MILWAUKEE - Golf courses reopened to the public nearly a year ago as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, and 2020 proved to be a good year for the business.
Despite courses closing early in 2020, play eventually matched and exceeded that of 2019 nationally once reopening. For Milwaukee County Parks, rounds played totaled 320,000 -- a 31% increase.
"We saw an incredible increase in rounds in 2020," said Joe Mrozinski with Milwaukee County Parks.
Hansen Park in Wauwatosa saw 20,000 rounds -- a 60% increase. The county renovated its clubhouse over the winter.
"We honestly think 2021 is going to be bigger than 2020. We’re seeing a huge influx of golfers this spring, already," said Mrozinski.
Beginners are playing a large part.
"We saw a very good turnout in terms of what we had," said David Cohn, executive director of First Tee of Southeast Wisconsin.
First Tee, which works with 7- to 18-year-olds to learn life skills through golf, is continuing its programming at free and reduced cost this year after seeing increases across the board in 2020 -- particularly in individual programs.
"At Noyes Park and Lake Park, we did see double the registration of those individual registered participants," Cohn said.
"Shorter golf courses that are welcoming to beginners. And I just think the time is right to get more beginners, more women, more diversity into the game," said Joe Stadler, Wisconsin PGA executive director.
Wisconsin PGA also notes that it saw more sellouts for junior tournaments than it had seen before and 15 member tournaments this year are already sold out.
"I think a lot of people rediscovered golf, or discovered it for the first time," Stadler said.
Those in the game now hope trends continue for the sport, even as the pandemic is hopefully brought under control.
Registration for First Tee programs is open.
The increases across the parks system also mean Milwaukee County is still looking to hire more than 200 people for the coming summer.