WATERLOO AREA — The bleak extended weather forecast might suggest otherwise, but the local golf season is right around the corner.
A survey of area golf course operators suggests public facilities could be open by April 1 or sooner, although most say the wait will be slightly longer.
Conestogo-based GolfNorth Properties posted an upbeat message on its website, saying 12 of its courses will tentatively open next Friday, including Dundee, Gray Silo, Rebel Creek, Conestoga, Beaverdale, Brookfield, Foxwood and RiverEdge.
By comparison, Brookfield opened on March 19 last year, followed the next day by Rebel Creek and Conestoga.
“The long-term outlook doesn’t look good but, at this point, that’s (opening April 1) the plan,” GolfNorth vice president Mike Turner said.
“We’re ready to go, just waiting for the weather to cooperate.”
Cambridge Golf Club is also hoping to start the season next week – “No date set…probably before April 1,” said co-owner Chris Miranda – while others are weeks away.
Fraser Stalkie of Merry-Hill, Ben Davies of Puslinch, Jeremy Logel of Elmira and Chris Rusk of Savannah Golf Links offered April 15 as a tentative date.
Bob Cheyne thinks the City of Kitchener will open Doon Valley and Rockway by April 20.
“Our goal is to ensure that the golf course opens in the best possible playing conditions this spring. Our current target is around April 15 but, if the opportunity arises, we may open earlier,” said Merry-Hill COO Stalkie.
“In 2021, favorable weather conditions allowed us to open earlier than at any time in over 50 years. We opened the course on March 23 and were closed by provincial lockdown on April 17. »
The COVID-19 shutdown remained in effect until May 21, but that wasn’t enough to prevent the golf industry from enjoying its second straight year of massive growth.
The National Golf Course Owners Association Canada said the sport continued to experience significant growth in 2021. Rounds played were 9.1% above all-time highs in 2020 and 24.1% above average five-year.
All regions recorded growth in the second year of the pandemic, with Quebec leading the way with a dramatic increase of 22.9% in 2021 over the previous year.
Ontario was at the bottom of the scale with growth of 2.9%, but it was the only region that had to face a five-week shutdown. Still, the number of rounds played in that province was 18.5% above the five-year average.
There’s no way of knowing if the boom will continue this year, but respondents agree it’s important to take nothing for granted and remember pre-pandemic struggles.
“We expect another busy golf season very similar to the last two seasons. We’ve been given a ‘gift’ with the recent attendance boom, and we’re working hard to welcome new faces and provide our customers with the best day-to-day experience possible,” said Rusk, Savannah’s Chief Golf Professional. . .
“While tee sheets are likely to be full no matter how a course is organized in the short term, course owners and operators cannot take this gift for granted. A good tee time range, exceptional staff, a focus on pace and an overall excellent value proposition to the consumer should be at the forefront of operations. Coupons, third-party sellers, and empty tee sheets were our reality until recently.
Davies, the managing director of Puslinch, agrees.
“We expect another busy season. As horrific as the pandemic has been, it has been tremendous for the growth of golf. Everyone and their neighbor have picked up the game to some extent over the past couple of years and I think we’ll continue to see packed tee sheets until dusk,” he said.
The recent relaxation of COVID-19 safety precautions in Ontario means clubhouses will once again be operating at full capacity and masks are optional in the pro shop. Classes will continue to remind players to practice physical distancing when possible, and regular disinfection of carts and common areas will remain in place. Some will continue to ask screening questions.
“As always, we will be following the advice of provincial and regional health authorities and, with the lifting of restrictions, we certainly look forward to providing a more ‘normal’ golf experience for anyone who plays at Rockway or Doon golf courses. Valley,” said Cheyne, director of sport and golf development in Kitchener.
“We really look forward to welcoming back our regular golfers and we certainly hope that these new golfers and golfers who have returned to the game during the pandemic will continue to enjoy getting out and playing here at Kitchener Golf.”
Whether or not that happens is the million dollar question.
“Time will tell,” Miranda said.