Calgary golf courses see record numbers, city official says

The city estimates about 260,000 people will have visited its municipal golf courses in the 2021 season.

'COVID has probably been a bit of a blessing for the golf course industry'

The McCall Lake golf course is one of seven operated by the City of Calgary. (CBC)

The City of Calgary saw a record number of visitors to its golf courses in the 2021 season, according to a city official.

John Faber, Calgary's acting golf lead, estimates by the end of the season, the city will have seen almost 260,000 people come to its golf courses this year. And that number doesn't include driving ranges.

"People have refound their passion for the game of golf," Faber said. 

The city operates seven golf courses across five properties, which includes three driving ranges, according to Faber. 

Municipal golf courses took a staggered approach to opening this year due to COVID-19, with the first courses opening in early April. Most courses are now closed for the season, but the 18 holes at Maple Ridge and nine-hole combination at Shaganappi Point golf course will be open until the evening of Oct. 24.

"It's been a little bit of a challenge, but I can say COVID has probably been a bit of a blessing for the golf course industry," he said.

According to Faber, there was a downturn in the season in May when COVID-19 guidelines restricted gathering limits. But besides that month, "the golf season has been outstanding."

Weather was also on the side of golfers this season with little rainfall and minimal frost delays this fall, Faber said. 

Changing demographics

Faber said the city saw great numbers last year as well, even though it opened golf courses later than usual in mid-May. This year, Faber said the city has seen about 40 to 45,000 more visitors to its golf courses than the three-year average prior to 2020. 

The busiest months of the 2021 season were July and August, according to Faber. Interestingly, he said this summer's heat waves and wildfire smoke advisories did not cause a decrease in golf course visitors. There were, however, changing demographics at the city's golf courses.

Faber said city staff observed more young golfers than usual visiting courses this year, including people in their 20s and "lots and lots of kids" using the McCall Lake and Lakeview golf courses.

Ultimately, Faber thinks the reason golfing has become more popular during the pandemic is because "there was not a lot of options available for activity."

"Golf was something that right from the outset of COVID ... identified as something people could do that was affordable and safe and allowed people to be outdoors and socialize and recreate."

Final numbers have yet to come in, but Faber said the city's projecting "a good financial year" for its golf courses.

"We're now starting to look forward to 2022 and what can we do to keep this momentum going."

With files from Dave Gilson