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by John Cardullo, sportwriter
Golf continues to grow both on the national and local stage as the numbers of rounds being played goes through the roof!
A year ago, when the pandemic had the world in its grip and shut everything down, the first sport to wiggle itself free was golf. As we all found out that last spring, summer and fall, the virus slowed down to a crawl when the hot weather took over and more and more people ventured outside. As our loyal readers would recall, we did a season long review of Rhode Island’s 9-hole golf courses. The response was huge and the local golf courses reported that they have not seen a jump in the sport like that since Tiger Woods broke on to the PGA tour, and even with that, the numbers of play on the courses last season eclipsed the early Tiger years and the amount of play these courses are seeing this spring is even higher!
“Last year we saw a 27% to 30% increase of play on our course,” said Joseph Scott, owner of Pinecrest Golf Course in the Hope Valley section of Rhode Island. “This spring the numbers have been even higher!” The course itself is a gem hidden among the pines in the southern part of Rhode Island and is in impeccable shape for all the rounds that have been played there. The course is well maintained and challenges golfers of all skill levels. “We’re hoping that when the virus finally let’s go, all those that have started to play golf continue.” He goes on to say, “We have noticed that new younger golfers and women have been getting into the sport and are enjoying playing. It’s easy to tell by the number of times they come back to play.” As the course has gone to one of the state’s best kept secretes to one of the top 9-hole courses, the staff has noticed more first-time golfers coming from all over to check out the facility and they’re enjoying their experience.
The surge that began in the sport last season has continued into the 2021 season, even with COVID loosening its grip on the world. Another 9-hole gem, Midville Golf Course in West Warwick has seen play increase over the last year. Owner Ron Lombardi states, “Last year we were the only game in town for a while before things got back to normal. It seemed that people who never tried golf became hooked with the sport – deciding that the investment in clubs and the availability to get outside in good weather with some friends was a big attraction to the sport.” Lombardi added, “Given the fact that you can play golf pretty much the rest of your life is another consideration that makes the commitment to the sport a serious one.”
The tee times at Midville are often available but Lombardi encourages reservations to be made. “Right now, to travel to the course and walk right up to an open first tee is not guaranteed. It is always best to plan in advance and invest in a call to lock your time down.” Always well maintained and in excellent condition, Midville is short enough to score well, but difficult enough to challenge the average golfer. Which makes it a very popular course to play anytime.
Checking in with Mike Cornicelli of the East Greenwich Golf Course, he echoed most of what Lombardi and Scott had said. “Play here has been pretty steady since last year. We think that it’s a combination of the improvements that we made and the pandemic. We like to think that the improvements and the condition of the course is a big draw.” Cornicelli went on to say, “when we took over the facility at the beginning of last season, we were so busy jumping from one improvement project to the next, we became totally focused on getting the condition of the course in shape in hopes that was the main draw, but I think the situation of the pandemic had a positive effect as well – ironic, benefiting from a worldwide crisis.” At East Greenwich, tee times are encouraged but walk ups are always accommodated during the weekdays; sliding golfers in during the weekends always take a creative starter. Like Pinecrest and Midville, East Greenwich will provide challenges to the average recreational golfer.
Then there is Jamestown Golf Course located in the shadow of the Newport Bridge. The picturesque lay out has breathtaking views any way you look. As with the forementioned courses, Jamestown always drew well with the local golfers and tourists who come in to visit nearby Newport or the beach areas of Rhode Island, or those who vacation on the small island of Jamestown. The unique policy of no reserved set tee times and the first come first served makes it difficult to meter if play has jumped dramatically since last year. The course has always been popular and a must play for most locals and out of towners alike.
As the season begins and the pandemic winds down, the early sign is that the growth that happened to golf last year is continuing so far in 2021. It will remain to be seen if this trend continues as the pandemic slows to a stop and the normalcy of day-to-day living begins to kick in. But for now, the owners of Rhode Island’s golf courses are not complaining. As experienced golfers will tell you, “Golf – it’s the most frustrating sport that you will ever love to hate, but you will keep coming back for more!”