Director of Golf Gerry Knebels joined Willoughby Golf Club over 30 years ago when the club first opened. Since that time, Knebels has seen a constant evolution in the game, but none more pronounced that the renaissance of golf as a result of the global pandemic. “Over the past two years, getting outside and enjoying a round of golf was at the top of the list for people all over the country,” says Knebels. “Avid golfers had more time on their hands and many new players took the opportunity to get out on the course and give it a try.”
A class A PGA Member since 1987, Knebels oversees the program at Willoughby, receiving numerous awards throughout the years. The club is well-known as a golf enthusiasts’ paradise and is home to an 18-hole championship golf course by legendary course designer Arthur Hills. Here’s four trends golf is experiencing today:
1. Interest in Golf is on the Rise
As everyone continues to head outdoors to get healthy, high-tech innovation at venues like Top Golf and Drive Shack have introduced the game of golf to a new audience. According to the National Golf Foundation, 501.8 million rounds of golf were played in 2020, up 14% from 2019. 3 million people also played golf for the very first time, a record number for beginners. Country Clubs across America have noticed this increase as well, with more novice players than ever getting started.
Knebels agrees that Willoughby has seen an increase in players throughout the pandemic. “Our golf program has seen a huge increase in play. It’s a great socially distant sport that is played outside, offering Members an excellent opportunity to get outside and get some exercise.”
2. A Steady Increase in Female Players
Although golf was often recognized as a male-dominated sport, the number of female players has steadily increased over the years. In 2019, 5.6 million female golfers hit the links, representing 23% of total golf players. This increase in popularity within the country club community has created numerous events and tournaments specifically for women, and a more inclusive sport enjoyed by all.
“We definitely have a large ladies’ group that are a very active part of our Club program,” said Knebels. “Willoughby has a reputation as a ‘lady-friendly golfer club’, with numerous events, programs, and tournaments held year-round for our female players.”
3. An Increased Focus on Nature
Golf courses around the globe have also seen a renewed focus on enhancing the natural beauty surrounding their course. While each course must be strategically sound, many golfers agree that environmental sustainability and natural beauty are also important factors to consider. Arthur Hills kept Willoughby’s natural beauty at the forefront of his golf course design, framing the course between the towering trees and natural wetlands the area is known for.
“Golf is not only focused on excellent play, but also an increased appreciation for the area’s natural beauty,” said Knebels. “At Willoughby, the 18-hole course uses a unique combination of a vibrant picturesque setting and varied terrain to keep the game interesting and enjoyable for all.”
4. Private Golf Instruction and Clinics
As more people than ever have tried out golf for the first time, there has also been an increase in the number of private golf experiences country clubs hold. Golfers of all skill levels have turned to private instruction to help either learn or perfect their swing. Willoughby’s team of PGA professionals provide top-quality lessons and clinics. The Club hosts a full schedule of weekly events, including tournaments for men, women, and couples of all skill levels to enjoy.
Knebels agrees that these private golf experiences help foster connections between the players and his staff. “My favorite part of the Willoughby golf programs is the interaction between Members and staff, it’s really a family feeling,” said Knebels. “We provide weekly clinics and tips to all levels of players. Our events, clinics, and tournaments have always been strongly supported by our Members and we love the support we receive from them.”
A Well-Rounded Club Lifestyle
Not only is the course design of Willoughby one of a kind, but the community and private club lifestyle make life at Willoughby unique. Our private, member-owned golf club also has one of the strongest tennis programs in the county. The five Har-Tru tennis courts and two new pickleball courts are all lighted, allowing for tournaments, exhibitions, and lessons to happen day or night. Our 25,000 square foot Clubhouse includes member and guest dining, social lounges, a resort-style pool, fitness center, club events and activities. With an active schedule of events, Members have formed an active and close-knit community that makes people feel at home as soon as they arrive.
Located on Florida’s Treasure Coast, Willoughby Golf Club remains the favorite of those seeking an active and social Florida lifestyle. Its ideal location is just a short drive away from Downtown Stuart and 38 miles north of Palm Beach, both with shopping districts, fine dining, and cultural exhibitions to explore. Willoughby Golf Club offers 375 award-winning single-family neighborhood and estate homes with open views of tree-lined fairways, lakes, and preserves.
To learn more about Willoughby Golf Club homes or memberships, visit WilloughbyGolfClub.com or call (772) 200- 6000. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram to stay updated on activities and events at Willoughby and the surrounding area.