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Central Oregon golf courses thriving amid pandemic golf boom

(Update: Adding video, comments from golfer, course manager)

REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Over the past year, golf courses have seen a record number of rounds played.

And Central Oregon’s courses are no exception.

Last year, Ashley Hills decided to take up a membership at Juniper Golf Course in Redmond.

"I had some friends and we were looking around for somewhere to play and a different challenge on a golf course," Hills told NewsChannel 21 on Monday.

The Sisters retiree was not alone in turning to golf.

"I think the COVID thing as well -- it was one of the few things people could do," he said.

In 2020, Juniper saw its membership increase from 287 to more than 370, a record, General Manager Rob Malone said.

"We didn't expect as much of an uptick, and I think the beauty of it is it brought people back to the game who had left it,” Malone said. “And I think it brought some in that either had contemplated or never had thought about playing golf."

That reflects the national trend of a golf boom last year. The National Golf Foundation said there were 60 million more rounds played in 2020 than 2019.

Rounds at Juniper went from 32,000 to 36,000.

Malone said other courses he's talked to around Central Oregon are seeing the same thing.

"Rounds are up, memberships are up," Malone said.

For municipal and public courses like Juniper, the pandemic's golf boom, has been a hole in one.

And as the only municipal course in Deschutes County, the growth is key for Juniper.

"From a financial perspective, it certainly puts us in a position that we've not been in before," Malone said.

He added that he expects to do even more rounds this year. And golfers like Ashley Hills will probably help that.

"I could never get bored with it,” Hills said. “I go out -- every time you go out, it's different. Every shot is different."

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Jack Hirsh

Jack Hirsh is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Jack here.


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