WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Despite a thin sheet of ice on the pond outside the Legacy Golf Club in Norwalk, the phone continues to ring.
"We've got players calling us all the time to make reservations," club owner Trevis Manning said.
In a year shrouded with uncertainly, one thing has been constant: Iowans hitting the links.
"This will probably be the second-most rounds we ever do in a season," Manning said.
Public courses like The Legacy are not alone in seeing a major uptick in play.
"It actually ended up working out," Urbandale Country Club general manger Ken Norlad said. "As we know and other golf course operators know, this was one of the best years possibly ever for the game of golf."
Norland saw roughly 30% more play this year at the private club and a large increase in beginners. But, as with any business navigating through a global pandemic, there have been challenges.
"The first challenge was were we even going to be open? We started with one person per cart, then we had everything moved outside, people paying online with credit cards, not accepting cash," Manning said. "We typically host 90-100 golf outings in a year, this year we had roughly eight or nine."
"With the mandates in place we really didn't get to use our indoor facilities to their fullest extent," Norland added. "That was a challenge and still is a challenge."
There was also the added stress of managing COVID-19 cases.
"We did have that experience here, some positive cases among staff and there wasn't really a playbook for that; this has never really happened to us before so we drew on what our local agencies were telling us and we were able to act pretty immediately in terms of quarantining those folks and getting our facilities shut down and professionally cleaned and we had to do that a couple times and not reopen until we felt comfortable," Norland said.
Revenue losses inside the clubhouse with both food and merchandise were unavoidable due to public health guidance restrictions, but the focus for both Manning and Norland moving forward will be finding ways to bring back players as they look to 2021.
"Being able to give more people the opportunity to enjoy our great game is very satisfying for me," Norland said. "We need to get them back."
Manning welcomes the challenge.
"It taught us that we can change, we can accommodate, we can move forward and do things in a different way while still being successful and serve customers the best way we can," Manning said.