Golf took off during COVID, but will its popularity hold up as more outdoor activities restart?

Jessica Youn says she never thought of becoming a golfer.

“Growing up, my dad was a die-hard golfer and he watched golf tournaments on TV,” Youn says while training at the Racho Park golf practice in Los Angeles. “I thought it was so boring.”

But then the pandemic struck and Youn’s options for outdoor activities dwindled. After she tried golf for the first time with her husband Scott Iseri, she says the duo got hooked. Youn now covets the time she spends in nature with her friends, and perhaps most importantly, the challenge of golf.

“It’s an amazing mind game that’s not boring at all and requires a lot of thought, intention,” she says. “But then there’s also this weird thing where you get ready for your swing, and there’s this wave of calm that comes over you, and you have to be really relaxed.”

Youn and Iseri are among the estimated 3 million Americans who bought a golf club for the first time during the pandemic, according to the National Golf Foundation, an industrial group that has watched gambling since the 1930s.

The game has also generated renewed interest from female golfers, adults and juniors. In fact, more than a third of junior golfers in 2020 were girls, up from 15% in 2000.

Much of the game’s success can be attributed to the fact that it is contactless. Usually players only touch their own equipment and social distancing, especially on full courses, is easily enforced.

New golfers with Grand Pasadena’s first tee receive instruction from coaches on the green at Brookside Golf Course in Pasadena. Photo by Benjamin Gottlieb.

But as the restrictions in the COVID era loosen and outdoor entertainment options expand, many fear the revitalization of golf may not last. Playing 18 holes takes too long, says Larry Tomoyasu, a golf instructor at Brookside Golf Course in Pasadena.

“It takes five or six hours of play,” says Tomoyasu. “His [also] very difficult to play well. Now if you don’t mind playing well you can play … but playing well is very difficult.

Despite his skepticism, Tomoyasu says he hadn’t seen his golf course as crowded as it was during the pandemic. Long lines at the driving range are common. Tee times are a scarce commodity. And the demand for equipment remains high.

“You are taking a look at our store right now. I have empty stakes on my glove wall. You see empty trash cans in my grip area. I have empty bags, empty hats, clothes, clubs, ”says Dan Mammano, who runs the Roger Dunn Golf Shop in North Hollywood. “I mean, that’s literally all we’ve got. It is difficult to obtain.

Dan Mammano, manager of the Roger Dunn Golf Shop in North Hollywood, stands in his store’s repair shop. Mammano says wait times for things like new handles remain high. Photo by Benjamin Gottlieb.

Mammano says the golf apparel and gear industry has suffered from the strains on the global supply chain that other industries have suffered during the pandemic.

“Right now our sales are about double what they normally are,” says Mammano. “If I had the supply, we would be able to do even more, which is really amazing, to tell you the truth.”

Larry Tomoyasu, who has been teaching golf for over three decades to students of all ages, prepares for a lesson at Brookside Golf Course in Pasadena. Photo by Benjamin Gottlieb.

Business can be booming. But that doesn’t stop activists and politicians from reimagining what their local golf courses could become, especially as more people are getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Cristina Garcia, who represents parts of Southeast Los Angeles in the California Assembly, said local cities and counties should be able to develop golf courses to help solve some of the biggest challenges in the world. the state, namely housing.

“We know that the additional housing stock is good for my ability to stay in my community and so that I can afford it,” said Garcia, a Democrat who presented a bill this year to remove certain protections from golf courses. “And if you run into these walls of affordability in the affordable part of LA County, what chance do we have if we don’t open up spaces like this?” “

Garcia’s bill will not be resumed this legislative session, but she says she will continue to push for it next year.

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