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With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping people isolated, an activity that gets people out of the house and into the warm summer air while also keeping them safe has been golf.
The sport lends itself to social distancing and golf courses across the state have been having a memorable summer.
“We are the fortunate recipients of a very difficult time,” said Bangor Municipal Golf Course pro Rob Jarvis.
“We have been super busy and people really seem to be having a great time playing golf,” said Jarvis. “[The coronavirus] has brought people back to the game.”
“People are having to book tee times two or three days in advance for our peak times like right after work,” said Jarvis whose course has an 18-hole layout and another nine-hole spread. “We are definitely getting more families playing.”
Jarvis explained that people aren’t vacationing as much this summer due to the pandemic so they are spending more time on the golf course.
“I was a little worried about not having tourists but our [members] who would normally leave to go to Hampton Beach [New Hampshire], Boston or New York aren’t making those trips and are staying here and playing golf,” said Jarvis noting that their decision to stay in the area offsets the number of lost tourist tee times.
Jarvis has also seen a hike in golf equipment sales which he ties in with the fact golfers aren’t spending their money on vacations.
“I didn’t think that would happen this year. That’s been nice,” he said.
“We have been extremely busy,” said Presque Isle Country Club pro Barry Madore. “I would guess we’re up 15 to 20 percent [over a normal year].”
“Our June business was ahead of last year and so is our July business,” Madore added.
Madore said one of the age groups that has shown a hefty increase has been children.
“We’ve seen a big increase in our junior golf league. A lot of grade school and middle school kids don’t have things to do this summer due to the lack of town recreation programs,” he said.
He also said Presque Isle’s total membership numbers are up with an even larger increase in non-members who are playing the course.
“We’ve seen a lot of new faces,” Madore said.
The Presque Isle Country Club has benefitted from the Canadian government’s decision to ban American golfers from the Aroostook Valley Country Club due to the pandemic.
The parking lot and pro shop at the AVCC are in Fort Fairfield but the actual golf course and the clubhouse are in New Brunswick.
“We have picked up some members from Aroostook Valley but I don’t feel comfortable reaping the benefits from that situation. [AVCC pro] Steve Leitch is a real good guy and we work very well together,” Madore said.
Although the numbers are very good, Madore pointed out that they have lost a number of events to the pandemic including three charity golf tournaments. They have also lost wedding receptions and class reunions which were held at their clubhouse.
He is curious to see how it will all shake down financially after the season.
Mike Dugas, one of the owners and the golf pro at the J.W. Parks Golf Course in Pittsfield, said they are having one of their best summers ever.
Dugas said his golfers are playing more regularly and “we’re seeing a lot of people who haven’t played in a long time coming back to the game.”
He said the vast majority of his golfers are from Pittsfield or nearby towns.
“People are staying close… where they’re comfortable,” Dugas said.
Dane Vanderblue is filling in as the interim pro at the Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono after Mark Hall left and he said “overall, we’ve had a very good summer.
“We have a lot of new players, people who are curious about golf in general and willing to learn more about it,” said Vanderblue who also noted that the members are playing more often than in previous years.
He has noticed a lot of UMaine athletes who are spending their summers here are hitting the links as well as their coaches.
Vanderblue observed a group of “12 to 16 guys” that he hadn’t seen the past couple of years have now become regulars.
PVCC has lost several UMaine alumni events and other activities because its restaurant and pool aren’t open, Vanderblue said.
The St. Croix Country Club in Calais has also been busy although Jack Maloney, who works at the club and has been a member since 1985, said not having Canadian golfers has hurt them.
The Canadian-American border is closed so Canadians can’t come across to Calais to play.
But St. Croix CC is still having a good summer.
“People are playing a lot more golf than usual,” Maloney said.
He added that Jim and Lori Frost are involved with running the golf course and Lori has done a “tremendous job with the women.
“There are more women playing here than I’ve ever seen. And they’re all ages. She has a free clinic for the women during the week,” said Maloney who added that their youth program is “very strong.”
They are taking a financial hit off the course as their clubhouse, which had been used for a variety of things like wedding receptions, hasn’t been used at all this year, according to Maloney.
“But the course seems to be doing very well,” he said.
The sunny summer weather has been helpful and the golfers have upheld their end of the bargain by adhering to the safety protocols.
“From day one, people have been awesome,” Jarvis said. “They have kept their eye on the prize and done what they’ve needed to do.”