Also in today’s roundup: Omaha, Neb.’s Mayor distinguishes golf’s safety from other public places; Michigan’s Attorney General makes light of question on why golf is banned in the state; Illinois and Michigan clubs get public and media scrutiny, with drones used to scope out activity on one property; and Gasser Chair and ClubBuy are among the latest industry suppliers to step up and support the cause.
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/.
“My Golf Clubs Don’t Poop on the Grass”
Newspapers in two states where all golf courses have been closed published letters from citizens who expressed their disappointment with the policies imposed by their state governments:
From the Holland (Mich.) Sentinel:
While letting golfers play golf is not a major concern right now, golf is a public health benefit not being allowed and the ban on golfing puts a major Michigan industry in jeopardy of survival.
As a Michigan resident, I understand your decision to have all non-essential business close during this epidemic.
As a Michigan golfer, I do not understand requiring golf courses to close to players while you encourage other healthy outdoor activities like walking your dog, hiking, running and cycling.
Golf is a healthy outdoor activity. The only difference between me walking my dog in a park and walking with my golf clubs on a golf course is that my golf clubs don’t poop on the grass.
And while out golfing and walking, I am also out bending, stretching and getting a whole-body exercise while swinging a golf club, which is much more robust than walking or hiking.
Before the ban, I went out to play golf at a local course that was closed but welcoming golfers to play with rules for keeping a safe distance and not touching flag poles or other equipment. The course had a box for players to make donations for play but no staff. I walked nine holes and the closest I came to another person was 10 yards in the parking lot, a much greater safe distance than walkers I saw out who were six feet apart.
There are over 650 golf courses in Michigan and they depend on people paying to play golf. If those courses lose the valuable spring golf, we may have hundreds of courses closing this year. That will have a huge impact on long-time and part-time employees, course owners including small family businesses, and—when things get better—tourism to Michigan.
Without course workers to cut fairways and greens, golf courses will turn back into pastures in three months. I saw this happen to the Holland Country Club in 2008, when a bank took over the course in foreclosure and did not pay to keep it maintained. The fairways became fields and trees started to grow on the greens in three months. After that, it was all gone.
I assume the decree on Shelter in Place that closed the golf courses in Michigan probably came because someone on your staff saw news reports of hundreds of golfers standing around at golf courses in Florida in dangerously close groups. This is Michigan. Michigan golfers are smarter than in Florida. We will stay a safe distance apart and not sneeze on each other.
Please change the ban.
— Myron Kukla is a golfer and resident of Holland.
“A Destructive Overreaction”
From The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, Pa.:
Closing so many businesses will destroy our economy! One example: closing golf courses because of the pandemic is a destructive overreaction. There is very little contact from well-implemented social distancing for golf.
I have just returned from Florida where adjustments have been made for safety. Golf bags are now moved from and to carts and cars by the golfer. Clubs are no longer cleaned by bag boys. Carts’ touch points are wiped down between rounds. Clubhouse doors are propped open so you don’t have to touch handles. Credit cards are swiped by the golfer and signing the receipt is no longer required. Flag pins have been removed so they don’t have to be touched. Restrooms out on the course are closed. Water on the course has been eliminated. Food/drink carts circulate, and it is your choice whether to use them.
The economic damage to a business in an already fragile state could cause courses to close and never reopen. This would cost many jobs and limit a healthy source of entertainment.
This may seem trivial, but a 4-½ hour round of golf even in a cart can be excellent exercise, social interaction and mentally grounding.
I’m all for erring on the side of caution but not if it destroys our economy and our civilization. This is war and there will be casualties, we have to accept that.
Any physical contact is risky, but the risk of significant damage to our economy is almost certain. Gov. Tom Wolf should quickly reconsider and allow Pennsylvania golf courses to open.
—Larry Robertson, Harrisburg, Pa.
Not Elitist, and “Very Easily Regulated”
In its report on the decision by the city of Omaha, Neb. to close city parks temporarily but keep trails and golf courses open, station KETV ABC 7 reported that Mayor Jean Stothert explained the decision by saying it was easier to enforce the guidelines on a golf course than at a park or playground.
“We’re getting a lot of comments about golf courses, saying it’s elitist to leave golf courses open,” Stothert said. “That’s not how we were looking at it at all. Golf courses can be very easily regulated by us.”
Michigan’s Attorney General, Dana Nessel, has released a series of Facebook posts in which she addresses common questions that the state has received about its coronavirus-response policies, which have included the shuttering of all golf courses.
Nessel displayed a different take on why golfers are petitioning to be able to play, and did not seem to be aware of the practices that are being used to safely allow golf in other states, when she made light of the many questions she and other Michigan officials have been receiving about why golf is being banned in that state. Here was what she said in her post that addressed the issue:
“[Today’s question is,] Can we please reopen golf courses? We can play golf while practicing social distancing.
“Well, we’ve gotten this question a lot. Like a whole lot. And obviously, many of you are concerned about the impact COVID-19 may have on your golf handicap. And if your game is anything like mine, this temporary break won’t really matter much—you’ll still be terrible at golf when you get back out onto the greens.
“The issue with a golf course remaining open to the public though is not whether golfers can maintain a safe social distance while golfing and playing. The problem with a golf course remaining open is that employees of the course are not Critical Infrastructure Workers under the Governor’s Executive Order. And that means that they cannot work on-site to do all the things that go along with you planning golf, like cleaning the bathrooms that you use, taking your money when you play, or wiping down carts that you drive.
“At its core, social distancing is really about recognizing that we impact the health of all of those around us. So when businesses are asked to reduce or to suspend their onesite operations, it’s because those businesses being open creates a risk to the public’s health. You might be willing to take that risk, but it’s not fair to ask others to take that same risk for you.
“Until the Governor’s Order ends, please stick to practicing on the putting greens in your house, rather than the ones on the course. You’ll protect the public and no one but your members of your family will know how really bad at golf you are.”
More Clubs Under the Microscope, Including From Above
Several more reports have surfaced about clubs being subject to public and media scrutiny as golf is played on their property, even in locations where it is being allowed:
• The Pekin (Ill.) Country Club has been warned by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to shut down operations or “it may be subject to an enforcement action,” station WEEK NBC 25 of Peoria, Il. reported.
A letter was sent by the department to Pekin CC General Manager Scott Roher, WEEK reported, that read:
“Mr. Roher –
I received the e-mail that you sent to members of the Pekin Country Club permitting golf with restrictions. As I’m sure you know, Governor Pritzker’s Stay at Home Order applies to golf courses and country clubs. Golf courses are non-essential and must not operate, even with the restrictions you proposed. This applies to both public and private golf courses. [Pekin CC] can only perform those minimum basic operations set forth in the order. Please immediately notify your members of your mistake and that they are not permitted to golf on the premises. I will follow up with the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Department to make sure they are enforcing this order. I will also notify the Illinois State Police who also have authority to enforce the Executive Order.
The Department did not come to this decision lightly. We are facing an unparalleled public crisis as COVID-19 continues to spread throughout Illinois. The Governor is trying to flatten the curve by keeping people in their homes. Please note that if Pekin [CC] continues to defy this order, it may be subject to an enforcement action.
—Garrett C. Carter, Deputy General Counsel, Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity
In its report, WEEK said it had “reached out to [Roher] for comment, but have yet to hear back.”
WEEK’s report also said that on April 10, Tazewell County Sheriff Jeffrey Lower said he could not legally stop the country club from allowing people to golf under social distancing, because it’s private property. Illinois Governor JB Pritzker was then asked about Pekin Country Club during his daily press briefing the following day and responded, “We want to make sure that everybody is abiding by the Stay-at-Home rules, that they’re in fact continuing even more so strenuously to follow the advice that’s being given by the [Center for Disease Control], as suggested [wearing] a mask for example, and not gathering in public places in groups. So, I would discourage people from using a golf course or from opening a golf course.”
• Station WDIV TV in Detroit, Mich. aired a report by its “Local 4 Defenders” team that “launched an investigation after receiving tips about golf courses allowing golfers to golf.”
“The Local 4 Defenders drone was up in the sky above Edgewood Country Club in Commerce Township [Mich.] around lunchtime [on April 8th] and it caught plenty of people hitting the greens [and] enjoying the 18-hole course,” the report began.
“This is all happening while we are under a state order to stay home mandating that only essential businesses are allowed to operate,” the report continued. “Golf is not essential. Golfers are not allowed to golf.
“Local 4 called the clubhouse and talked to Brian, the manager.
“Brian: Golf course is closed.
“Karen Drew: I understand you are saying the golf course is closed, but we have video of golfers golfing. Drone footage. And you are allowing this to happen.
“Brian: I have closed the golf course, there shouldn’t be anyone out there.
“Karen Drew: I understand there shouldn’t be—you are right, state law states golfing is not essential. If you are the manager, why aren’t you doing anything about this?
“Brian: I closed the golf course.
“Karen Drew: Sir, if you closed something you don’t allow people to go on the property.
“Local 4 Defender cameras caught an Oakland County Sheriff’s car arrive at the golf course,” the report continued. “The course wasn’t shut down, the deputy left the scene—and even more golfers arrived.
“Karen Drew: Do you have any responsibility? Any concern for the law that states we need to stay home, stay safe?
“Brian: Yes, we closed the golf course.
“Karen Drew: Have you looked at the parking lot?
“Karen Drew: Yes.
“Brian: No, I have not.
“The Defenders counted 20 cars in the parking lot,” the report continued. “The manager kept sticking to his story that the course was closed—as more and more golfers arrived.
“Local 4 reached out to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department and were told the deputy did tell the club that golfers had to disperse. They also followed up with a second visit to make sure that it happened.
“While they were there, they noticed the club was having work done on its locker room. Deputies wrote up a violation for both the golf and work being done and it will be sent to the Oakland County Health Division and Attorney Generals Office.
“Local 4 also got footage of people golfing at the Red Run Golf Club in Royal Oak [Mich.],” the report concluded. “The activity was reported to police, who said there was no one on the golf course when they arrived.”
• Station WOOD News 8 of Grand Rapids, Mich. aired a report that said “Many viewers have asked News 8 why law enforcement hasn’t intervened after a photo showing people gathered at a local golf course sparked controversy on social media.
“The picture, said to be taken [on April 11th], shows dozens of people out golfing at the StoneWater [Country Club] in Caledonia [Mich.],” the report continued.
“State officials have made it clear that golf courses should not be open at this time under Whitmer’s order,” the report said. “But the Kent County Sheriff’s Department says this is not a violation they can enforce when it comes to a private course like StoneWater.
“Kent County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Joel Roon said the agency consulted with the county prosecutor’s office and the Michigan Attorney General’s Office to come up with the following conclusion:
“Private golf courses are allowed to permit members to walk on and use the grounds if they choose,” Roon said. “They cannot be open in any way, no pro shop, bar, etc. But if a member shows up with their own cart and decides to start playing, this is not an enforceable violation of the executive order.
“Roon added that those who are members of a private golf club are still expected to follow everything included in the governor’s executive order, such as keeping six feet away from other people as a part of social distancing.
“Officials say the club can, and likely does, have an “essential employee” on duty to act as security, ensuring only members are on the grounds,” the report said.
The News 8 report said that the station “reached out to the StoneWater Country Club for comment, but has yet to hear back.”
Only in New York
The New York Post had this report, in a distinctive Big Apple tone, about how golfers in New York City have responded to the shutdown of courses in the state:
“New York City golfers have balls—and they are going to great lengths to use them.
“While municipal golf courses are closed due to the coronavirus crisis, duffers are simply strolling onto the links—or cutting through chain-link fences—to golf for free, saving upwards of $90 per round.
“On April 8th, a Post reporter counted 22 golfers without a corona care in the world at Dyker Heights Golf Course in Brooklyn.
“ ‘I don’t know why golf courses are closed. It’s the best social-distancing sport there is,’ insisted Bensonhurst’s Andrew Barbaro, 35, before brazenly teeing off.
“Barbaro, who says he’s a 4 handicap, plays Dyker Heights three to four times a week and wasn’t going to let a deadly virus spoil his fun.
“The online shoe salesman said he’d sold one pair of Jordans in three weeks and needed the exercise. ‘My life hasn’t changed at all,’ he opined.
“One hot-headed duffer denied there was even a ban. ‘They got the gates wide open, so why don’t they close the gates if they don’t want nobody in here?’ snarled the Joe Pesci soundalike, clad in a Mets cap and sweatshirt emblazoned with “Barracudas” across the chest. ‘This is more social-distancing than anywhere else you go. You go to the grocery store you’re two to three feet away from each other. Over here, you’re a hundred feet away from each other!’
“The guilty golfer pulled his hoodie over his head and skulked off the course.
“ ‘You should mind your business, man!’ warned another club-wielding interloper, who defiantly played on. ‘Social shaming can mind its own business and go f–k itself!’
“A groundskeeper at shuttered Silver Lake Golf Course in Staten Island said devious duffers were cutting holes in the fence to gain access to the 18-hole course.
“An incredible 85 golfers were booted off South Shore Golf Course on Staten Island [on April 8th] and six were escorted from the borough’s LaTourette Golf Course on [April 9th], said Crystal Howard, a spokeswoman for the city Parks Department, which oversees the 20 full-service and mini courses.
“She said eight duffers were removed from Clearview Golf Course in Queens on April 5, and five were issued $50 summonses for trespassing.
“Howard noted that all Parks golf courses are run by third-party operators via license agreements and closed on March 22 ‘out of an abundance of caution and to assist in promoting social distancing.’
“ ‘We have increased patrols at courses across the city in response to these infractions,’ Howard said.
Industry Suppliers Continue to Step Up
Gasser Chair Co. in Youngstown, Ohio tweeted that it had teamed up with GLI Pools to make enough parts to assemble 85,000 masks for local hospitals. JoAnn Stores donated fabric and Gasser employees volunteered their time to help assemble the masks.
ClubBuy, GOLF Business Solutions’ group purchasing organization, announced that is partnering with SynaTek to offer an EPA-approved golf cart disinfectant solution for sale to its members at a 10 percent discount.
NeutraFect solution has been added to the list of ClubBuy products, helping golf course facilities better adhere to safety protocols recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other medical experts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
An approved product with Environmental Protection Agency, NeutraFect is found on List N, which is made up of disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19. When mixed properly, a ½-gallon bottle will yield 32 gallons of disinfectant. The solution also is sold separately or by the case (four bottles; 128-gallon yield).
More information about how to purchase NeutraFect at a discount can be found on the ClubBuy website at https://www.clubbuy.com/post/disinfectant-for-golf-carts