Golf courses during the pandemic year of 2020 lost most of their tournaments and other money-making events, but still stayed solidly on the fairway financially.

That is because golf, an outdoor sport where participants don’t have to mash together, is considered a relatively safe activity. A huge number of men and women otherwise cooped up much of the year eagerly took advantage.

“We almost doubled the number of rounds from our best previous year,” said Dellwood Country Club general manager Dennis Countryman. “The golf course was a great place for members to get away from the stress of dealing with COVID.”

Several revenue streams declined steeply — such as hosting weddings, swimming pool use and special golf events — but the amount of golf being played exploded. Countryman predicted next year will also be very good.

“With golf being such a safe place, a lot of people were introduced to golf, or re-introduced, this year. We expect this to be the biggest increase in people playing golf since the Tiger Boom, second-only to that,” he said, referring to the surge in popularity of the sport after Tiger Woods became its biggest star in the late 1990’s.

Chomonix Golf Course in Lino Lakes had a “record year for revenue,” said Mark Johnson, golf operations manager.

Johnson reported that rounds played rose 42% over 2019, club membership increased and everything in the pro shop was sold out. Chomonix and many other clubs could not keep up with the demand for golf balls.

One member who works at Golf Galaxy told him that sales for starter sets were “unbelievable.”

“A lot of new people got into paying golf this year,” he said. “We hope that momentum carries into 2021. There are a lot of other activities people could not do this year. I hope things will open up again next year so they can start back up, which could hurt us a little.”

On the downside: “A number of our big events did not happen, and we did not get a lot of inquiries about events.”

Another feature gone most of the summer was Men’s Club, which normally has 120 participants every Thursday evening with shotgun starts. They were not able to start Men’s Club until August, and then with limited numbers. There was no revenue from after-golf socializing and dinner.

Jon Hatcher, head golf professional at Oneka Ridge Golf Club in Hugo, reports that close to 40,000 rounds were played. “It did go up,” Hatcher said.

Oneka held eight tournaments, but on a “very limited basis, on a very scaled-down version,” he said. Asked how they fared financially overall, he said only that “it was a good year.”

Looking ahead, he said, “I think the outlook is good. 2020 brought a lot of new golfers out to the club, so any new people that are brought to the game is a positive.”

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