Local golf course owners believe pent up demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic may lead to high demand for the sport.
LANSING, Mich. – As greater Lansing golf courses reopen for the spring, college students, newcomers and returnees to the game have once again begun to flock to courses all over Mid-Michigan.
It’s been obvious to course owners, especially during the last two springs as they’ve seen more and more people come back and to the game. A report from the Detroit News noted that rounds played were up by 1% from 2019 in 2020. A similar boom could occur this spring.
“A lot of brand new golfers and a lot of people who had played some golf in the past but came back to it (in) huge numbers,” J.C. Petersen, owner of Indian Hills Golf Course in Okemos said. “Obviously there wasn’t a lot of things available to people to do, they were eager to do things outside … Tee times are a must now at virtually all golf courses, where it used to be you’d be able to just kind of walk out there as long as you avoided the best times but yeah you see it (more numbers) in every which way.”
Petersen has owned Indian Hills for more than 30 years and came to the Lansing area to attend Michigan State University in 1974. He’s no stranger to the ups and downs of involvement in the game – the spikes seen as Tiger Woods’ career exploded and the post-Masters weekends where hundreds take to the links in Michigan are examples of that.
“Well I like it from both ends. Obviously financially, from a business point of view, it’s good and it’s relief,” Petersen said. “Golf had slipped a little bit in the past decade or so but also yes its sort of enriching to see all these people having such a good time doing something you know has always been (a) wonderful experience.”
The greater Lansing area is home to more than 15 courses. MSU has its own set of holes too: Forest Akers East & West Golf Courses, with 18 holes at their East and West locations in East Lansing.
“It’s been phenomenal, it’s been great. We’ve been extremely busy, we’ve been open 31 days already this year,” said Bill Mory, a PGA Professional and owner of Meridian Sun Golf Club in Haslett, about reopening for the spring.
Mory said their rounds were up 30% last year at Meridian Sun and early indications tell him that his year will be a “banner year” for rounds played, youth program registrations and lessons.
“The game needs people playing,” Mory said. “The game needs people trying it, and learning it, and enjoying it, and you know I think golf is a social game so it's a game where you're out there with people over a long period of time being able to really enjoy your friendships and camaraderie.”
Mory, like Petersen, has been around the game for more than 30 years. He understands the game, while frustrating for beginners and simple for veterans – Petersen believes its something that needs to be introduced the right way for this boom of new players and participation to continue.
“It just needs people to get introduced to it in the proper way because you can get almost anything out of golf that you want,” Petersen said. “If you’re competitive or want a challenge, no problem. If you just want exercise, want a chance to meditate? You can do that. You just want to get out with friends and have fun? It’s pretty much whatever you want it to be. But it can be a difficult sport to get introduced to.”
“It can be a little challenging at first, it takes some money, some equipment, it takes some time, it takes somebody that you know well that’s already a golfer generally. But COVID has sort of broken those barriers down,” Petersen explained.
While the game was in the water at times during the last five years, the COVID-19 pandemic, in some ways, has brought more people to the game due to its socially distanced nature, outdoor venues and ease of access.
“We expect to be another busy season and fun year for sure,” Mory said.