COVID can’t keep fans away from golf


The arrival of fall weather and football season did nothing to slow the huge growth of golf during the coronavirus pandemic, according to figures compiled by the National Golf Foundation.

Its latest report measured rounds played in September at golf courses across the country, and it showed a 26 percent increase in play in 2020 versus a year ago. That marks the largest increase year over year of any month in 2020, showing that cooler weather, the return of school and the start of football didn’t stop rounds across the nation.

For the year, rounds are up 8.7 percent despite most courses missing somewhere in the neighborhood of two months of play in the spring when courses were closed at the start of COVID-19 restrictions.

Approximately 440 million rounds of golf were played at courses across the country in 2019. Analysts at the NGF expect that number to reach 470 million to 485 million this year, depending upon December weather.

“It’s amazing to see the growth the sport has experienced, even in the face of a global pandemic,” Adidas Golf President Jeff Lienhart wrote in NGF’s September report. “The fact that people can play safely, get outdoors, social distance, etc., is certainly positive.”

Rounds were up year-over-year in June, July, August and September in every state in the country, except for Hawaii, where play has been down more than 40 percent because of stringent travel restrictions that have kept most vacationers away from the Aloha State during the pandemic.

2021 course rankings

Golf Magazine released its 2021 list of the top 100 golf courses in the nation Tuesday, and Shadow Creek Golf Club in North Las Vegas is Nevada’s only representative on the East Coast-heavy list.

Twenty-four of the courses are located in New York or New Jersey, while no Arizona course even made the list.

Shadow Creek weighed in at No. 81, with reviewers calling it a work of architecture and a feat of engineering. “Gurgling streams and waterfalls enhance the sense of opulence, and the risk-rewards make for great match-play entertainment,” they said of the course.

The list makes no distinction between public or private courses.

The top 10 courses on the list are:

Pine Valley (Pine Valley, New Jersey)

Cypress Point (Pebble Beach, California)

Shinnecock Hills (Southampton, New York)

National Golf Links (Southampton, New York)

Oakmont (Oakmont, Pennsylvania)

Augusta National (Augusta, Georgia)

Sand Hills (Mullen, Nebraska)

Merion East (Adrmore, Pennsylvania)

Fishers Island (Fishers Island, New York)

Pebble Beach (Pebble Beach, California)

Reviewers also chose the top five courses in each state, with Shadow Creek topping the Nevada choices. It was followed by Clear Creek Tahoe (Carson City), Southern Highlands (Las Vegas), The Summit Club (Las Vegas) and Cascata (Boulder City).

The Golf Magazine list is drastically different than the annual Golf Digest rankings, which this year had Shadow Creek at the seventh best public course in the country and at No. 11 among the nation’s modern courses.

The Match

Can we all admit it’s time to put an end to the made-for-TV golf matches? The third installment over the weekend was bad on every level.

The first match, when Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson played at Shadow Creek in a pay-per-view format, was not great television. It dragged for four hours, but at least it featured the two best players of their generation.

Match two this summer added Tom Brady and Peyton Manning to the mix. The golf wasn’t good, the banter was dull, but it came at a time when fans were starved for something to watch after months of no golf on television.

Match three featured Mickelson and Charles Barkley against Manning and Steph Curry. Kudos to anyone who survived more than 10 minutes of the broadcast. It had all the charm of following an obnoxious foursome at your local course, without the benefit of getting to play.

Greg Robertson is a freelance reporter who covers golf for the Review-Journal. He can be reached at [email protected]


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