Golf course owner speaks about COVID-19 impact on golf industry

Ratcliffe explained that golf has been a part of his life since he was a boy. He loves the game and the business of golf has become his work.
There’s plenty of driving, chipping, and putting at The Divide Golf Club off Stevens Mill Road in Matthews.
Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 7:23 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - There’s plenty of driving, chipping, and putting at The Divide Golf Club off Stevens Mill Road in Matthews. Del Ratcliffe and his partners at Pinnacle Golf Properties acquired the club last year.

“We kind of saw it as a diamond in the rough and knew that if we came in and did some proper maintenance and care on it that we would really be able to kind of open it up to the community and have some great support,” Ratcliffe told WBTV in a recent interview.

Ratcliffe explained that golf has been a part of his life since he was a boy. He loves the game and the business of golf has become his work.

While the government COVID rules were a burden for many businesses, the pandemic turned out to be a blessing in disguise for golf courses.

“Golf like a lot of active sports has kind of been on a downward trend,” explained Ratcliffe. “There were a lot of other activities that people were doing besides golf and as in a lot of active sports, we saw people going to things that were more sedentary in nature. You see a lot of digital games, people going to movies or things other than getting outside and playing.”

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The golf industry saw a sudden shift in the spring of 2020. The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic brought widespread concern about the spread of sickness. Government mandates prevented large gatherings in close quarters. Many restaurants and shops were forced to shut down to prevent viral outbreak.

While the government COVID rules were a burden for many businesses, the pandemic turned out to be a blessing in disguise for golf courses.

“It was not by design, but it really kind of checked all the boxes that we needed to be a safe activity during COVID. We had social distancing built in. We were outside in fresh air. It was physically a activity that kept people healthy emotionally and even mentally. It gave people kind of a stress relief from the pressures that everyone saw during the COVID shutdown,” elaborated Ratcliffe.

According to Golf Datatech, a firm that compiles data and statistics about the golf industry, people started playing more golf during the pandemic. Data collected from courses in both North Carolina and South Carolina shows that more rounds were being played year over year from 2020 to 2021.

Data compiled by Golf Datatech also shows that across the country golf retail sales also saw a big spike during the pandemic. WBTV spoke to Tom Stine, a co-founder of Golf Datatech, about the information.

“It means all good things. It means more people were playing golf. More people were buying golf balls. More people were buying green fees. More people were joining country clubs,” explained Stine.

Ratcliffe said he and his partners were surprised to see the pandemic lead to more people playing golf.

“I think that we were. All along we were not only surprised, but we still to this day question how long is it gonna last?” Ratcliffe noted. “Once we saw what we called the ‘COVID effect’, we saw all the people coming out and getting out and playing golf, it was great, but then at the same time too we were always worried about well when things opened back up again we’re going to go somewhere back down in that range.”

Part two of this story airs at 7 p.m. on Thursday, September 22.