Golf season off to a busy start with coronavirus, good weather

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Folks sick of sitting at home while waiting out the coronavirus pandemic are turning to golf as a recreational outlet that lets them get out of the house while still keeping away from crowds of other people.

Despite enhanced safety measures on the links and closed clubhouses, courses across the country have experienced steady traffic as golf was one of the lone sports able to be played in groups while governments vamped up stay-at-home orders and economic shutdowns.

And although Sioux Falls never shut down or forced people to stay home, courses here are also seeing more rounds played by golfers than in a typical year.

More: Here’s why Mayor TenHaken decided to keep the pools closed

While weather deserves some of the credit, officials with Sioux Falls Golf and GreatLife Golf and Fitness say many people are using golf as a safe way to get outdoors with friends and family while so many other recreations are off the table.

“Golf has been a great ‘go-to’ for many people with other options unavailable and deemed unsafe while the golf industry has modified what we do and continued to be open and safe,” said Justin Arlt, general manager for Sioux Falls Golf, the company that operates the city of Sioux Falls’ public golf courses.

At the city courses — Prairie Green, Elmwood and Kuehn Park — nearly 8,300 rounds were played in March and April compared to 5,900 rounds over the same period last year.

It’s the same story at the GreatLife network of courses where rounds played are up 24% for the year.

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GreatLife President Nick Ovenden said through May 21, 9,962 rounds have been played on his courses compared to 8,035 last year over the same time.

“We’ve definitely seen more people come out than we have had in the past,” he said. “And we’re seeing a lot of new faces.”

While the courses themselves have been busy, the social distancing measures put in places have hurt revenues. Clubhouse operations were scaled back in March when the pandemic started. That meant food and beverage as well as pro shop sales are down.

Ovenden said revenue from that portion of the GreatLife courses’ operations is down 26% for the year, though he expects he’s not alone in that regard.

“Every company is feeling that right now,” he said.

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