Golf bursts onto the scene in 2020
A wave of new golfers flood Quebec courses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic
Heads up golfers, there’s new competition on the way.
March, April, and the better half of May served as long, grueling months for Quebecers who were virtually on house arrest at the hands of a raging global pandemic.
For sports fans, it was suffocating. With the sports world on an indefinite hiatus, the list of home activities began to run dry as the weeks trickled by in confinement. There’s only so much Netflix one can binge watch, after all.
But, as another exhausting Canadian winter drew to an end, and as we temporarily grasped a hold of the highly contagious virus, there was reason for optimism.
The steady decrease in COVID-19 cases gave the Quebec government the reassurance they needed as they prepared to reopen the province—but not to the fullest.
Team sports, like soccer and baseball, suffered as they remained shelved in the early stages of the relaunch. This, however, allowed for one sport—or hobby as some naysayers refer to it—to emerge through the dark clouds that had settled over the world in the months prior.
A sport that naturally permits social distancing arose to the forefront of a confined society desperately seeking a glimpse of recreational entertainment beyond the walls of their own homes.
In early May, the leaves were sprouting, the grass was growing, and the courses were beginning to take shape.
At Whitlock Golf & Country Club—a private establishment in Hudson, Quebec—the narrow fairways and undulating greens laid lonely and lifeless. The club permitted its members to walk the 27-hole course as they awaited the opening, but that was as far as the action would go.
At that point, all that separated the glorious sound of a golf club striking a ball into the carpet-like fairways—or the woods, as I know it—was governmental approval, which came shortly thereafter.
On May 13, the junior minister of education and minister for the status of women, Isabelle Charest, announced that as of May 20, individual non-contact sports were permitted to resume.
The sun rose on that Wednesday morning in May, and the rest is history; golf was back.
The general manager at Whitlock Golf & Country Club, Cris Toma, acknowledges that part of the game was missing—no handshakes after rounds, no rakes in the bunkers, no removing the flagstick—but those minor issues were quickly forgotten, and a modified version of the sport became the new normal.
One thing that remained status quo, however, was the members’ love for the game, and the numbers were there to prove it.
“It took no more than three weeks for the number of rounds played to exceed the numbers from 2019,” said Toma.
“During the summer the number of rounds went up to 15 per cent more in July and August, a record number of registrants for the junior program was recorded, and as soon as the food and beverage outlets were allowed to open in June, the entire life of the club was simply coming back,” he said.
Golf offers an unrivaled experience at connecting with nature while socializing with friends over a drink or two. So, what isn’t there to like about golf?
Okay, yes, the swings and misses are frustrating, but we’ll save that conversation for a rainy day.
Back to my point: the game of golf has this unique aspect about it that soothes the mind and allows you to enter a bubble beyond the real world for a prolonged period throughout your day.
And for many, in a year that has been mentally draining, golf has been therapeutic.
One of golf’s biggest pitfalls, however, is its hefty financial demands, which immediately, can be off-putting. When considering the equipment, the price to play and the social components that are tied to the sport, it is important to recognize that it is not affordable for everyone.
That being said, the golf industry continues to find ways to reach a larger pool of participants, be it through special offers or cheaper memberships. And, if it wants to continue growing in size and popularity, it must continue adjusting accordingly.
2020 was a good start; the influx of new golfers in Quebec has been undeniable. Flash back a couple of months to a sunny day in July, and I promise you as you opened social media you would have seen yet another newbie posting to their Instagram, live from the links.
“I think golf is the perfect sport for this sort of situation […] You can play with people in different bubbles, and you can play with people from your household all while respecting all the laws and rules that are in place,” said Trevor Araujo.
Growing up, the 22-year-old’s summers revolved around soccer. With complications to this year’s season due to COVID-19, Araujo decided he would dedicate this summer to something else.
At the beginning, he was unsure as to what that would be; soon later, he found out. One round at Harwood Golf Club led to another, and another. Before he knew it, he too was calling Whitlock his home club, joining as an intermediate member.
“It’s also just very refreshing and it’s a challenge. [There’s] a lot of beautiful scenery, it really just helps people ease into life outside again and really get outside and enjoy nature.”
Some say golf is the hardest sport on the planet. I, for one, don’t doubt it. It has the power of sending you through a rollercoaster of emotions from one hole to the next, or better yet, one shot to the next. But there’s something about it that keeps you coming back for more, and that is what I love about this game.
So, as the winter looms and we close the curtains on yet another majestic season, from one golfer to the thousands in which have joined the force, it is with gratitude that I bid farewell to the 2020 season that was.
Until next year, Tiger.