(Pictured: Oakmont CC)
Also in today’s summary: The USGA begins to explore alternate U.S. Open sites and clarifies handicapping rules for “holing out” and other new practices for playing during the pandemic; salary cuts at the PGA; and a Louisiana country club admits it was wrong to hold a 50-person event after receiving public criticism.
Here’s the latest roundup and summary of club-related developments surrounding the pandemic that have recently been reported. Please send updates on what your property is doing that you would like to share with the C+RB community to [email protected].
All of C+RB’s daily updates on the coronavirus situation can be found at https://clubandresortbusiness.com/category/covid-19/
- The National Golf Course Owners Association (NGCOA) released a list of measures that can be taken to implement a safe “Park and Play” program at golf courses that are able to remain open.
“The Park and Play program gives your golfers confidence that they can drive to your course, park their cars, get to and around the course, and back to the parking lot in as safe an environment as possible,” the NGCOA said. “These measures align with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s social- distancing and sanitation practices, and have been reviewed and approved by a physician at the Infectious Diseases Society of America.”
The measures outlined by the NGCOA included:
- Encourage golfers to pay in advance over the phone with a credit card, show up to a pre-positioned sanitized cart, and proceed to the first tee without personal contact.
- Recommend all customers update credit card information on file and book tee times or order food-and-beverage services DIRECTLY with the club via PHONE during the social-distancing period.
- Place appropriate signage outside the pro shop and clubhouse entries, briefly outlining the social-distancing guidelines in place.
- Place appropriate signage on carts and around the clubhouse with the phone number to call in food orders, with an explanation that credit card transactions are requested.
- Eliminate sit-down food-and-beverage services. Use “call-ahead,” “take-out, and/or “to go” services only. Consider delivery as an option from the beverage cart, or an additional golf cart if feasible.
- Provide protective gloves to all staff handling cash or credit cards during all transactions.
- Consider increasing tee-time intervals, to spread players out on the course.
- Direct players to leave the pin in the cup at all times. You can also raise the cup up an inch above the green surface and count it when the ball hits it. This is a good time for “gimmies.”
- Follow all guidance to not exceed gathering limits established by local and state authorities.
- Conduct no indoor events if possible.
- Remove ball-washing stations or place out of usable areas.
- Remove all trash cans from the golf course.
- Remove rakes from the course and temporarily play these areas as non-hazards. Put a local rule in place that permits placing your golf ball in any bunker on the course.
- Spread out driving-range stations to separate customers.
- Remove all water stations from the course and either provide bottled water or advise them to purchase beverages prior to tee off.
- Remove bulk scorecard, pencil and tee holders from starter areas. Only issue when requested.
- After play, ask golfers to go directly to their carts and park them in designated areas.
- Ask customers to personally dispose of any trash they may have in the nearby receptacles.
- Update websites to indicate you are participating in the “Park and Play” program.
Preparing Your Facility
- Eliminate walk-up tee times and require tee times be made in advance, while encouraging advance pay. Update your website to indicate this.
- Provide clear professional signage informing guests of operational changes and encourage recommended sanitation practices.
- Increase the frequency of routine cleaning, sanitization and disinfection of all locations, especially all common and high traffic areas, and frequently touched surfaces.
- Increase the number of hand-sanitizer stations throughout the clubhouse, especially entry points and lobby.
- Increase frequency of HVAC system filter changing, and schedule more frequent cleaning of the system.
- Do not provide rental clubs during this period but, if necessary, ensure sanitation prior to issuance.
- Remove all non-essential devices from the range, such as bag stands or den caddies. Place balls on the range for your customers so they can be accessed using a club.
- Remove all merchandise items, normally smaller accessories, from your counter and place them out of reach of any customers that may be inside.
- Minimize indoor seating in bar and restaurant, as this seating should be limited and spread out for those awaiting “to go” orders only.
- Ensure golf carts and other rental equipment are properly sanitized prior to issuing to customers.
- Ensure approved antimicrobial products are used for all sanitation procedures.
- Disconnect or remove water dispenser/coolers; this includes on-course units unless they offer foot-control activation. Consider providing bottled water to players.
- Remove sand containers, coolers or anything from a golf cart that could be “shared.” This includes scorecards, tees, pencils and towels—these items should not be offered during this time.
Short Game and Putting Practice Areas: Remove shag bags and devices that collect or push balls (such as PVC piping) from the area. Place alignment sticks, or stakes on the green as targets, and/or turn the cups upside down and leave in the hole. Remove all flags and institute a “bring your own practice balls” policy.
- Remove bar stools if the bar is open for “to go” service; do not promote seating.
- If portable restrooms are used, they must include hand-washing stations with foot-activated devices adjacent to the units.
- Ensure range balls are cleaned thoroughly with soap after every pickup prior to making them available for customers.
Preparing Your Staff
- Ensure staff are trained on hygiene, sanitation and food handling to learn about epidemic prevention and control.
- Ensure staff can recognize the symptoms of COVID-19 and know how to act responsibly if they detect or exhibit symptoms.
- All staff handling cash or credit cards must wear protective gloves during all transactions.
- Encourage golfers and staff to replace handshakes with other touch-less forms of greeting.
To see the complete list of recommendations, plus access the PDF and logos to share with members and guests, click here.
- —WPXI NBC News 11 of Pittsburgh, Pa. reported that an official of the United States Golf Association confirmed to the station that the organization is exploring the possibility of holding the U.S. Open, currently scheduled to be held at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y. from June 18-21, at another site. One of those possible sites, WPXI reported, could be Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club outside of Pittsburgh.
Westchester County, N.Y., where Mamaroneck is located, currently has hundreds of reported COVID-19 cases, with more expected, WPXI noted.
“Our focus is on the health and safety of our staff, volunteers and vendors. And our goal is to have the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in June,” the USGA official told WPXI. “If that’s not possible, we will turn to our other U.S. Open sites and explore possibilities. Oakmont is certainly one of the greats.”
Oakmont CC has hosted the U.S. Open nine times, most recently in 2016, and is scheduled to host the tournament again in 2025.
- The USGA also released a statement on March 20th for “Rules and Handicapping Guidance During COVID-19 Era,” to address common questions from golfers playing under new safety conditions imposed by the coronavirus situation. A separate page , which will be updated periodically, was created with FAQs drawn from submitted questions (https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules-hub/rulesarticles/covid-19-rules-and-handicapping-faqs.html). And the USGA also addressed the most common question it has received, concerning the practice of “holing out” that has been implemented to avoid contact with flagsticks and cups, with this statement:
“From the perspective of the Rules of Handicapping, the most frequent questions received are primarily related to the acceptability of scores for posting to a player’s scoring record—in particular, relating to modifying the hole and not requiring the player to ‘hole out’ as required under the Rules of Golf.
“These are founded in a desire to minimize the possibility of exposing golfers to coronavirus and have included leaving the hole liner raised above the putting surface or placing various objects into the hole so the ball can be more easily removed,” the USGA statement continued. “In these specific cases, provided guidance from health and governmental officials is being followed, a temporary measure is in place within the United States to accept scores played under these conditions for handicap purposes using the most likely score guidelines, even though the player has not holed out.”
The USGA added that this temporary measure will be in effect until the organization advises otherwise.
- A Louisiana country club came under public criticism after letting its members know that it was keeping a number of its facilities open, including its swimming pools and fitness center, and also hosted a poolside bingo game on the night of March 18th that drew more than 50 people, The New Orleans Advocate reported.
With schools closed across the state’s St. Tammany Parish, bars shut down, restaurants limited to takeout or delivery only, and some other businesses under tighter restrictions, Beau Chene CC in Mandeville, La. drew criticism from some elected officials and residents for keeping its pools open and hosting the large gathering The Advocate reported.
Parish Councilman Mike Lorino told The Advocate that he received 18 phone calls from people complaining about the event and characterizing it as “ridiculous and unnecessary.”
Beau Chene General Manager Don Beaver told The Advocate on March 20 that the club had since realized that the bingo gathering was a mistake. “We admitted we should not have done it,” Beaver said. “The members loved it, but I slept on it overnight. The optics look terrible for us to solicit people to come and have a good time.”
Beau Chene has taken steps to allow people to enjoy recreation safely at the property, Beaver added, by limiting golfers to one per cart, moving tables far apart and disinfecting areas, including around the pools. The pools were being maintained with proper disinfection with chlorine and bromide, he added, in accordance with guidelines on the coronavirus section of the Center for Disease Control website.
Thomas Daniel, a resident of the Beau Chene community, told The Advocate that he disagreed with the criticism of the club, noting that it was also doing a lot for the neighborhood with takeout and delivery of meals and support of the elderly.
“We chose to go, sit at a table with our family and provide some normalcy for our children in some very trying times,” Daniel said of the bingo event. “We enjoyed the outdoors, followed recommended social-distancing guidelines, played bingo for about 45 minutes and went home.”
- Sawgrass Country Club in Ponte Vedre Beach, Fla. and Anthem (Ariz.) Golf and Country Club each reported to their memberships that a club member had tested positive for coronavirus.
A message from Sawgrass CC’s President and General Manager that was dated March 20th and sent to members, station News4Jax of Jacksonville, Fla. reported, read in part:
“We have been informed by a member that they have tested positive for COVID 19 and had visited the Club this past weekend playing golf and spending time in the lounge prior to our recent club operation modification. The people with that member and their guests have been notified. However, if you were in the Golf Club Lounge in the afternoon of Saturday or Sunday, you may have been exposed. That member has not been at the Club since Sunday.”
Throughout the week, News4Jax reported, Sawgrass CC had implemented changes to promote keeping people a safe distance from one another.
Anthem G&CC sent an e-mail to members on March 21 to let them know a member had tested positive, reported AZfamily.com, the website of Phoenix stations KTVK 3TV and KPHO CBS 5. The e-mail did not specify the gender or age of the person, but did say that the last time they were in the club was in the fitness area on March 16 and on March 17 for bocce.
The e-mail, sent by General Manager Brad Harrington, also said that the member’s spouse, who had been tested but hadn’t yet received results, played golf at the club on March 17 and March 20.
Since that time, Harrington added, the club had been repeatedly cleaned and sanitized, and the clubhouse and fitness areas had been closed.
The member that had tested positive remained in self-quarantine and is recovering at home, Harrington’s e-mail said.
Harrington’s full e-mail was reproduced by AZfamily.com at https://www.azfamily.com/news/continuing_coverage/coronavirus_coverage/member-of-anthem-golf-and-country-club-tests-positive-for/article_feed2e2e-6c68-11ea-80d6-37e4a2e83ace.html
- The Ladies Professional Golf Assocation (LPGA) announced that the ANA Inspiration tournament, which had been scheduled for April 2-4 and is typically the women’s tour’s first major championship of the season, has been rescheduled for Sept. 10-13 at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif. The LPGA also announced that Cambia Portland Classic at Columbia Edgewater Country Club in Portland, Ore., which previously had been scheduled for those dates, has been moved to Sept. 17-20. The LPGA also announced that its three other tournaments scheduled for April—The Lotte Championship at the Ko Olina Golf Club in Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii (April 15-18), the Hugel-Air Premia LA Open at Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles (April 23-26), and the LPGA Mediheal Championship at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City, Calif. (April 30-May 3)—had been postponed, delaying the restart of the season until at least May.
—PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan announced that he would decline taking any salary or pay during the coronavirus crisis, Golfweek reported, and that other top Tour executives would accept 25-percent salary reductions. Monahan was paid $3.9 million, including bonuses and incentives, in 2017, Golfweek reported, citing the Tour’s latest public filing as a tax-exempt organization.
—A broad coalition of golfing organizations from across Pennsylvania petitioned Gov. Tom Wolf to allow their courses, shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, to reopen, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported
In a letter dated March 20th, 10 groups that represent the state’s nearly 700 courses, its golf professionals, managers, and superintendents, asked Gov. Wolf to reconsider his order closing all businesses that aren’t life-sustaining, The Inquirer reported.
Until that action was taken on March 19th, many private and public clubs in the Philadelphia area remained open to golfers during the coronavirus outbreak, though almost all had shuttered or significantly altered their pro shop, restaurant, snack bar, and instructional operations, The Inquirer reported.
“We believe the field of play, which typically represents over 200 acres of open space land, should be treated differently,” the letter said. “Socially distant recreation on a golf course is much like taking a walk through one of our wonderful state parks. Course owners all over the country have been taking extra precautions to ensure that playing golf is a safe experience that complies with all health advisories and recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control.”
In Michigan, where Gov. Esther Whitmer has instituted restrictions similar to those imposed by Gov. Wolf, golf courses have been permitted to stay open, the letter noted. “We ask that you similarly do not include the fields of play in any such mandates,” the letter to Gov. Wolf said.
The groups behind the request included the Philadelphia Section of the PGA, which represents professionals at nearly 300 local clubs, and the Golf Association of Philadelphia.
The other signers were the Philadelphia and Vicinity Club Managers Association; the Philadelphia Association of Golf Course Superintendents; the Pennsylvania Golf Association; the Tri-State Section of the PGA; the Western Pennsylvania Golf Association; The Club Managers of America, Pittsburgh Chapter; the Greater Pittsburgh Golf Course Superintendents; and the Pennsylvania Golf Course Owners.