With the calendar turning to April and temperatures slowly rising, golf is returning to mid-Michigan.
East Lansing’s Forest Akers opened their east course on March 22, and the west course opened April 4. These weeks usher in the move from turf ranges and indoor simulators to fresh air, an opportunity golfer Lauren Posey couldn’t wait for after the cold season.
“In the winter, I really miss it. I’m fortunate enough that when I go home I can hit indoors, but nothing is the same as being able to be out in the fresh air, on the grass on a dewy morning,” Posey said.
Golf has been on the rise since the beginning of the pandemic. The National Golf Foundation reported that a record 3.3 million golfers stepped onto the course for the first time in 2022, and that growth is reflected in courses across Ingham County.
Forest Akers Pro Shop worker Brad Phillips has noticed the increase, saying tee sheets are already filling up with local residents, college students and high school matches.
“It’s already pretty steady. Usually in the spring, like right now, we’re pretty busy with the high school season kicking off and people getting anxious not being able to golf all winter,” Phillips said.
April is circled on golf fans’ calendars for another reason: the Masters Tournament. Professional golf’s biggest tournament tees off on April 6 in Augusta, Georgia and inspires players to get back out to the links, including Michigan State student Dane Cargill.
“I’m very excited to watch the Masters,” Cargill said. “Easter weekend is kind of like the first week that brings back golf for everybody. It just makes us all excited to start the season.”
Cargill admitted he got an early start to his outdoor season, escaping the Michigan winter and traveling to Orlando to golf at the Disney World course.
“They call it the most magical place on turf. I absolutely loved the experience down there, golfing in 85 degree weather. It definitely cured my need to golf until the courses here opened up,” he said.
The courses in Ingham County haven’t yet caught up to Florida conditions, and play is still limited for the first few weeks of spring. Phillips said the east course is still walking only, and tee times won’t be full until that restriction is lifted.
“The tee sheet is starting to fill out more and more. Once we’re able to get carts out, it’ll be full,” he said.
Michigan golfers are just excited to get back out on the course at the start of the season and get back to the sport they enjoy. Posey said playing 18 holes is one of her favorite things to do and the way she relaxes.
“I’ve had my clubs in my car for a whole month with hopes of the golf course opening,” she said. “I’m very excited to get out and I think it gives me an opportunity to get away from campus, get away from some of my work and classes and to be able to have fun with my friends.”