It’s certainly not the year anyone expected it to be.
Events cancelled, scheduled sports delayed, bars closed.
It appears, however, the downturn in so many aspects of young adult life has lead to a new generation of golfers gracing the greens of Tasmania.
According to one golfing guru, the increase has been so noticeable its changed the trend of the game in the state for the better.
Launceston Country Club golf pro Bryce Gorham has been teaching and coaching golf for nearly 20 years in Tasmania and Queensland.
For Gorham, the increase of interest in the sport by younger people during the peak COVID period was “huge”.
“I’ve been the state junior coach for seven years … it’s definitely been something we’ve noticed,” he said.
“For example, the amount of balls we’ve had to carry into the driving range shed has exponentially grown.
“We’ve needed about 1000 more balls in the shed just to deal with how busy it has been getting.”
Gorham said golfing had been an ageing sport, with the odd 20 or early 30-year-old picking up the clubs beforehand.
“I’d class them [new golfers] almost in the non-golf category in they were finding something to do,” he said.
“We call a lot of them non-golfers because they hired clubs from here to hit … early on we pinned it down to being safe – all our bays are 1.5 metres from each other.
“Coming out of lockdown it was probably one of the safest [activities], but then it went berserk.
“Being safe and fun made golf the new ‘in-thing’ I suppose.”
Even as COVID restrictions started lifting in Tasmania, Gorham noticed the interest from ‘non-golfers’ continued.
“You can do it with a lot of mates, we get a lot of groups of four or five young people at a time which is abnormal for us – I mean we only have 12 bays so it fill us up quite quickly,” he said.
“And they’re coming back week after week. Early to mid-July there was a lot of free time for people to have lessons.
“This month it’s tapered off because more people are working again … but we’ve had to go to an online booking system just to be able to cope which has worked out really well and makes people feel safe again.”
This has yielded a increase of members as well as competition participants for the County Club.
“We’ve had an influx of about 30 or 40 members … at this time of year, that’s absolutely unheard of because it’s too wet and people aren’t usually playing golf,” Gorham said.
“It’s completely bucked the winter golf trend, I’ve never had a July or August like this in my lifetime.”
Gorham said while COVID-19 had been horrible on many levels, the subsequent increased participation in golf had been a silver lining.
“We could comfortably say golf was on the decline, easily. It had been for the last three or four years,” he said.
Not just the gentleman’s game
While Gorham said the majority of new golfers had been blokes, fellow Country Club pro shop assistant Lily Caelli said she had noticed more women hitting the links.
Caelli herself has been playing golf for six years thanks to her dad who got her into the sport.
“When I started in Launceston I was the only girl which was pretty intimidating, but I made friends with them and more girls started play,” she said.
“Then more girls starting which was nice so I helped them get into it because it can be quite nerve-racking when your the only female.”
Caelli had also noticed many of her friends had taken to golf recently.
“I’ve been working on the driving range a fair bit and the amount of young boys and girls coming for a hit has been phenomenal – there’s so many of them,” she said.
“I think it’s because a lot of other sports had been cancelled, but even now with those starting back up people are still coming.
“I think they’ve gained an interest because they’ve tried it and actually found it quite fun.”
New golfer’s paradise
Making this increase in younger golfers all-the-more promising is the tantalising plethora of quality courses in Tasmania.
Gorham said Tasmania had an “insane” amount of courses for its size, with about 80 scattered across the state.
As for personal favourites, Gorham said there was no going past Lost Farm at Barnbougle near Bridport.
“It’s clearly the hotspot of this state, since its inception it’s been popular,” he said.
For Caelli, it was the mentally challenging Tasmanian Golf Club at Cambridge that was a particular favourite.
“I like how every single hole is completely different, it’s very hilly and slopey,” she said.
“It’s a challenge because you need to think about how you play, it’s not about just hitting the ball you need to know where you want to finish.
“It’s more of a mind game course rather than just playing it.”
Pro’s parting tips
Gorham’s advice to anyone looking to pick up golf, whether it be casually or seriously, was to get some lessons with a seasoned player as soon as possible.
“It saves years of bad habits if you get advice early on because it’s a complicated sport and there’s plenty of things that could go wrong,” he said.
“Any advice you can get from professionals will 100 per cent help long term.
“But have fun, that’s the most important bit which is what I say … that’s what we notice with the young lads and ladies coming out is they’re having fun and they keep coming back.”
Being one of these ‘non-golfers’ myself, I can certainly see room for improvement in my form.
In particular, not slamming the balls into the wilderness Happy Gilmore style.