVID in 2020, but it did provide an escape, however temporary, and it was one of few activities people could pursue in relative safety, at a social distance, outside and across hundreds of acres.
The Minnesota Golf Association and Explore Minnesota Golf Alliance worked collaboratively behind the scenes – with support from the state’s other golf organizations – to get courses reopened after an initial shutdown in March and subsequent stop-and-starts amid vaguely-worded government directives.
When courses did reopen at the end of April, demand was strong. There were changes, to be sure – foam noodles in the cups, no touching the flagstick, masks worn in clubhouses, large outings canceled, limited food and beverage options – but golfers adapted quickly and filled tee sheets. Play was up 15 percent across America and over 30 percent here in Minnesota, which is a tribute to not only the passion for golf but to the quality of the courses and experiences our courses provide, especially the premier courses of Explore Minnesota Golf Alliance.
Minnesota saw an undeniable uptick with new golfers, and our courses and golf resorts are preparing for the return of the hordes of visiting golfers. 2020 was good for golf. It’s an easy game to play while being socially distanced, as you are outside on expansive pieces of property. Golf became a safe haven, a place to get out and enjoy recreation. People were working from home and not commuting, which gave them some more time to play. People who haven’t touched a club in years were back playing, and new golfers discovered the enjoyment of golf plus the family experience of golf exploded. It’s been boom, boom, boom since the COVID onset.
Existing golfers played more. People worked from home – a lot of people worked from their golf carts! According to reports from the National Golf Foundation (NGF), nationwide rounds were up by 15 percent for 2020. An October NGF report said, “… A major drop in precipitation helped fuel a 46% September rounds increase in Minnesota.” Seemingly golf was exceedingly popular in Minnesota with super weather for their fantastic courses.
So, what happens when the pandemic subsides? Do you think this surge in interest will be sustained? We know some folks in business and society are suffering, and we’re very sympathetic to that. Golf will not solve many of the problems they face. We understand that. But truly, for our game, we can’t lose sight of the benefit. As the pandemic dissolves, these golfers will seek new experiences, namely travel for golf.
Especially now, fulfilling a bucket list is a powerful motivator for golfers! Plus the courses of Explore Minnesota Golf Alliance are distributed throughout the state and away from the hectic hustle and bustle of city life.
The golf industry cannot say whether the increased demand during the pandemic will continue due to other factors, such as the recession and the costs of installing safety procedures. However, the golf industry may be able to capitalize on the increasing interest from new golfers as vaccines are administered, safety protocols are lifted, and economic conditions improve.
At the premier courses of Explore Minnesota Golf Alliance, we are prepared to welcome visitors back in the short and long-term. Our premier destination-style golf courses/resorts members are well away from the hectic congestion of major city life and have initiatives in place to attract and capture traveling golfers as the pandemic restrictions subside. We’re optimistic that golf will be great again in Minnesota for 2021.
In 2021, multi-generational escapes and long suppressed big “bucket list” trips are likely to be in high demand, with people wanting to fulfill that trip which was deferred in 2020 or stimulated by golf’s revived popularity. The very real impact of the pandemic has forced us to embrace a new normal. It’s natural that travelers will seek out escapes where they feel more comfortable engaging in a safe environment – GOLF COURSES! No one can be certain what the immediate future holds, though promising vaccines were on the horizon at the end of the year.
Who knows what 2021 will bring but we think there’s every reason to be optimistic? So, come visit the State of Golf.