Oakland County golf facilities are welcoming golfers back. Red Oaks Golf Course in Madison Heights is one of five facilities operated by the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Commission.

Oakland County golf facilities are welcoming golfers back. Red Oaks Golf Course in Madison Heights is one of five facilities operated by the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Commission.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Golf returns after ‘busiest season ever’ at Oakland County parks

By: Mark Vest | C&G Newspapers | Published May 2, 2024


OAKLAND COUNTY — On a recent sunny and pleasant Monday morning, Clawson resident David Swanson found himself where so many Michiganders like to be this time of year – on a golf course.

Swanson was at Red Oaks Golf Course in Madison Heights, which is one of five courses operated by the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Commission.

Golf enthusiasts in Michigan endure months of not having an opportunity to play the sport they love at an outdoor course.

When the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Commission opened its season March 29, it gave thousands an opportunity to start swinging their clubs again.

Swanson plays with a group of fellow retirees.

“We champ at the bit,” Swanson said. “We’ve been playing here for … I know more than 10 years, and we play every Monday and Friday, and then we go (to) breakfast or lunch and we just have a ball. … We play and have a good time and be comrades to each other and enjoy coming out here. They know us and take good care of us.”

Aside from Red Oaks, Oakland County’s other municipal courses are Glen Oaks Golf Course in Farmington Hills, Lyon Oaks Golf Course in Lyon Township, Springfield Oaks Golf Course in Davisburg and White Lake Oaks Golf Course in White Lake. Red Oaks is a nine-hole course, with the others being 18 holes.

Since COVID-19, Tom Hughes, who is the chief of parks operations and maintenance for the north district of Oakland County parks, said that golf’s popularity has “spiked up.”

He said that last year there were around 40,000 starts at Glen Oaks and Springfield, 32,000 or 33,000 at White Lake, 29,000 at Lyon and 22,000 at Red Oaks.

“When one person starts, that counts as a start,” Hughes said. “Last year was our busiest year ever … and that trend this year is continuing. … (I) haven’t seen golf tail off at all, which is a good thing.”

Doug Ammon, who is the park supervisor for Glen Oaks, shared a similar sentiment, saying that since COVID, golf has seen a major uptick.

“It’s the biggest boom since the ‘90s in Michigan,” Ammon said. “I haven’t seen it like this since then. … It’s an exciting sport, and (people) figured out it’s a good way to get out for a few hours and have a good time.”

According to Dave Davis, who is a recreation program specialist at Red Oaks, even two weeks prior to the beginning of the season, people were calling to find out when the facility was going to open.

“Attendance has been good,” Davis said. “We’ve already had one day that we had a full tee sheet from open to close. We expect more of that. … There has been a big increase since COVID – probably double the amount of people we push through here.”

Golf has hooked many people over the course of many years, and as such, there are plenty of veterans who have come back for more, even after decades of playing the sport. However, each season presents a new opportunity for people to take it up for the first time.

Troy resident John Harris recently retired, and he got a call from his brother Jim that his brother had purchased some clubs.

John decided to give the sport a shot himself, and although he hasn’t had any official lessons, he has the same access that millions of others do when it comes to trying to pick things up that he can apply on the course.

“I was watching the LPGA,” John said. “I just observed that. … I was trying to replicate that. That’s my lesson, so far.”

Along with his brother, John was also recently on the course at Red Oaks.

“This is easy on the body,” John said. “I’ve got some issues, so it’s not a hard sport. I mean, it’s intense, if you want it to be, but I’m not mentally wrapped around it that way.”

According to Jim, he took the sport back up after previously playing in the ‘80s. He said that it’s a great thing to do in retirement.

“It’s fun,” Jim said. “Got a brand-new set of nice clubs, and I’m actually having a pretty good time.”

Aside from hitting a good shot, Jim shared what has been another appeal of heading out to the course.

“It’s also the camaraderie,” Jim said. “We’re just having a good time.”

According to a press release, tee times at Oakland County parks are accepted seven days before play at oaklandcountyparks.com. Golfers can also call pro shops, starting at 7 a.m., to reserve a tee time seven days in advance, the release states.

Hughes said that there is “definitely a demand there,” which can be amplified with golfers having to wait so long for a new season to begin.

“When the bears come out of hibernation, then they’re hungry and ready to play,” Hughes said. “We see that right now.”

Despite how frustrating a sport golf can be, Hughes encouraged those who partake to enjoy the experience.

“There’s not many opportunities to be able to be out there in an environment like that and hit the ball and be with friends and family,” he said. “It is frustrating at times, but the overall experience, just enjoy it, because those are the times that don’t come around very often. … Enjoy the sport and enjoy the time outdoors.”