Return of City Park helps boost Denver’s golf course revenue

A golfer tees off Sept. 15 on hole No. 1 at Willis Case Golf Course in north Denver. (Eric Heinz photos)

Golf at Denver municipal courses continues to be popular through the COVID-19 pandemic, even as other recreational activities reopen.

Scott Rethlake, Denver’s director of golf, said the municipal golf courses were packed during the pandemic and numbers show that trend has kept up through this summer.

“We’ve seen an increase in new players at clinics that we do to get people involved in the game,” Rethlake said, adding the number of tee times booked could drop as more entertainment options resume. “It’ll still remain to be seen how that goes.”

From April to August 2020, Denver recorded nearly $5.9 million in revenue from 257,697 rounds at its courses. But City Park Golf Course, which went through a major renovation, did not reopen until September of that year, so the numbers for those months in 2021 are expectedly higher.

With an 18-hole course back online this summer, Denver received more than $6.9 million from 279,295 rounds at all courses from April to August.

It has still been difficult to get a tee time at City Park Golf Course since it opened a year ago. Cursory searches on the city’s tee time login site during the middle of the day show few if any available times at the Denver Zoo-adjacent course.

City Park alone made up more than $1.17 million of the golf course tee time revenue from April to August this year, with 39,289 rounds played.

The last time the course was open in 2017, City Park generated $719,311 in revenue with 31,049 rounds played between April and August of that year. One caveat, however: Rethlake said the cost of tee times has risen since then.

Golfers on the No. 7 green at Kennedy Golf Course in southeast Denver on Sept. 12.

The course has been extremely popular since it reopened, and it has hosted high-profile tournaments like this year’s Denver Men’s City Amateur and the Colorado High School Athletic Association’s 5A girls’ state championship.

It’s not as difficult to book tee times at Denver’s other courses, which include Overland on Santa Fe Drive; Willis Case in the Regis neighborhood; Wellshire on Colorado Boulevard; Evergreen in Dedisse Park, which the city acquired through a land deal in 1919; Kennedy in southeast Denver; and the par-three course Harvard Gulch in Rosedale.

Denver also owns the water-filled driving range and putt-putt courses of Aqua Golf, but numbers for that facility are not included above.

Booking a foursome (the maximum number of golfers allowed in a group) can be tricky almost anywhere in the state at public golf courses. Long gone are the days of showing up and trying to book a same-day tee time with fewer than three people.

In November, Colorado PGA Executive Director Eddie Ainsworth told the Colorado Golf Association that golf courses around the state were busier than ever.

“In talking with our PGA professionals, tee sheets have been sold out, (instructors) have taught more lessons than ever before, junior golf camps have been packed, and they can’t keep beginner sets of clubs in stock,” Ainsworth told the CGA. “Several private clubs have not allowed any outside (guest) play, partially because of the pandemic, but also because their tee sheets have been packed.”

Rounds at Colorado public courses jumped an average of almost 20 percent in 2020 compared to 2019, according to a survey by the CGA.

A golfer tees off Sept. 15 on hole No. 1 at…

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