Also in today’s roundup: The USGA plans to keep the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot GC, but will push back the scheduled date; prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Golf Datatech reported that clubs saw back-to-back increases in rounds played—January and February—over 2019 numbers; Walt Disney World keeps its golf courses open, and some are paying going rates to quarantine at five-star resorts.
Here is C+RB‘s 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 U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y. has become the third golf major championship domino to fall as a result of the coronavirus crisis, The New York Post has reported.
Sources with knowledge of the United States Golf Association’s plans told The Post on March 26 that Winged Foot has been informed the tournament will not take place in June as scheduled. The plan is for the tournament to remain at Winged Foot, but to be played later in the summer.
The 120th U.S. Open, which was scheduled to be played June 18-21 at the club, joins the Masters and PGA Championship in being delayed, The Post reported. The Masters, which was to be played April 9-12, has been postponed until later in the year (possibly October). The PGA, which was set for May 14-17 at Harding Park in San Francisco, also has been postponed with plans for a new date later in the summer.
“[We] remain hopeful about late in the summer, [maybe] early September,’’ the source said regarding the U.S. Open, adding that the club is “optimistic’’ the tournament will take place at Winged Foot.
The last time the U.S. Open was not played was in 1945 due to World War II, The Post reported. Now, of the four major championships, the only one that remains on the schedule as originally planned—at least for the moment—is the Open Championship, which is set to be played July 16-19 at Royal St. Georges in Sandwich, Kent, England.
—Golf rounds played in the United States were showing a resurgence before the coronavirus pandemic hit. U.S. courses posted a 19.1-percent jump in rounds played in February compared with the same month in 2019, extending a winning streak for participation, Golf Datatech reports.
The jump was marked by mild winter weather across much of the nation’s northern tier, plus lower precipitation everywhere except for the South Atlantic region. The February gains followed an 11.1-percent spike in January from the same month in 2019, leading to a strong start to 2020, with rounds played up 15.2 percent for the first two months of the year. For all of 2019, Golf Datatech reported a 1.5 percent annual increase, the first year-over-year rise in rounds played since 2016. Of course, the recent report does not reflect the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on U.S. golf, which will be included in the March report next month.
—As play has been allowed to continue on a limited basis at some courses around the country, Jason Corneau, First Assistant Head Golf Professional at Prestwick Country Club in Myrtle Beach, S.C., told WMBF News the course has had to lower its rates “to keep our heads above water.”
Where Corneau said a typical round during this time of the year goes for about $90-$100, depending on how it’s purchased, the rates now are closer to $40.
“It’s hard to tell what the impact is going to be going forward, but we’re hanging on,” Corneau said.
He added that a large chunk of the profit margins was lost due to cancellations of golf packages purchased by out-of-state golfers, WMBF News reported.
Myrtle Beach City Council passed an ordinance March 26 preventing hotels from taking reservations from until May 1.
—Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a statewide stay-at-home order on March 23, with exemptions for outdoor exercise. But after days of confusion, and in some cases, frustration on the part of Michigan course owners as to if they were in violation of Whitmer’s order, course owners received some clarification by way of the FAQ page on the executive order:
Q: Are golf course employees considered critical infrastructure workers for the purposes of Executive Order 2020-21?
A: No, golf course employees are not considered critical infrastructure workers. As needed, however, golf courses may designate workers to leave their home for work, if their in-person presence is strictly necessary to conduct the minimum basic operations listed in section 4(b) of the order. Minimum basic operations do not include serving members of the public.
—Despite the closure of all Walt Disney World Resort hotels and theme parks, there’s one segment that, oddly enough, remains open throughout the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and its requisite stay-at-home orders––the golf courses, Walt Disney World Today News reported.
The website for Golf WDW currently lists the following announcement at the top of their home page:
Walt Disney World® Golf is open!
Golf and FootGolf operations remain available on our regular schedule. We continue to closely monitor recommendations by health officials and have implemented measures to help ensure the well-being of all who visit and work at Walt Disney World® Golf. We recommend continuing to visit our website for further updates to our schedule.
Guests are still allowed to book tee times due to the fact that golf is considered a form of exercise, which is allowed within the recent stay-at-home mandate, WDWTN reorted. Given that guests practice social distancing while golfing, this would technically break none of the rules established by the mandate.
The online reservations page explains some of the social distancing guidelines in place:
Thank you for choosing to play Walt Disney World® Golf, we look forward to welcoming you to the “Happiest Place on TURF!”
In the interest of social distancing, we would prefer that you pre-pay for your tee time, thus minimizing your human interaction and touch-points at the golf course. Please select that option before finalizing your online reservation today. Additionally, Cash purchases will not be accepted at this time. Only Credit/Debit Card or Apple Pay purchases will be permitted. Thank you for your understanding!
—Indian Wells Golf Resort employees Sachiko Okada, right, and George Edwards put together materials that will be made into facemasks for the Coachella Valley Mask Makers to distribute to local health care workers. Desert Sun
— In an effort to help everyone Keep Playing!® while families are sheltering at home, TGA Premier Sports will be sharing online golf content designed for at-home use and engagement. TGA’s mission during this time is to engage students and families together, creating an environment that focuses on golf through STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) academic lessons, skill development and activities that get kids moving.
“Social distancing and staying in place at home are short-term realities but that doesn’t mean we want to sit idle with how youth and families experience golf during this time. For 17 years, TGA curriculum has been executed in tight spaces and we have an opportunity to serve our communities through similar programming in a home-based environment,” says Joshua Jacobs, TGA’s founder and CEO. “Our corporate staff, franchise owners, and coaches are committed to working together to churn out existing and new content repurposed in an online platform for families everywhere.”
Over the next six weeks, TGA will be sharing this new online golf programming with its families and students nationwide through e-mail, blogs, and directly online.
—Chippo Golf and Operation 36 have launched “quarantine challenges.”
Chippo Golf’s Quarantine Challenge is an online competition where fans can post videos of their best Chippo scores, while stuck at home, for a chance to win a limited number of prizes. Those interested will have until March 31 to submit an entry. To join the challenge, participants need to post an unedited rolling video of five consecutive shots to Instagram with a caption including the total score.
Operation 36’s #GolfAtHome Challenge quickly became a huge hit. In less than two days, more than 1,000 families from around the world signed up for the challenge. The #GolfAtHome Challenges are one-hour lesson plans for families to follow. Families can watch the videos and complete the challenges with common household items.
—As countries around the globe close borders, suspend international flights, and enact mandatory quarantines in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus, most travelers are hunkering down at home. Some are scrambling to return home. And then there are a few outliers, Bloomberg reported. These are people who are sheltering in place, exactly where they were when the news started to ripple around the world—in intimate, remote, five-star hotels.
“Many of our guests have chosen to extend their stays by one week, two weeks, or until further notice,” Kevin Wendle, owner of Hotel Esencia in Riviera Maya, Mexico. That started even before the announcement on March 20, that the U.S. and Mexican governments would limit border travel. Now, he explains, travelers who were wary of navigating crowded airports on their way home have been practically forced into staying on vacation.
With just 43 rooms spread across 50 acres, Hotel Esencia has a reputation for being a favorite hideaway of Hollywood A-listers, Bloomberg reported. As of Friday, 30 of the 35 guests currently staying at Hotel Esencia were planning to remain indefinitely, according to Wendle. The hotel, which normally goes for upward of $1,000 a night, is offering a 30% discount to those who extend and 40% off if they extend beyond a week.
For Will Oakley, the General Manager of Cobblers Cove, a 40-suite property in Barbados, the idea made sense—until recently. “Going home means quarantine,” he told Bloomberg, “and if guests can sit it out here longer, even if it’s a couple of months, they will.” (With nightly rates in the $450 range, that could cost upward of $13,500 before counting food and other expenses.)
The idea that warmer temperatures might suppress the spread of the virus was another arrow in Oakley’s quiver as he prepared to harbor guests for the long term, Bloomberg reported. But the Government of Barbados decided on Friday to mandate a 14-day quarantine for new arrivals from the U.S., the U.K., and Europe, and the hotel experienced a wave of cancellations. Now it’s working to get guests home so it can shut down.
The fact that such hoteliers as Esencia’s Wendle are holding on is both a dodged bullet and a huge responsibility, Bloomberg reported. While the U.S. hotel industry is taking a hit of $1.4 billion a week, the lucky few still operating are running at standard low-season levels. But it’s on their shoulders to safeguard both guests and staff.
To protect everyone on the property, Wendle has instituted several rules, Bloomberg reported. All high-touch areas, from doorknobs to luggage, are disinfected hourly; when guests arrive at the main restaurant for dinner, a server squirts their hands with Purell. (Wendle has hoarded 1,000 bottles of the hand sanitizer, he was so fearful of running out.) To help with social distancing, he’s cut staffing, from 250 to 175, by asking employees to take a voluntary vacation week each month, rather than resorting to layoffs.
Whether that sufficiently heeds the call of the moment is questionable. Though Wendle says he’s reduced the five-to-one staff-to-guest ratio, the cuts he’s made preserve those numbers, given that there are fewer guests, Bloomberg reported. And though he’s instituted daily health inspections for staff—those who fail are sent home with pay—that doesn’t account for the fact that they need to commute to work or that the Covid-19 coronavirus can be spread asymptomatically. It’s a risk that protects 200-or-so jobs, he says.