As devastating as the pandemic has been to the tourism industry, one bright spot is golf, a major attraction at many resorts in the United States and around the world. The sports boom began in 2020, when people looking to break their isolation sought healthy recreation in nature.

According to the National Golf Foundation, the malaise of the spring gave way to an unprecedented summer and fall in terms of the number of rounds played. The number of matches played last year was nearly 503 million, the highest number since 2006 and the biggest increase – 14% – since 1997, when Tiger Woods won his first major title.

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The explosion of interest in golf is expected to continue into 2021, making golf resorts excellent destinations for travelers seeking outdoor recreation and easy social distance.

Not only is the boom expected to continue this year, it’s already underway, according to Dan Shepherd, a consultant, promoter of golf tourism and former publisher of Golf Inc. a trade publication on the industry.

Although it’s only the season in most of the country, the demand for games this year is already higher than usual, he said. By comparison, in the last decade, before the pandemic, golf has experienced a catapult due to the inherent attributes of social distance, recreational attributes (fresh air, nature, wilderness, exercise, competition, camaraderie, etc.) and the fact that people have more time since many still work from home, don’t have to travel, etc.

With the introduction of vaccines, more people feel free to travel. But others remain cautious – the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week called for increased safety measures to prevent a possible fourth wave of the pandemic.

Although the situation should be safer now than it was six or 12 months ago, there is still much uncertainty, Shepard said. You have pandemic PTSD. They are scared, and golf is their refuge, a way to enjoy life and leisure without taking the aforementioned risks. This isn’t going away anytime soon, and frankly, it seems to be the new normal. Demand is high across the industry, in North America and beyond.

An impressive bonus 19. Hole in Tiger Woods’ Payne’s Valley in Branson, Mo. (Photo via Payne Valley).

Mr. Shepherd’s clients include Primland, a luxury golf resort located on 12,000 acres in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. There are few ideal places to deal with a pandemic and social exclusion, he said.

The main lodge has only 24 rooms and suites, all of which have remained unoccupied for the past 12 months due to capacity constraints. Other accommodation units – Cottages and Mountain Homes – are located on the property.

Primland’s Highland Course is one of the top 30 resort courses in the country. He says golf was booming at Primland last year, and is booming again this year, based on bookings of golf time and sales of golf packages.

Shepherd, who also promotes golf tourism in Puerto Rico, noted that the PGA Tour Puerto Rico Open was held in the last week of February. This was the largest and most visible event held on the island since the pandemic began. The event was held at the Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve (formerly Coco Beach) and on site, a smooth run was guaranteed.

Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve championship course. (Photo via Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve)

Demand to visit Puerto Rico is high, with bookings for flights, golf and hotels increasing every week, he said. With 18 golf courses and numerous resorts with amenities, golf courses and recreation and play facilities are in vogue.

It should also be noted that this is the first full year for Payne Valley by Tiger Woods, a new golf course in Branson, Mo. designed by Woods and his golf architecture firm, TGR Design, in partnership with Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops and Big Cedar Lodge.

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