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Teeing up for another season on the links

The snow earlier this week was a bit of a setback to the opening of the Elmira Golf Club, but the season is upon us. [Bill Atwood]

After seeing their popularity skyrocket the last two years, golf courses around the area are getting set for another season,

“There was certainly quite a spike, but that wasn’t all – guest players, members were playing more, people working from home far more so everybody’s golf went up. Even though the season got condensed in the spring because of the late opening due to COVID, we were able to still generate many rounds,” said Jeremy Logel, general manager of the Elmira Golf Club.

Fraser Stalkie director of operations of McLean-Peister Ltd., which owns Merry-Hill Golf Club and Innerkip Highlands Golf Club, said he is cautiously optimistic about the season.

“There are a lot of activities that people have not been able to participate in over the last couple of years that they’ve been missing. So I think there’s going to be some more competition from that point of view, but we also saw tons of players take up the game for the first time. I think a lot of those players are going to stick around – golf is a lifelong experience. It’s something that people can play until they’re in their 90s and they can start when they’re like four,” Stalkie said.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for people to continue to keep golf as one of their mainstay activities going forward. I think, of course, it’s our responsibility to continue to keep it exciting, continue to keep it safe, and continue to maintain the service levels that we were providing through the last couple of years.”

Golf courses play an important role in their communities, Stalkie said.

“We provide a very valuable green space for the environment. We employ, between our two facilities, nearly 100 people, tons of students, often working their first jobs. It’s a great first job to work at and we try to create a really comfortable work environment, but it is a huge economic drive,” he said. “Not to mention the health benefits of playing golf – those have been well studied and well recognized.”

Logel agreed.

“It creates that parkland feel with a friendly sport to do and it’s something you can engage in with friends and family of all ages and most abilities,” he said.

They also provide a key fundraising opportunity for charities, something that was missed over the last two years, Stalkie added.

“The golf business takes that aspect very seriously. There’s lots of charities and stuff that are already getting in touch with us.”

Stalkie is most excited about seeing newcomers, such as those in youth leagues, pick up the sport.

“A big part of Merry-Hill’s business model is growing the next generation of golfers, so I think the thing I’m most excited about is watching the kids out on the golf course again. It’s great to see a whole collection of 12- and 13-year-old players getting started in the game of golf and really falling in love with it. That’s what Merry-Hill is all about, getting people started in the game,” he said.

The renewed focus on the sport has been “fantastic,” Logel said.

“I think it’s just a great game that you can play with anybody – just [getting] together and getting outside and then just enjoy life together playing this great sport,” he said.

A little more local for your inbox.

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