Colorado Springs courses, businesses feel the impact of a golf boom


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Golf is maintaining a surge in attendance around Colorado Springs and the country after the COVID-19 pandemic drove people outdoors and sparked new interest in the sport.

“Golf has certainly had a resurgence,” said Mark Kelbel, former Broadmoor head pro and program director of the Broadmoor Caddy & Leadership Academy. “The demand to be taught is very, very high.”

Golf was a natural activity that many people turned to during the pandemic because it was outdoors, which facilitated social distancing while providing human connection. As COVID-19 subsided, golf has been a safe way to get out of the house and back into the world, Kelbel says.

“I think people have rediscovered golf as a great option for their physical and mental health,” Kelbel said. “Because you can go out, you can socialize, it gives people a reason to dress up and go to the golf course.”

Kelbel has spent his life rooted in golf, but his more recent roles involve teaching. Running the Broadmoor Caddy & Leadership Academy, Kelbel helps teens learn leadership skills while exposing them to golf. Kelbel also founded Fearless Golf, a nonprofit program that uses golf to help at-risk youth and young adults find healthier lifestyles.

Coronado High School golfer Parker Shirola practices at Patty Jewett Golf on Wednesday, July 27, 2022. Golf has become an outdoor escape for many people during the COVID-19 pandemic and, as a result, more people are on the routes.

Fearless Golf has doubled in size over the past year from 100 attendees to 200 and the Broadmoor Caddy & Leadership Academy has grown more than 40% from the previous year, Kelbel said.

“I would say anyone who discovers or rediscovers it (golf) is very lucky because of the lessons we’ve learned through the pandemic,” Kelbel said. “Which means we simply shouldn’t take a day for granted when it comes to our physical or mental health and our ability to get out and enjoy each other’s company.”

As interest in golf grows, Kelbel said he would like to see more public courses in Colorado Springs.

Over the years, several golf courses in Colorado Springs have closed, including Appletree Golf Course, Vineyard Golf Club, and Silver Spruce Golf Course. One of the most recent losses was spring rancha private course accessible to the public on the east side of the city.

“Public courses are great entry points,” Kelbel said. “It’s a great entry point for teaching. It’s a great entry point just to be comfortable on the golf course, and you get to know people through that.”

The demand for golf pushes public courses like the Patty Jewett Golf Course to their limits.

Over the summer, Patty Jewett booked 98% of her tee times in 2022, with round numbers up 10% from 2019, said Patrick Gentile, golf division manager for the city of Colorado Springs, which oversees the city’s two public courses, Patty Jewett Golf Course and Valley Hi.

Similar to Kelbel, which has seen an increase in younger golfers, Gentile has seen more younger golfers and more female golfers on the course.

“What we’re seeing is the kind of different dynamic of golfers today,” Gentile said. “We have more young people. …Somewhere in that 20-40 range play more than them.

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Jim Yohanan prepares to play Patty Jewett Golf Course on Wednesday, July 27, 2022. Yohanan said it’s been difficult to find tee times in the Denver area, but he’s glad more people are enjoying the game “It was the flight of people during the pandemic,” Yohanan explained.

Young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 make up the top age segments of golf customers, with 6.1 million people in the United States, according to data from the National Golf Foundation.

Gentile said other golf options in the Colorado Springs area, such as Topgolf, a bar and party room where patrons can hit balls, are helping to spur interest in golf for people who don’t. might not consider it otherwise. The Top Golf Springs location opened in August of last year.

Club Champion, a club fitting studio that opened at 7431 N. Academy Blvd in May, has had a warm welcome in Springs, said Nick Sherburne, founder of Club Champion.

“Colorado Springs is off to an extremely strong start,” he said of the new location. “And that easily … should exceed our expectations for the first year.”

Sherburne said his business sees an opportunity to thrive in Colorado Springs because of its weather, population growth, customer demographics and surrounding golf courses like The Broadmoor.

Colorado Springs is the third Club Champion site in Colorado besides Highlands Ranch and Westminster.

“It’s a good state of golf,” Sherburne said. “…There are a lot of great golf courses in Colorado that people don’t necessarily always think about.”