Demand stays high, green fees continue to rise in places like this California golf hotbed

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — As counterintuitive as it sounds, the COVID-19 pandemic couldn’t have come at a better time for The Lights at Indio Golf Course in the spring of 2020.

“We got lucky, because at the time COVID came, we’d been pushing so hard to get this place out there,” said Dave Ruvolo, head professional for 18 years at the city-owned 18-hole par-3 lighted golf course. “We’re the only thing in the valley that has (lights). A lot of people come into town but don’t know. So we pushed so hard to publicize it, and the timing was perfect.”

Like golf courses throughout the desert and across the country, The Lights has benefitted from a surge in golf that was partially sparked by the pandemic. As other sports and recreational activities shut down from the coronavirus, golf was allowed to be played. The sport attracted more individuals and saw more rounds played than had been true in more than a decade.

As the surge moves into its third year, golf course operators expect better results in the coming months than even the increases they saw one year ago.

“We are not seeing a high drop off in golfers just because the demand is there,” said Ben Rodny, director of sales and marketing for the 36-hole Indian Wells Golf Resort. “The demand for groups, tournaments, individual players, it’s pretty hot right now.”

More players at desert golf courses is good for the revenues at facilities that saw players and rounds of golf slide downward for most of the 2010s. But it also means more competition for tee times at public and private facilities as well as increased green fees for courses that can justify higher prices based on supply and demand.

In its tracking of rounds played across the country this year, the National Golf Foundation confirms that the Coachella Valley remains one of the most sought-after markets for golfers. While rounds played in California are down 4.6 percent this year through September compared to the same time period in 2021, and rounds in the country are down 2.5 percent, rounds in the Coachella Valley are up 12.4 percent in the first nine months of the year.

The NGF reminds people that even the small decreases in the state and the country as a whole are in comparison to 2021, when rounds of golf were up as much as 20 percent in parts of the country from 2020.

One reason golf continues to grow in the desert while it has flattened in other areas of the country is the Coachella Valley’s national and even international appeal as a golf destination.

“My wife and I have played in most of the areas in the United States,” said Stephen Clarke of Birmingham, England, who along with his wife was playing a variety of courses in the desert in late October, including at Marriott’s Desert Springs Resort in Palm Desert. “We had some miles we wanted to use for flights, and we thought we would come and play where the sun always shines.”

Golfing tourists are just one reason many

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By: Larry Bohannan
Title: Demand stays high, green fees continue to rise in places like this California golf hotbed
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Published Date: Thu, 24 Nov 2022 15:00:04 +0000

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