FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – For many years, golf was considered a hobby for older individuals. There was less interest in picking up the sport among younger generations. That all changed when Tiger Woods took the golfing world by storm in the late 1990s to early 2000s.

According to the National Golf Federation, 4.8 million Americans took up the game from 1999 to 2000. However, the numbers have been on the decline until the pandemic hit. Over the past two years combined, the number of beginning golfers has been even higher than when Woods was at his best. 3 million golfers picked up the game in 2020 and 3.2 million new golfers hit the links in 2021. New players are also averaging 12 total rounds played per year.

The big question is why are there more new golfers picking up the game? A simple answer could be the safety the sport has provided during the pandemic; it has been the perfect way to spend time with friends and family while social distancing.

Gary Whitacre, Manager of Golf Operations for the City of Fort Wayne Parks Department, has seen more people coming back to golf and more first-timers, including younger people. They are finding the sport to be a great way to get exercise, a great opportunity to be outdoors, and a great way to be with other people. Kids are finding the sport to be something they can play their whole life.

Whitacre feels the best part of golf is when you hit a solid shot. That moment is always special when he teaches beginners and he loves seeing the lightbulb come on when it happens. The challenge of the golf course is also fun for Whitacre; it is truly a test of the individual versus the golf course.

The PGA Championship is coming up this weekend on WANE 15. The tournament always highlights the work done by club professionals around America. If you are looking to give the game a try, ask to speak with a PGA professional at a local golf shop. For Whitacre, he loves working with people in his role as a manager and teacher. He can help you get started and give you things to practice.

All three of the Fort Wayne city courses offer a different golfing experience. You can view the layout of the courses and the rates for each course by visiting this link.