The latest developments included the closing of Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J.; more tournament cancellations and postponements by the USGA and PGA, including the PGA Championship; the first shutdown of a golf course, which was having “the best year we’ve ever had,” in Florida’s Palm Beach County; carpet-cleaning tips; and a call to a sports-talk show asking for clarification that playing golf did not constitute a violation of the new rules of (dis)engagement.
Coronavirus and the club industry came together in another new way on March 17th, when “Mike in Manhattan,” a caller to New York’s WFAN sports-talk radio station, asked host Boomer Esiason: “I’m out on the deck of my golf club, waiting out the rain. Golf is social distancing, right?”
Here’s the latest roundup and summary of other club-related developments surrounding the pandemic that have recently been reported.
• The Washington Post reported that Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. had closed most of its operations. The clubhouse, fitness center and restaurants all were closed, The Post said, citing an e-mail from General Manager David Schutzenhofer.
Schutzenhofer cited Gov. Phil Murphy’s actions to stem the spread of COVID-19 in announcing the closure, The Post said. The club’s two 18-hole, Tom Fazio-designed golf courses would remain open, but without caddies or motorized carts, according to the e-mail.
Murphy has limited gatherings to 50 people and limited restaurants to delivery and takeout service.
Schutzenhofer’s e-mail did not say when Bedminster would reopen, The Post reported.
- The United States Golf Association (USGA) announced that it has canceled its first two 2020 championships, the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball, originally scheduled for April 25-29 at Quail Creek Country Club in Naples, Fla., and the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, originally scheduled for May 23-27 at Philadelphia (Pa.) Cricket Club. Those championships will not be rescheduled in 2020, the USGA said.
In addition, the organization canceled local (first-stage) qualifying for the 2020 U.S. Open and qualifying for the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open in their current forms, and said it was “[looking] to redesign qualifying going forward as events unfold,” while “continuing to hold the dates for the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open at Champions Golf Club and the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club [June 18-21].”
- The PGA Tour extended its cancellation of events to now also include these tournaments:
– The RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island, S.C., April 13-19;
– The Zurich Classic of New Orleans at TPC Louisiana, April 20-26;
– The Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C., April 27-May 3;
– The AT&T Byron Nelson at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas, Texas, May 4-10.
The PGA of America also announced that is has postponed the PGA Championship, scheduled for May 14-17 at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, for a date later this year, to be announced.
- The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post reported that the Palm Beach Par 3, one of the most picturesque small golf courses in the world, with a view of the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Intracoastal Waterway on the other, earned another distinction as the first golf course in Palm Beach (Fla.) County to be closed because of the coronavirus.
The shutdown was set to start on Wednesday, March 18, after The Town of Palm Beach declared a state of emergency two days earlier and said it would shut the course along with public beaches, the Mandel Rec Center and the Seaview Tennis Center during the height of the tourist season.
“It’s a shame we have to close because we’re having the best year we’ve ever had,” said Tony Chateauvert, Palm Beach Par 3′s General Manager and Head Golf Professional. “But the town, I think smartly, decided to put safety ahead of revenue.
“You put it that way, it’s a pretty simple decision,” Chateauvert added. “We don’t know how bad this [virus] is going to be. The town decided to err on the side of caution.”
South Florida golf courses had seen business drop about 20 percent in the last week, the Post reported, with expectations that it was only going to get worse.
“There’s no question there are going to be challenges in revenues and it’s going to affect the bottom line of all golf facilities,” said Geoff Lofstead, Executive director of the South Florida PGA.
“Fortunately, we have gotten through a significant part of the season,” Lofstead added. “Many clubs were having record seasons until this hit.”
Courses were already operating differently than they were a week earler, Lofstead told the Post. Most clubs had eliminated tournaments, scaled back on their food and beverage service and some were limited cart use to one player per cart if they had enough carts. Private clubs had stopped guests from playing, limiting use of their courses to only their members.
Some clubs had also discontinued the use of caddies, taken rakes off the course and asked members to keep the pins in the holes to cut down the risk of spreading the virus. Carts were being wiped down before and after every round and hand sanitizers were being placed throughout the course.
As bad as things had gotten in the last week, most course operators were bracing for worse days ahead, the Post reported, especially if they were forced to close entirely.
“If they shut down every business for two weeks, it could be fatal for some golf courses,” said Ray Barnes, General Manager for the Atlantic National Golf Club in Lake Worth and The Florida Club in Stuart.
“It could set us back months,” Barnes said. “We were having a good year, but we’re still in peak season. This is the time of the year where golf courses have to make revenues to carry us through the rest of the year.”
Not only would a shutdown hurt the club’s overall revenues and costs thousands of jobs, the Post noted, but there could also be an unintended consequence if golf courses couldn’t be properly maintained.
But Brett Burton, Head Golf Professional at Heritage Ridge Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Fla., and the son of Hall of Fame bowler Nelson Burton Jr., did offer one ray of hope.
“If there is a sport that can survive this whole thing, it definitely is golf,” Burton told the Post. “You’re out in the open with the sun where the air is moving and there’s plenty of space.”
The Post also reported that the new Drive Shack facility adjacent to Palm Beach International Airport was remaining open with a couple of changes: The facility canceled its social league on Monday nights and was spacing golfers to use every other hitting bay.
- Newsday reported that many indoor tennis clubs on New York’s Long Island were shutting down, at least temporarily, but that golf still remained available at big public facilities and private clubs.
Kathy Miller, Manager of the Carefree Racquet Club in Merrick, N.Y., told Newsday that her facility was closing on March 16th. “I think most of the other [area tennis] clubs are as well,” Miller said. “Governor Cuomo announced that all gyms have to be closed, and while we aren’t necessarily a gym, being a sports facility we would probably not fall too far out of that.”
Calls to the pro shop at Bethpage State Park, home of five courses, and to the tee times reservation number at Eisenhower Park, with three courses, indicated that tee times were still available at what was the start of the season for those facilities, Newsday reported. Calls to other popular public courses, such as Swan Lake Golf Club, Rock Hill Golf Club and Sunken Meadow State Park, also indicated that those courses were available for play. And many private clubs were open, but with their clubhouses closed.
“I’ve talked to a lot of PGA professionals who have taken a lead role with their club governors to do what’s responsible and take the best course of action in respect to the health of the members and the staff,” Jeff Voorheis, Executive Director of New York’s Metropolitan Section of the PGA, told Newsday. “We’ve seen a lot of reduction of amenities at clubs. A lot of golf courses both public and private remain open, but in the private club sector, the services and amenities are way down.
“A lot of the members have bought into ‘come get your bag out of the bag room, keep it in your car, and use the golf course,’” Voorhies added. “Most of these clubs are used to extraordinary levels of service. A lot of clubs have dramatically reduced food-and-beverage operations.”
- After Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced a voluntary shutdown of nonessential businesses to mitigate the spread of coronavirus in the state, operators of several courses in the Lehigh Valley region said that planned to stay open, The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa. reported.
Operators at Riverview Golf Course in Easton, Olde Homestead Golf Club in New Tripoli, Blue Shamrock Golf Club in Palmerton and Fox Hollow Golf Club in Quakertown were among those who told The Morning Call that their courses would remain open. Allentown Municipal Golf Course, Bethlehem Golf Club and Southmoore Golf Course in Bath were among those that planned to close.
On a voice message at Southmoore GC, The Call reported, Head Golf Professional Jim Muschlitz said that the course would be closed for two weeks, the time period that Gov. Wolf instituted for the voluntary shutdown that included dine-in restaurants, bars, casinos and child-care centers, among other businesses.
At his press conference, Gov. Wolf said the measures, scheduled to take effect at 12:01 a.m. on March 17th, were voluntary and that Pennsylvania would not seek out violators. Several golf course operators told The Morning Call that they would be open until or unless the shutdown order became mandatory.
Course operators said they were disinfecting carts, counters and even cash at their facilities to protect players and staff from getting or spreading coronavirus. They had hoped the measures would offer not only protection but also an outlet for golfers while other activities are shuttered, The Morning Call reported.
“We’d rather be overly cautious than be criticized,” Southmoore GC’s Muschlitz said before the voluntary shutdown was announced. “But maybe we also can help people get out of the house. We want to do everything we can to keep things rolling and keep everybody safe.”
At Riverview GC, General Manager Jennifer Sagona said, golf carts would be cleaned “non-stop,” as well as the club’s buildings. The course would close “if it’s mandatory by law,” Sagona said.
Fox Hollow GC posted a message on its Facebook page on March 16th that it would remain open for golf only as long as permitted, The Morning Call reported. “We think that it is important during this time period that individuals have an outlet both physically and mentally, and we hope to be here for you,” the message read in part.
At the Blue Ridge Trail Golf Club in Mountaintop, Pa. Assistant General Manager Tyler Papura said his staff also was disinfecting cash that customers used to pay or receive as change. And at Olde Homestead GC, General Manager Justin Smith encouraged golfers to use a smart-phone app that allows them to book tee times, pay for rounds and bypass the pro shop altogether.
“This is a good option for social distancing, in the fact that it certainly can be accomplished playing golf,” Smith said before Gov. Wolf’s announcement.
• Whittaker, a company that specializes in low-moisture carpet cleaning, released an educational infographic (see above) on the importance of sanitizing carpet during an outbreak. It also published a new blog entry on its website, entitled “Cleaning, Sanitizing And Disinfecting Carpet To Reduce The Spread Of Infection” (https://www.whittakersystem.com/how-to-sanitize-carpet-to-reduce-the-spread-of-infection) that provides facility managers with best practices for cleaning carpet amid the COVID-19 pandemic.