South Bend city golf courses report record-breaking 2020

Published: Mar. 17, 2021 at 5:45 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - South Bend city golf courses were popular places to putter-around during the pandemic.

The number of rounds played in 2020 hit 63,422 which is a 31-percent increase over 2019.

“We haven’t’ seen numbers like that since the early 2000-s,” said Director of Golf Operations Tony Stearns.

The achievement comes despite the fact that city courses were closed for 50-days between March 17th and May 11th.

When a business is spread out over 120-acres, social distancing becomes simple.

“The capacity, when you think about it for golf, comes to how many can ride in a cart at one time,” said Stearns.

They started out with one golfer per cart and gradually worked their way up to two.

“And then in order for us to get proper spacing, we had to move those tee times from what used to be eight-minute intervals, to 16-minute intervals,” added Stearns.

“We were strictly working out of a concession window at that time,” recalled Erskine Golf Course Pro Dave Firestone. “You know, porta-john outside for people to use the restroom and stuff like that.”

Yet, green fees revenue was up 47-percent, driving range receipts were up 39-percent, and merchandise sales were up 24-percent.

“People were looking for something to get out of the house, you know, you didn’t, you know, if you were quarantined or you were furloughed, you know, you didn’t want to have to stay in your house the whole time,” Firestone said.

“We saw people that we hadn’t seen in ten years,” Stearns recalled. We saw new faces, growth in new sets purchased, equipment sales up. It’s unbelievable to think what the pandemic did.”

It was one year ago today that South Bend temporarily closed its golf courses.

“The biggest thing that we take away from last season,” said Stearns, “was that safety, we didn’t have any team members test positive. We had no cases of golfers that caused any concern for us.”

Erskine Golf Course has opened for the 2021 season, while Elbel is set to open Saturday. Studebaker Golf Course is expected to open in early April.

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