Summer of Golf – Swinging Surge: Local golf courses enjoy post-pandemic boom in popularity

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By Zach Cavanagh

For those who have homes along the San Clemente Municipal Golf Course, Shorecliffs Golf Club, or San Juan Hills Golf Club, if you thought there had been a torrid increase in golf balls hitting your windows and your walls, you hear nothing.

There are now more golfers than ever in the United States, as the sport has seen an undeniable boom over the past two years.

The silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic were rare, but golf unexpectedly gained a shred of them. Pandemic restrictions have caused most activities or places to stay to close, but golf courses have reopened rapidly in 2020, as a socially distanced outdoor recreation activity.

Interest increased almost immediately.

“We didn’t have enough parking spaces in the parking lot,” Monarch Beach Golf Links General Manager Eric Lohman said. “It was crazy. I had never seen it before. People book for weeks. Demand seemed to grow overnight.

According to the National Golf Foundation, 2021 set a record with 3.2 million people playing golf for the very first time, with more than 3 million also trying the sport in 2020. Both records surpassed the previous record of 2, 4 million in 2000 at the height of the Tiger Woods boom.

Juniors entering the sport jumped 24% in 2020, which remained flat in 2021 and was the biggest increase in the number of junior golfers since 1997, the year Tiger Woods won his first Masters.

“Every demographic group has grown,” Lohman said. “Women, children, minorities, millennials. People who had never been out before.

In 2021, 37.5 million Americans played golf on a golf course or off course at a driving range, simulator or entertainment venue such as Topgolf. Of the 25.1 million people who played golf on a course in 2021, more than 6 million were women for the second year in a row and the first two years since 2007.

Look for these clubs at a local golf course this summer, and you might find this writer on a golf trip. Photo: Zach Cavanagh


Look no further for an example of this boom than the author of this story.

I had played sparingly here and there over the years, my greatest (and only) achievement being the golf merit badge when I was a scout. After the closings and with little else to do, a few of my friends who were regular golfers convinced me and other members of our team to join them for a weekend, and I I said, of course, why not? I still had a set of clubs. What did I have to lose?

Apparently what I had to lose was many weekend hours ahead, money on balls, clothes and equipment, and patience on the days when I was still learning and that I could barely get the ball out of the teebox. (Note: I’m still learning a lot, and although I can make contact, it’s still not very far, even if it goes more or less straight.)

Basically, I had a new regular hobby, and like many, I was hooked.

Now, with two years of regular play and a few lessons under my belt, I’m ready to publicly display my below-average abilities in this “Summer of Golf” series in the San Clemente time, Dana Point time and The Capistrano Dispatch.

During the rest of the summer, I will be playing a Southern Orange County tour of public courses in our area. The idea behind this series is to showcase some of the best public courses in the world and detail the experience of playing these courses through the eyes of the average new golfer who has joined the ranks of the sport amid this rise in popularity.

Check this space weekly and follow my journey to maybe top 100 for the first time. See you on the links!

Zach Cavanagh

Zach Cavanagh is the sportswriter for Picket Fence Media. Zach is a multiple California Journalism Award winner and has been covering sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports. Email to [email protected].

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Michael C. Ford