Spokane’s golf season gets underway. After a pandemic bump, it’s likely to be busy
March 30, 2023 Updated Thu., March 30, 2023 at 9:04 p.m.
Though temperatures have refused to climb above 60 degrees this month, the 2023 golf season is underway.
Of the city of Spokane’s four courses, Esmeralda, Downriver and The Creek at Qualchan have all opened in the past seven days. Opening day for the Indian Canyon Golf Course is yet to be determined, due to lingering snow on the course.
Of the county’s three courses, Liberty Lake and Meadowood opened March 23. The Latah Creek Golf Course opens Saturday.
It’s likely to be a busy season if recent trends are any indication.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the city of Spokane considered it a good year if their courses saw around 150,000 rounds of golf, said Parks and Recreation Director Garrett Jones. But 2018 saw less than 140,000 rounds played on city courses, dipping to around 129,000 in 2019.
The pandemic turned that trajectory around in a big way. While many activities suffered prolonged closures and restrictions in 2020 and beyond as illnesses surged, golf provided an opportunity for easily socially distanced recreation.
“Golf was one of those first activities during the pandemic where we worked with the state around social distancing and safe practices,” Jones said. “That was one of the first activities to come online with some restrictions.”
Even with short-term closures and some initial restrictions – only one person to a cart, and pro shop access was limited – more people used Spokane’s golf courses in 2020 than either of the prior years.
A bit less than 144,000 rounds were played on city courses that year, jumping to around 177,000 in 2021. There were closer to 171,000 rounds played in 2022, though it was relatively rainy through the spring and early summer when use typically peaks, Jones noted.
The three county courses saw a similar uptick in use, though not quite as quickly.
There were around 86,000 rounds played in both 2018 and 2019, which dipped to around 82,000 in 2020 due to closures. But by 2021, more than 102,000 rounds of golf were played on county courses. There were closer to 100,000 rounds played in 2022, though again this decrease is credited to a rainy season, said Spokane County Parks, Recreation and Golf Director Doug Chase.
The standard rate to play 18 holes on a city of Spokane Course is $47. The county charges $43 for 18 holes Monday through Friday and after 3 p.m. on weekends, or $45 to play before 3 p.m. on a weekend.
In both cases, that fee went up $1 since last year, reflecting increased costs for staffing as well as materials and other expenses impacted by inflation.
That cost increase could have been more for city courses, Jones said, were it not for newly implemented efficiencies to keep costs low. He pointed to a new no-show charge for booking a tee time but not showing up, which resulted in approximately $100,000 in lost revenue per year.
Jones also noted investments in course irrigation systems. Two of the courses used to be manually irrigated, which required staff to physically turn on sprinklers during the night.
Three courses have had full renovations of their irrigation systems, cutting down on staff costs and saving roughly 40 million gallons of water per year – about as much as a single course requires annually, Jones said.
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