While some private tennis academies have temporarily closed their courts due to COVID-19, private clubs and other courts remain open for play. Also in today’s roundup: Several golf courses across the U.S. reopen with more-stringent restrictions, while groups continue to petition governments to allow play; the National Club Association urges managers to contact Congress to appeal for 501(c)(7) relief, and a stay-at-home family builds an elaborate mini-course.
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 Palm Beach Post asked, “Is playing on private tennis courts safe?” amid the coronavirus pandemic. While all public tennis facilities are closed, private tennis facilities—be they performance academies, or located in rental apartment complexes, condo communities or residential country clubs—have been left to set their own policies.
Physical trainer Bill Norris, who works with the Evert Tennis Academy and Rick Macci Tennis Academy, said that “the coronavirus has closed them down” and that they’ll be closed for the foreseeable future, The Post reported. On the other hand, Heidi Boncher, who lives with her husband and two daughters in Boca Raton Bath & Tennis Club, said that while all official activities that the club puts on—league play, clinics, lessons—have been canceled indefinitely, the courts themselves are still open and being used by residents.
“They’re not on lockdown or anything,” she said. “It’s just kind of implied to ‘use at your own risk.’”
At St. Andrews Country Club, where former resident Kyle Silverman’s parents are still members, he said that social play was allowed last week “as long as players wore gloves.” Late on March 25, though, the club closed its tennis facility.
Silverman, now a Palm Beach Gardens resident, reported that private courts in residential developments in his neighborhood are still open and being played on regularly.
Can one play tennis safely — and responsibly? Depends on whom you ask, The Post reported.
Authorities in the United Kingdom believe the answer is “no.”
Last week the Independent reported that, as part of the British government’s lockdown, “all courts have been ruled shut, meaning that you cannot play tennis against friends and family even if you live with them” and that “tennis is classed as a social gathering and should not be used as a means of performing the one piece of exercise permitted each day.”
Julie Fischer, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Georgetown University, is less draconian in her assessment, The Post reported.
As she told the Washington Post, to prevent the balls from being potential disease spreaders, players need be conscientious about not coughing or sneezing into them or into their hands, and to use hand sanitizer or soap and water to keep their hands clean and to disinfect any gated entrances.
“If you’re taking these precautions, and you are both outside on opposite ends of the tennis court, you are really posing very minimal risk of transmission in that setting, especially if everyone maintains that social distancing discipline,” she said.
Reopening Successes and Efforts / Protests
—Shawnee Parks and Recreation golf courses in Topeka, Kan. will reopen April 2. This includes Lake Shawnee, Cypress Ridge and Forbes golf courses, WIBW reported. The decision to reopen the courses was made after consideration of Governor Laura Kelly’s stay at home order which went into effect March 30 and supersedes local orders.
“Prior to the closure, our golf courses had been monitoring and employing best practices to properly sanitize golf carts and equipment and taking other measures to protect golfers,” said Tim Laurent, SCP+R director. “As our courses reopen, our golf course staff will continue to employ best practices to offer golfers a safe way to get out and enjoy the outdoors which is important to everyone during the stay at home order.”
Golfers will be asked to follow a set of guidelines to help prevent the spread of COVID-19:
• Clubhouses closed to golfers except for restroom access (call clubhouse to be allowed in one person at a time).
• Keep at least six feet from all employees and other golfers at all times.
• Tee times must be booked in advance online or by phone. No walk-in tee times allowed.
• No more than four golfers per group.
• Tee times have been reduced to every 15 minutes.
• One golf cart per person unless family members of same household.
• Cups on the green have been modified to eliminate the need to remove ball from the hole.
• No scorecards, pencils, ball washers, bunker rakes, benches, bag stands, drinking fountains or course restrooms.
• NO handshakes, high fives, fist bumps, or touching of other golfers
• Driving Range CLOSED.
• Drinking Fountain CLOSED.
• Course staff will not fill up personal water/beverage containers. All beer and liquor must be purchased from café.
• Customers must pay with credit cards that they swipe themselves. No cash will be accepted.
• Purchases of food and beverages from the café and purchases of golf balls or clothing from the
clubhouse will be placed outside for pick-up.
• No seating in café or outside areas.
• Golf carts must be sanitized after each use with our golf cart sanitation policy.
—The Salt Lake City Golf Division will be resuming play at Bonneville Golf Club, Forest Dale Golf Course, Glendale Golf Course, Nibley Park, and Rose Park Golf Course, on April 2. To protect the health and safety of customers and employees, the restrictions are in place, such as all tee times must be reserved and prepaid online at slcgolf.com and golfers must arrive at the course at least 20 minutes before their reserved time and should be ready to be called to the tee within five minutes of their tee time.
Additionally, motorized and pull carts are not available for rent and driving ranges are closed. Golf scorecards and pencils will not be made available to customers. The Salt Lake City Golf Division encourages players to download the SLC Golf Mobile App which has score keeping and GPS functions.
—Riverside County (Calif.) Supervisor Manny Perez said the county will not alter its “stay at home” orders for private golf clubs after the Board members of 21 private clubs around Coachella Valley sent a letter asking to allow its members to engage in safe golf activities, KESQ reported.
The Board members noted that numerous counties across California made their own determinations regarding golf, KESQ reported. For instance, Sacramento County allows golf on public and private courses. Monterey County allows golf on private courses. Public and private courses are open in Oceanside, Chula Vista, and Escondido.
The letter, in part, reads:
Dear Riverside County Supervisor Perez,
We are writing on behalf of 21 private golf clubs in the Coachella Valley and our more than 13,000 members. We are seeking a modification of the state and county “stay at home” orders to permit homeowners and members of our private clubs to engage in safe, recreational golf activities that are consistent with practicing outdoor social distancing guidelines.
The Governor of California’s Executive Order N–33– 20 issued March 19, 2020 created more questions than answers regarding allowable activities under the “stay-at-home” order. The FAQ’s issued by the County of Riverside Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser on March 24 and updated on March 26 caused even greater confusion. Consequently, public and private golf courses throughout Riverside County have been implementing various—and inconsistent—operating guidelines in an effort to comply with government-issued directives.
In recent days, numerous counties in California have made their own determinations regarding the playing of golf on public and private courses. Sacramento County currently is allowing golf on numerous public and private courses. Monterey County is allowing golf on private courses so long as social distancing and other recommended safety guidelines are followed. Public and private courses in Oceanside, Chula Vista and Escondido also are open. Moreover, Riverside County officials have informed us that they consider the orders to be voluntary as they lack the personnel and resources to enforce them.
Numerous articles have been written in the last few days about the conflicting and inconsistent guidelines being implemented by public and private golf course. Specifically, we refer you to March 27 articles published in Golf Digest by Michael Johnson and in the Desert Sun by Larry Bohannon.
We believe that golf should be treated the same as walking, running, cycling and other outdoor recreational sports and activities that offer the benefits of social distancing. By the game’s nature, golfers play more than six feet apart and, in most cases, remain up to hundreds of feet apart.
Supervisor Perez told News Channel 3’s Blake Arthur that the county’s decision on the matter has not changed and that golf is still not allowed.
—With outdoor activities limited in Palm Beach County, Fla., some people are heading north and crossing county lines for fun, including hitting the links, WPTV reported. In Martin County, golf course operators are hoping they can stay open as commissioners weigh their options.
At Hammock Creek Golf Course in Palm City, Fla., the parking lot was busy Tuesday, but there were still spots to be had, WPTV reported. The managing partner said they are doing several things to keep their patrons safe including spraying all of the carts down regularly and keeping them at a distance from one another. On the course, there is orange foam at the base of the flagstick, so no one has to reach in to get their golf ball. Other than that, nothing appeared out of the ordinary.
But at Martin County’s emergency meeting on March 30, several commissioners talked about Palm Beach County closing all of its golf courses, and calls they had been getting about the sudden added popularity of the courses in the county, WPTV reported.
“Friday and Saturday’s numbers had doubled, and a majority of those golfers were from out of county,” said Commissioner Doug Smith.
County administrator Taryn Kryzda said it has limited options when it comes to private courses, WPTV reported. She plans to meet with the local health department to ensure golf courses are doing the right thing.
“There’s other things they can do with regard to the equipment itself so there isn’t multiple handling of the equipment,” said Kryzda.
At Hammock Creek, where they have seen a slight increase in out-of-county players, management wants to keep all of its 52 employees on the payroll as long as possible, WPTV reported.
—More than 6,400 people have signed a petition in just a few days urging Gov. Chris Sununu to reopen New Hampshire’s golf courses despite the COVID-19 pandemic, SeaCoastOnline.com reported. The petition was started by 21-year-old North Hampton resident Peter Luff and his brother Will.
Peter Luff on March 31 said he “wasn’t expecting so many people to sign the petition” when he started it on March 29. “But golfers are really passionate about the sport,” he said.
The petition, “Let New Hampshire Golf,” can be viewed at change.org/let-nh-golf. It acknowledges Sununu’s stay-at-home order makes sense, but adds “it does not make sense that public parks will remain open but golf courses will be closed.”
“Golf by the nature of the game and with limited modifications can comply completely with the intent of the Stay at Home designation,” the petition states. “In these difficult times people need to get outside and enjoy the fresh air in order to maintain their health (physical and mental) while still following the rules in place.”
—A group calling itself Good Friends Golf—comprised of senior men in West Michigan—has started a campaign to try and get Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to reverse her executive order when it comes to golf, MLive.com reported. The order applies to all businesses that aren’t considered life-sustaining and that includes golf courses.
One of the group’s members sent a letter to Whitmer asking to have the ban lifted and the letter is on the Good Friends Golf website for anyone who wants to copy, sign and send it to Whitmer’s office in Lansing. The address, phone number and e-mail address to Whitmer’s office is also on the website.
The letter claims that courses could be irreversibly damaged if not properly maintained by grounds crews, MLive.com reported.
—Wisconsin golf courses continue to prepare for opening despite being deemed non-essential, WSAW reported.
“We’ve been cooped up all winter long,” said Wausau Country Club General Manager Doug Cheever. “We want to get our members out to golf.”
That won’t be happening due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the effects of the shutdown are concerning to golf courses.
“It’s hard to sell memberships at this time,” said Cheever. “It is very difficult just cause we don’t know if it’s going to be May 1, May 15, June 1, unfortunately, worst-case scenario July 1. All those things are [going to] affect not only us but so many businesses.”
Cheever said he misses his members and that organizations are fighting for golf courses to be essential.
“The Wisconsin PGA, the WSGA, the Golf Course Owners Association,” said Cheever. “All those associations have petitioned the governor to allow us to open.”
Cheever said his course will be ready to tee off the minute that he can open. “The golf course is going to be in great shape,” he said.
—Four Canberra golf courses remain open for play, going against Golf Australia’s recommendation to close due to the coronavirus pandemic, The Canberra Times reported. When contacted, Royal Canberra Golf Club, Yowani Country Club, Gold Creek Golf Club and Belconnen Magpies Golf Club all planned to be open for play, although Belconnen were holding a meeting on to decide whether planned competition went ahead and Yowani have restricted play to members only.
That’s despite Golf Australia advising all clubs on March 30 they should shut their gates, The Times reported. They said golf didn’t fall into any of the four categories Prime Minister Scott Morrison said were acceptable reasons to leave the home.
“It is Golf Australia’s recommendation that, based on the prime minister’s announcement on Sunday evening that limits outdoor gatherings to two persons or fewer, all golf clubs and facilities should close until further notice,” Golf Australia’s statement said. “The prime minister stated that all Australians should stay at home except for: shopping for essentials, medical purposes, exercise, [and] work and education if you cannot work or learn remotely.
Federal Golf Club General Manager Anthony Sinclair said it was almost a relief to shut the doors – given the constantly changing landscape due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Times reported. He felt his board’s decision to close the course was the “socially responsible” thing to do.
Sinclair said there had been plans to limit groups to two people—until Golf Australia’s advice came through.
“I’m actually a bit relieved in some way because we’ve had to change our plans 10 times in the past seven days,” he said. “It has just been mayhem from a management perspective. We’ve more or less had to have the board camped out on site so we can make quick decisions on the latest developments or the latest directions from the government or the governing bodies of the game. I’m proud of the club’s decision to take the socially responsible route of closing the golf course based on the clear direction we’ve been given.”
—The National Club Association (NCA) hosted a webinar March 31 to go over the emergency legislation that’s been passed so far and the impact it will have on private clubs. On that call clubs heard from the Deputy Policy Director of the Minority Whip, who reminded participants that members of the House and Senate are in their local offices now and very much want to hear from their constituents about how relief efforts can be improved in future legislation.
The NCA urged clubs to reach out to their representatives and senators to let them know that 501(c)7 clubs need assistance to weather the economic upheaval inflicted by the coronavirus public health crisis.
The NCA also provided a draft of a recommended letter that it suggested could be customized to reflect each club’s unique situation:
I am writing to share my concerns about 501(c)7 organizations being left out of the Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program that allows small businesses to apply for loans that can be forgiven if used to keep staff on payroll.
Social and recreational clubs around the country generate more than $21 billion in economic activity each year and employ more than 500,000 workers. At my club, [insert club name], we have [insert number] employees and by excluding 501(c)7 organizations they are in the process of being laid off due to the coronavirus pandemic. If the relief package was aimed at keeping workers on the payroll while we fight this virus, it should have nothing to do with the type of employer for whom they work. Clubs are doing the best we can to provide support for our communities as we all work to slow the spread and impact of the coronavirus–but as small community businesses, we need assistance in order to weather economic upheaval we are experiencing due to this public health crisis.
I urge you to include 501(c)7 organizations in any upcoming relief legislation and make us eligible for needed assistance to avoid laying off our valued employees.
Click here to find your representative and senator.
—While the Walt Disney Company‘s theme parks in Florida and California are closed until further notice amid the global coronavirus pandemic, fans may be surprised to learn that both Disney World and Disneyland are tentatively accepting bookings for their resorts after June 1, 2020, Fox News reported. Though much remains unknown about when the worldwide COVID-19 crisis may slow or stop, Disney is currently accepting bookings for future vacations at its resorts at the beginning of June, the company recently announced on behalf of its Orlando and Anaheim sites.
“Walt Disney World theme parks, Disney Resort hotels and the Disney Springs area are currently closed and a reopening date has not been identified. For guests who are interested in modifying their existing travel dates or making a new reservation for a future vacation, reservations are currently available for travel dates June 1 and later,” the Disney World website states.
“As always, guests are able to modify these bookings if Walt Disney World Resort opens before or after that time,” it continued.
—Golf is one sport that hasn’t been canceled for non-professionals. News4Jax learned about an extreme homemade miniature golf course made by the Bond family, who posted their efforts on Instagram.
The family of five is a golfing family according to the mom, Kara. Her husband, Webb, took the girls out for some fun and it turned into something pretty remarkable.
Kara told News4Jax they’ve been using golf to teach the girls the importance of patience, perseverance and positivity. She was inside cooking dinner with their 3-year-old and she happened to step out for this one shot and saw the magic play out.
Watch the video HERE.
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