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Popularity that local golf gained during pandemic didn't subside in 2021

Good weather and people finding time to play contributed to a record year of play.

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Fargo-Moorhead-area golf courses saw no falloff in play this season after a surge in 2020 due to the pandemic.

FARGO — The good vibes and popularity of the game of golf that surprised America during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 hasn’t taken much of a dip since. Certainly that’s the case in Fargo and Moorhead, where local public courses were as busy as ever.

A typical year at Rose Creek in Fargo is around 26,000 to 27,000 rounds. This year topped 36,000.

“Amazing year this year,” said Rose Creek head professional Matt Cook.

Two factors played into record-setting territory and both had to do with weather. Courses generally opened earlier than usual in March and a lack of rain over the course of the summer and fall created more playable days. The Edgewood Men’s Club that plays on Tuesday nights, for instance, had 30 straight weeks without a rain out.

“That’s a record for me,” said Edgewood’s Greg McCullough, the head professional since 2000. “I think about all the golf courses in general in the Fargo-Moorhead area. It’s a testament to how much people love to play golf in Fargo-Moorhead. Within our district there were over 150,000 rounds. Add in the other courses and I bet there were over a quarter of a million rounds in the metro area, which is incredible.”

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Edgewood had over 33,000 rounds played before closing over the weekend, the most in one year since McCullough has been there. El Zagal, the par-3 course in north Fargo, had about 19,000 rounds.

In Moorhead, Village Green Golf Course topped 31,000 rounds last week. More impressive, the course had its best revenue year ever. Village routinely does over 30,000 rounds a summer so its rounds were in the usual ballpark.

But the cash register got a continuous workout.

“We were playing the first five months in a drought and you don’t lose cart revenue,” said head pro Russ Nelson.

Plus, Nelson said, the popularity of the game during the pandemic didn’t subside, either.

“I was thinking about it this past winter, I didn't know if people would go back to doing whatever they used to do,” he said. “But they definitely kept playing golf, there’s no question about that. A lot of people still were not doing a lot of traveling. People were still working from home, probably had more time, and that all adds up. There are more people playing golf than I’ve ever seen.”

Rose Creek, Edgewood, Village Green and Meadows are all closed for the season. All four 18-hole courses made it through the year remaining in top shape despite being busy seven days a week. Osgood, the nine-hole course in southwest Fargo, remained as popular as ever.

“The amount of play created more wear and tear,” Cook said. “It’s also hard to get anything done when you’re this busy. It didn’t matter if it were a Monday or a Saturday, the days seemed the same in the book from the first tee time to very few openings. It was just the daily maintenance challenge and then add on the drought and that created a lot of its own issues with additional watering and irrigation repairs.”

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Rose Creek had 31,500 rounds played in 2020. Cook said the longest playable year was 2012 when the course was open from mid-March to early November. And that season produced a little over 26,000 rounds.

“Just right now golf is in a good place,” Cook said. “People are having fun with it and there are a lot of people who are new to it. People are playing more rounds now.”

And hitting more balls. The driving ranges at Rose Creek, Edgewood and Osgood set records with 2.2 million balls hit at all three combined.

“Our driving ranges were insane,” McCullough said.

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Fargo Davies' Lexi Bartley, left, studies the green during the second day of the 2021 North Dakota Class A Girls Golf Tournament on Tuesday, Oct. 5, at Edgewood Golf Course, Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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