By Len Ramirez

SAN JOSE (KPIX) — As San Jose city leaders weigh whether several municipal golf courses should be converted into parks or ballfields ahead of a crucial vote next year, the sport’s recent rise in popularity is making the question harder to answer.

On this Friday afternoon, San Jose’s Los Lagos municipal golf course is busy as it has been through the pandemic.

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“We refer to Friday as the new Saturday for golf. There are so many
people out on a Friday,” said Laura Pease, a golfer who lives in San Jose.

After last year’s COVID lockdown, golf was one of the first activities to come back, and it came back big.

In 2020 and 2021, San Jose’s four city-owned courses saw a 65 percent increase in rounds played. People working from home often sneaked in a round or two.

“Professionals who were probably taking a long lunch hour. We played with sales guys who were taking calls through the entire round so they were still working,” Pease said.

It reversed golf’s downward spiral, generated money and the courses were able to pay off debts.

But as San Jose looks to renew leases for golf course operations, the question has become for how long? Agreements could be as short as three years or as long as 15.

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“The pandemic has really been a blip on the screen where we have seen a real resurgence of interest. So it’s hard to tell really whether this is going to stick or not,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

He favors shorter leases to give the city options to redevelop courses for new recreational uses if golf interest declines again.

“I think in the long run we need to think about for example, could one of these courses be repurposed for soccer fields for example to give more kids a chance for outdoor recreation,” Liccardo said.

As expected, that stance is not going over well with the golf community.

“I think it’s very valuable for us to keep it,” said golfer Anthony Hill.

“I would say to Mayor Liccardo, ‘How would you feel about getting rid of bike lanes?’ This is where I come out. I get social interactions, exercise and I get to see how beautiful San Jose is,” said Laura Pease.

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The decision will be a tough one, but the city won’t have to decide right away. The issue will come up for a vote early next year.