'It just hasn't slowed down': Interest in golf booms in Sask. during pandemic, even with snow still on ground

·4 min read
Golf boomed last summer during the pandemic. Now indoor golf options in Saskatchewan have had a banner year.
Golf boomed last summer during the pandemic. Now indoor golf options in Saskatchewan have had a banner year.

(Greg Huszar - image credit)

With the weather warming up and people itching to get outside, some golfers in Saskatchewan aren't even waiting for the spring melt.

"Our demands been pretty crazy. We've been very busy, especially this last month," said Jonathan Equina, operations manager at the Ramada Golf Dome in Saskatoon.

The Golf Dome opened in September and bookings started getting busy in October. After a closure due to the roof collapsing during a severe winter storm, the facility is back open and business has been booming.

"When it comes down to it, there's not a lot of other things to do right now," Equina said. "We're probably a lot busier than previous years."

It's a common theme around the province, Golf Saskatchewan's director of communications Clark Stork said. Indoor golf venues have been booked up all winter, he said, whether it's driving ranges like the Golf Dome or simulators like First Tee Golf.

"It just hasn't slowed down," Stork said. "You're also building on the momentum of people that really rejuvenated their game or fell in love with it for the first time this summer."

To reduce the number of surfaces people touch at golf courses in 2020, flags had to remain in place and cups are elevated, so the ball does not drop into the hole.
To reduce the number of surfaces people touch at golf courses in 2020, flags had to remain in place and cups are elevated, so the ball does not drop into the hole.

He said people who would usually be in places like Arizona or Palm Springs for the winter are typically staying home, meaning there's more demand for indoor places.

"We needed it. Our courses are only open six months of the year, max," Stork said. "It's a spin off for businesses. It's an economic impact. It's jobs in communities."

2020 started off turbulent: Golf Sask

Stork said looking back at the pandemic 2020 season, golfers were lucky because they had time to prepare from when the pandemic hit in March. Courses were able to open with restrictions around mid-May.

"It's just fantastically turned into a phenomenal season because once the weather turned around, the weather was great all year and there weren't a lot of things for people to do. So they either renewed their love for golf or they tried golf for the first time," Stork said.

Stork anticipates the momentum to continue, especially if the 2021 restrictions are the same as last year.

"Now, all the golf courses know and they can have a plan. And everyone who goes golfing knows exactly how it's going to work as well," Stork said. "I think now they're ready … ready for a big year."

Ryan Wells hopes to capitalize as well. Wells is the new golf pro at Elk Ridge Resort near Waskesiu.

"It's amazing to see more people picking up the game than ever," Wells said.

Ryan Wells is hoping the interest in golf continues into 2021 and beyond. Wells is the new golf pro at Elk Ridge Resort near Waskesiu.
Ryan Wells is hoping the interest in golf continues into 2021 and beyond. Wells is the new golf pro at Elk Ridge Resort near Waskesiu.

Wells said reservations are set to open March 1 and he anticipates being overwhelmed with bookings. He said while there has been a boom of interest during the pandemic, he hopes people will continue enjoying the sport for many years to come.

"Just the ability to be a little bit free, freedom to enjoy nature," Wells said. "You can still socialize. You can still have a group of four golfing. I think just being outdoors and being active is why golf is coming out ahead during this pandemic."

Mental health benefits of being in nature helps during pandemic: golfers

Beyond being social while being able to remain physically distant, Stork said there's a mental health aspect to the game during a global pandemic.

"What better than to walk around on acres and acres of beautiful greenery. Listen to the birds chirp, look at a water fountain, walk," he said. "Be able to see people that you haven't seen for a long time."

Stork said the mental benefits of being outside playing are endless, and if people choose to walk between holes there are physical benefits as well.

Equina agreed, saying staff at the Golf Dome have especially been trying to stay open for the seniors in the community. He said they have seniors coming in daily to keep moving and stay active.

"At the end of the day, physically and mentally, you know, that could take a toll if people can't really do a lot of the things … [the dome is] something different that they can focus on that's just not the pandemic."