CANMORE – Golf is booming.
Since mid-May, when the province gave courses the green light to reopen, golfers have flocked to the fairways in record numbers.
“It has been unprecedented. The demand has exceeded supply,” said Darren Cooke, director of golf and general manager of the Canmore Golf and Curling Club. “Thirty-two years I’ve been here and this is definitely one of the more interesting ones.”
Courses throughout the Bow Valley have seen tee times fully booked from dawn till dusk every day of the week for the past few months.
“The afternoons are full and the mornings before eight o’clock are full, that’s something we don’t normally see” said Doug Wood, general manager of Silvertip Resort. “When golf was at its fullest boom time, you would take whatever tee time you could get and that’s what we are back to this year.”
Wood added that this past July was the resort’s best month in the past 10 years and the rest of the season has followed that trend.
Cooke and Wood both believe the drive behind golf’s demand this season is due to the game’s natural social distancing.
“It’s a sport where social distancing is not a problem – some people hit the ball all over the place,” said Cooke. “I think after the lockdown, people were eager to get out and play and to socialize, but feel comfortable at the same time. We have 170 acres here, it’s real easy to spread out.”
Cooke also attributes the demand to a lack of summer camps and safe socially distanced activities for children and families in particular. As a result, he said he has seen an increase in the number junior players out on the course this season.
Some players are just discovering a love for the game, while others are dusting off their old clubs and returning to the links again. Families and couples are also teeing up in large numbers.
“It’s very refreshing to see. The sport needed to be re-energized,” said Wood about seeing different groups of people trying out the game.
Many golf courses have to follow multiple COVID-19 protocols that include the course itself, but also the pro shop, club house and restaurant.
“Our customers have really responded well to the protocols. It’s refreshing to see the attitudes from the very beginning. ‘If this allows me to play what do I have to do?’ They have been very receptive to that,” said Cooke.
Even before golf courses were allowed to reopen, the National Allied Golf Associations (NAGA), which is comprised of various members of the Alberta golf industry, worked with Alberta Health Services (AHS) to establish health protocols to allow golf to open up.
Cooke said his course implemented those health protocols before opening day and continue to follow the latest protocols. He added that since opening, AHS has visited twice to assess to safety at the course and both times were “pleased with what they saw.”
“What started as temporary measures, signage and things, are becoming more permanent fixtures around our facility because we see this being longer term,” said Cooke.
While masks are not mandatory on the course, Wood said he has noticed golfers in the higher risk group arrive at the course wearing masks.
“Golf is one of those lifetime sports. You can play until you’re 75 or 80, so we have seen golfers in that age group wearing masks before and after their rounds.”
Wood said this season has been a lesson in adaptability.
“When COVID hit – you know, who knew? We could have been closed, so in a sense this year is a feel good story.”