By Corey Roberson :: Photography by Terry Vine
Golf has always been a passion for me. I grew up around the game as my dad was the Head Professional and General Manager at our local club in my hometown. I’ve always been drawn to the game; it’s part of my career and it’s something I can enjoy with my wife, Colleen, who also grew up around the game. Golf means something to all of us and I think we can all fall into one or more of the following categories:
• Social Golfer — Players who enjoy the social aspect of the game. Score is less important than spending time with friends and meeting new people.
• Competitive Golfer — Players know exactly what they are shooting throughout the round. They likely enjoy tournament play and/or a friendly wager with buddies.
• Grinder — Players who are focused on improving their skills, are typically curious about the swing and strive to see progress. That progress may come from new clubs, a new teacher or the latest training aid.
• Distraction/Escape — For these players, the game provides a distraction from their daily life. The game allows them to be outside and provides a way to recharge their internal batteries.
Parts of my passion for the game lie in each of these categories. We’ve seen a few interesting trends in play at Cordillera Ranch, across the state of Texas and nationwide in response to COVID-19. In short, a lot of people are being reminded of what they love about the game and some are discovering it for the first time. Golf is one of the few sports you can play outside and with friends while following preventive guidelines — this appeals nicely to the social and distraction golfers. During quarantine, golf is a great escape from the house and a way to safely be around friends. For the avid golfers who fall in the competitive or grinder categories, they have had more time on their hands to play. Normally, they’d be in the office all week and chasing their kids on the weekend. Instead, they’ve been working from home and all the baseball games, dance competitions and karate classes have been canceled.
At our Club, we’ve seen a significant uptick in traffic and demand for the golf course. For example, we eliminated the rental of our cart fleet for four weeks in response to COVID-19 and estimated it would cut our rounds in half. To our surprise, on busy days we would still reach 125 rounds where a normal busy day was 155 rounds. To play, golfers either had to walk or own a private cart. In those four weeks, 61% of our rounds were walking and 25% of total rounds were for 9-holes or less. Normally, we average 8% walkers and 17% as 9-holes or less. The most interesting thing to me was how many people said they enjoyed walking. Many of those people have never walked a round at Cordillera Ranch and normally wouldn’t consider it as an option. Not only were people able to enjoy the game, they were getting some good exercise. Many of the 9-hole rounds were played by fringe golfers — people who play less than one time per month.
We’ve also seen an influx due to the nature and location of our community. A portion of our membership has a primary residence in another city because they are still working or haven’t finished building their home in Cordillera. During the times of quarantine, many of those members fled the heavily populated cities to enjoy the benefits of our Texas Hill Country community. Essentially, more Club members were in town, working from home and looking for reasons to get out of the house.
I’ve talked to a lot of other golf pros in our state and nationally and the common comment is, “we haven’t ever seen this much traffic.” We all acknowledge the flood of players will slow as we progress to a new normal, but I think many will figure out a way to fit golf into their lives permanently. There are so many ways to enjoy the game, it brings people together and it’s played outside. That checks a lot of boxes for many people.
Places like Top Golf are phenomenal for introducing the game in a comfortable and fun environment, but a small percentage of their patrons will turn into frequent golfers. There’s nothing wrong with that and I firmly believe they are growing the game in a positive way. What’s been cool to see during quarantine is how many fringe and lapsed golfers are finding the game in a new way or being reminded of why they used to play. The effect is going to be lasting for the future of the game. It will be exciting to see the long-term impact as people are re-discovering which categories they fall into.
Corey Roberson is the Director of Golf at The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 830.336.4653.