Ventura County, Calif. courses reopened under eight “additional protocols” and Broward County, Fla. plans to reopen in phases, with golf courses included in Phase 1. Hanover (N.H.) Country Club, owned by Dartmouth College, is not so fortunate, however, as the college announced it will not reopen this season. Toro announced $500,000 in support for relief efforts, and Club Car issued best practices for effective golf-car sanitation.
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/.
State and Regional Roundup
—Dr. Robert Levin, Ventura County, Calif.‘s public health officer, allowed golfers to resume play under a modified stay-well-at-home order, the Ventura County Star reported. The return to the links was allowed conditionally, under eight “additional protocols” listed in Levin’s order, designed to “strictly enforce social distancing” to minimize spread of COVID-19.
After more than a month without local, national and international sports, the local golf industry saw the moment as the first small step toward normalcy, the Star reported.
“Hopefully, it brings some sanity back to your life in a safe and orderly way,” said Keith Brown, General Manager of Soule Park Golf Course in Ojai.
Although the rabid demand for a tee time may have made social distancing more difficult, the Star reported. Seeing the potential issue, Lee Harlow, General Manager of Sterling Hills Golf Club in Camarillo, walked around with a golf club to reinforce social distancing.
“We had a little bit of that challenge,” Harlow said. “We’re bringing in more people to keep people apart.”
Hundreds of golf-thirsty people from Ventura County and beyond responded to the order by jamming phone lines and filling tee sheets in an effort to return to the course, the Star reported.
“It’s been bananas,” said Brian Reed, General Manager of Simi Hills Golf Course. “L.A. County is not allowing golf and we’re the first course you come to from L.A., so it’s been ridiculous. The phone has been ringing off the hook all day.”
Harlow told the Star his golf club sold out the entire week, which is about 420 rounds, in 10 hours.
“There was enough demand today to easily fill 25 to 30 golf courses,” Harlow said. “We had calls from as far away from south Orange County.”
Harlow said his customers on April 20 were “predominantly” from nearby Los Angeles County, where golf courses are still closed, the Star reported.
“People are desperate to get outside,” Harlow said.
Cleared by Rancho Simi Parks and Recreation on April 20, both Simi Hills and Sinaloa reopened on April 21 in Simi Valley, the Star reported. City of Ventura courses Buenaventura and Olivas Links could join them as soon as April 24, according to city of Ventura spokesperson Heather Sumagaysay.
“We have adjusted our golf operations to include additional sanitation measures to protect the health and well-being of our staff and guests and to comply with the county health order,” Carl-Van Vallier, General Manager of Buenaventura and Olivas Links said in a statement.
Elkins Ranch in Fillmore, Calif. and River Ridge in Oxnard, Calif. are expected to resume play this week, although neither had begun play April 20 and the Star could not immediately confirm a specific date.
Westlake Golf Course is located in L.A. County and therefore remains closed, the Star reported.
“I’ve been getting calls all day asking if we’re open,” said Drew Thomas, the Tournament Director at Westlake.
The order limits groups to foursomes which must stay 30 feet apart, the Star reported. Driving ranges can be used, as long as range balls are sanitized, but putting greens are to remain closed.
Soule Park e-mailed the news, along with the conditional protocols, to its database within hours of the order being announced on April 18, the Star reported.
Many courses have turned to online reservations to minimize contact with customers, the Star reported.
“We immediately converted to an online booking and prepayment process, so we could take the pressure off the transactional element,” Brown said. “In this environment, it would seem like that would be a much better process.”
The tee sheet began filling up by midnight, the Star reported.
“The next day, all we had to do was wave to them and tell them they were next up and have a great day,” Brown said.
Simi Hills and Sinaloa are taking payment over the phone, the Star reported.
“We’re encouraging touchless payment,” Reed said. “People can give us a credit card number and we keep it on file. Cash is nasty in the first place, even more so now.”
Most courses had been maintained during the ban, the Star reported, meaning grounds crews only needed a few hours to prepare them for customers.
“As soon as we got the order, we had staff who were taking action even on Saturday evening to start raking and edging bunkers,” said Brown. “A lot of little things that had been deferred when we were closed.”
The order allowed Reed to bring back grounds people who had been furloughed, the Star reported.
“When we shut down back in March, we broke down to just a skeleton crew for bare minimum maintenance,” Reed said. “When the order hit the street Saturday night, we had to trim everything back down to playing height. We had to rehire staff and get everyone back on the schedule.
“We were racing around all day Sunday and Monday to get the golf course mowed back out to play.”
The banning of two-seater golf carts has made pull carts a hot commodity, the Star reported. But they are in short supply.
“We’re encouraging people to bring their own pull carts,” said Reed, whose course is “around” a five-mile hike. “That’s going to be hard for people. There’s a lot of people who always ride. … We’re letting people know when they call us so they can be prepared.”
Some courses, like Sterling Hills, don’t have any pull carts, the Star reported. That presents an issue for those who cannot walk the course. Harlow says he was accused of discrimination due to the order.
“What about people with disabilities?” Harlow said. “That came up today … By not allowing people to ride, they’ve eliminated 60 percent of the golfing population and a lot of the county golf population who are old and more [likely] to ride.”
Harlow speculated the order kept many of his typical customers away, the Star reported.
“We weren’t seeing our regulars out today,” Harlow said.
—Amidst an effort to start free, widespread Coronavirus testing across the region, Orange County, Calif. supervisors also wrestled April 21 with how to reopen some aspects of life, like golf courses, the Voice of OC reported. For some county supervisors, the process is proving to be a bit messy.
Supervisor Lisa Bartlett proposed totally closing down OC beaches for the next two weeks because the incoming warm weather will attract people from San Diego and Los Angeles counties since their beaches are closed, the Voice of OC reported. Although her beach proposal failed, Bartlett was able to get the board to pass golf course guidelines offering golf courses guidance on how to open for recreational usage—encouraging sanitizing the golf carts, implementing the CDC recommended six-foot physical distancing by staggering tee times and removing commonly touched items like ball washers.
Supervisors also wrestled with that proposal, questioning if it should be a strong set of guidelines or mandates, the Voice of OC reported.
“Spending 20 minutes of talking about golf course operations is probably not something the public wants to hear from us,” Supervisor Andrew Do told his colleagues. “Let’s just make it broad, Let’s stay within what’s prescribed with social distancing and sanitary practices. Let’s not get into the weeds here.”
—As Broward County, Fla. plans to reopen in phases, Mayor Dale Holness emphasized April 21 the importance of being on the same page with neighboring counties, WPLG reported. Broward has been in touch with Miami-Dade and Palm Beach leadership regularly with the intent of coordinating openings at the same time, so as not to promote a rush of people into one county. Holness also spoke with most of the mayors of Broward cities April 20, with the plan for all of them coordinating timing.
No dates or rules for reopening have been finalized yet, WPLG reported.
“The end of April and the beginning of May … is a timeframe for us to start doing some of the relaxation of the rules,” Holness said, as long as testing for COVID-19 shows the county is ready.
Golf course and boat ramp rules would be modified to accommodate social distancing and prohibit groups of more than 10 from gathering, WPLG reported. Holness emphasized that the key to a safe reopening lies in people knowing if they’re sick, or knowing if they have the antibodies to fight the sickness. He said the county will make sure infections are actually going down before anything happens, so testing is key.
“We know [our curve] is flat,” he said. “But are we going down is the question, and how far, how fast.”
—Miami-Dade County, Fla. is easing restrictions on social-distancing, Time Out reported. C+RB reported on the possibility April 21.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez and his taskforce hosted a virtual town hall meeting on April 20, where they shared a proposed three-phase plan for reopening the county’s public parks, marinas and golf courses, Time Out reported. While an exact date is yet to be determined, phase one will begin with limited access to green spaces, waterways and golf courses. Beaches will not be reopening anytime soon.
Physical fitness, not socializing, is at the core of this new plan, said Gimenez. “We want people to get some fresh air and get some exercise, but still keep away from each other.”
“The mayor and his team have taken our feedback and agree that as long as these recommendations are enforced and monitored, it’s safe to proceed,” said taskforce member Dr. Aileen Marty.
A number of participants expressed concern over rising Covid-19 cases and the negative impact that allowing access to open spaces will have on new cases, but the mayor assures that phase one isn’t just low-risk, but also totally reversible, Time Out reported.
“If we find that somewhere there’s an uptick in a number of infections, none of this has been written in stone. It will be rescinded,” said Gimenez.
Public golf courses will reopen, but players won’t have caddies and must ride individually in their own golf cart even if they’re a married couple that lives together, Time Out reported. Concessions will resume, but food and drinks will be served from a safe distance by masked attendees. Plus, pins won’t be taken out and courses won’t be raked to prevent cross-contamination.
—Despite confusion from many, golf is not allowed during Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “stay home, stay safe” order, the Lansing State Journal reported. It’s a question that has come up often since Whitmer closed all nonessential businesses and ordered people stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19.
A man who identified himself as “John Doe” posted a video on YouTube showing golfers at the Country Club of Lansing on April 19, the Lansing State Journal reported. The parking lot closest to the clubhouse and putting green was full.
Kelly Rossman-McKinney, spokesperson for the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, said all golf courses must be closed under Whitmer’s executive order, the Lansing State Journal reported. Rossman-McKinney said local law enforcement has the responsibility to enforce the Whitmer’s executive order should they see it being violated at golf courses.
That’s not consistent with what the Lansing Police Department said it was told by the AG’s office, the Lansing State Journal reported. Public Information Director Robert Merritt said it is up to the individual course to decide whether they’ll let golfers out on the greens while closed.
Whitmer’s FAQ page on COVID-19 executive orders does not address if golfers are allowed on a course even if it is closed, the Lansing State Journal reported. If a person decided to go to the greens on their own, it would be considered trespassing, Rossman-McKinney said.
“If they want to walk the course, I suppose they can, but with no golf clubs in their hands and no balls,” Rossman-McKinney said.
East Lansing Interim Police Chief Steve Gonzalez said his department would likely cite someone for trespassing if they continued to play on a closed course, the Lansing State Journal reported.
Nichole Fisher, Director of Clubhouse and Membership at the Country Club of Lansing, told the Lansing State Journal the course is officially closed, but members are allowed to play as long as they abide by several rules, including proper social distancing, not using a golf cart and not playing in groups larger than two people.
Flagsticks have been removed and there are no rakes in the bunkers, Fisher told the Lansing State Journal. The driving range, putting green, locker rooms, clubhouse, Stand Six, Pro Shop and the first tee are closed.
John Lindert, the Chief Executive Officer of the Country Club of Lansing, told the Lansing State Journal it was up to local law enforcement to determine if people should be cited for golfing while the club is closed. Lindert did not answer a second call to say if the club was citing people for trespassing.
The country club did, however, have numerous signs posted around the property warning trespassers to stay out, the Lansing State Journal reported.
Although Whitmer’s stay-home order allows some outdoor activities, “opening a golf course to the public does not fall under the designation of critical infrastructure,” Whitmer said in her FAQ explaining the order, the Lansing State Journal reported.
Messages to College Fields Golf Club and Eagle Eye Golf Club were not returned, the Lansing State Journal reported. In an automatic e-mail reply, the Country Club of Lansing warned members that it could not guarantee how Whitmer’s executive order would be enforced. Golfers risk being penalized for being on the course, according to the e-mail.
Violating the stay-home order is punishable by up to a $1,000 civil fine, a $500 criminal fine and 90 days in jail, the Lansing State Journal reported.
—After a monthlong closure, Eagle Bend Golf Course and Learning Center, owned by the city of Lawrence, Kan., will reopen April 22 with new social distancing measures in place, the Lawrence Journal-World reported. Eagle Bend has been closed since March 18, when local health orders began restricting gatherings to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The City of Lawrence Parks and Recreation department announced the reopening April 21 with a news release that detailed some of the new procedures, the Journal-World reported. The measures include a scheduling system that will require payment in advance by phone and will double the spacing between tee times in order to encourage proper distancing.
Many contact surfaces—rakes, ball washers, tee markers, pencils, scorecards and water coolers—have been removed, and foam inserts will fill the holes to create touch-free cups, the Journal-World reported. Buildings, restrooms, food service and practice areas will remain closed, and the course’s riding carts will be limited to one rider per cart. No private riding carts will be allowed.
The city’s guidelines include:
-Each golfer must pay for their tee time slot in advance (credit/debit cards only) by phone no earlier than 24 hours in advance, and will be assigned a tee time on a first-call/first-serve basis;
-After a tee time has been requested, paid and assigned, each golfer will be provided a three-digit code that will be used at check-in with golf staff outside of the west gate. A golfer will not be allowed to enter without the code assigned to them. Golfers are asked to arrive 10-15 minutes prior to tee time;
-Eagle Bend will have riding carts available; however, they are limited to one rider per cart and private carts are not allowed;
-All buildings will remain locked, including restrooms. All practice areas will also be closed. There will be no food, beverage or merchandise available for purchase until further notice. Golfers are encouraged to bring their own water;
-Eagle Bend’s maintenance staff have created “touch free” cups using foam inserts that will fill the holes. This will eliminate the need for retrieving golf balls from the hole. All rakes, ball washers, tee markers, pencils, scorecards and water coolers have been removed from the course to eliminate all contact surfaces;
-Tee times will be spaced in 20-minute intervals. The standard is a 10-minute interval. Golfers are expected to maintain a normal pace of play to allow proper social distancing. All golfers will be monitored by staff; and
-There will be no refunds or rain checks.
—Dartmouth College Provost Joseph Helble announced that the Hanover (N.H.) Country Club (HCC) will be closed for the season. The HCC will fully reimburse all who have purchased a 2020 membership. This process will begin on April 27 and refunds should follow shortly thereafter.
In his announcement about summer operations at Dartmouth, Helble said that “after several weeks of careful consideration, [Dartmouth has] concluded that the facts are not in our favor.” The ongoing progression of COVID-19, a wide geographic disparity in its containment, the continuing lack of adequate testing capability, and the absence of widespread effective treatment, all contributed to Dartmouth’s decisions to virtualize classroom instruction and cancel programs and facilities. Simply put, the safety of the campus and Upper Valley communities is paramount.
This current decision was made on the basis of public health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the college stated. “We will assess the future as more information becomes available.”
The course and the practice holes will be maintained, according to an announcement on the website, but no areas of the golf course (driving range include) will be open for play or practice while the course is closed.
As is always the case, the public may access Pine Park through HCC trails, but the course itself and other paths along the greens will not be open for pedestrians or pets, the website read. The Office of Safety and Security will include the Hanover Country Club in their routine patrols. Violators will be cited for trespassing.
—Pierremont Oaks Tennis Club in Shreveport, La. is one of the many businesses that has been forced to close during the pandemic, KTBS reported. It was shut down on April 16 along with all other tennis courts, private and public, by an order of Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins.
“The Shreveport Police Department actually physically came out on the court where I was last Thursday at 4:30, and an officer told me that we were going to have to close,” said Grady Wilson, General Manager of Pierremont Oaks Tennis Club. “During that day on Thursday we had about eight doctors out there playing tennis. I talked to these guys, all day every day, and they assured me that what we were doing was safer than them being at work.”
Wilson said he believes community safety is the most important thing, which is why he put protocols into place prior to the shutdown—closing all but one tennis court and requiring members to reserve it prior to playing to limit the number of people at the club, taking the gates down so no one had to touch them, and even providing new tennis balls to the players, KTBS reported.
Even so, after explaining these safety measures on an April 20 Zoom call with Mayor Adrian Perkins, Shreveport Police Chief Ben Raymond, and other Shreveport club managers, the mayor and Chief Raymond held their ground, keeping the courts closed until at least May 1, KTBS reported.
Pierremont Oaks relies on memberships to stay in business, and Wilson said they are already seeing members resign or put their memberships on hold, KTBS reported. He said he hopes the shutdown does not last longer than May 1.
Supporting the Cause
— When members of Miami Beach’s public golf courses, Normandy Shores and Miami Beach Golf Club, learned that staff was furloughed due to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, they decided to do what they could to help, CBS Miami reported. Richard McKnight, a member of both golf courses, said he knew he had to do something.
“Little things make a big difference. Any little thing you can do to help goes a long way,” McKnight said.
McKnight set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for many of the staff members who were struggling to feed their families, CBS Miami reported.
“It started to grow and a lot of the Facebook groups got involved, some politicians joined, and the word spread,” he said.
Within just two weeks, McKnight told CBS Miami they raised $50,000. On April 21, McKnight gave every one of those staffers affected a nice surprise.
“I was very surprised,” said Jairan Morlas, one of the 85 staffers who have been furloughed by the clubs. “All the people who work here, play here, did a great job.”
Each golf course staffer received $500, CBS Miami reported.
“The feedback I am getting is that this is not going for utilities, they are using it to buy food, they were struggling,” said McKnight.
—The Toro Company is giving $500,000 to assist families and communities worldwide that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Grant funding from the Toro Foundation will span all regions where The Toro Company operates, and will focus on providing food, health and humanitarian assistance to helping people adversely impacted.
“Supporting our customers and communities is an important part of our culture and core to who we are as a company,” said Rick Olson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Toro Company. “Now more than ever, it is critical that we come together to respond to the unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19 and to support those most vulnerable in our communities.”
The contributions include commitments to several global nonprofits that are assisting in the relief efforts. This includes the American Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross, Feeding America, the World Food Program, the United Way Worldwide, and United Way organizations in communities where The Toro Company’s employees live and work.
An additional element of the global giving effort includes a special program for its employees who wish to personally give to designated COVID-19 relief organizations. Under the program, The Toro Company will match employee contributions to a nonprofit organization of their choice in support of relief efforts.
—During this challenging time, Club Car is assisting its partners and customers with their heightened concerns surrounding COVID-19. Club Car has developed several best practices and tips to help golf courses and their teams clean and disinfect their golf cars—both important to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Cleaning and Disinfecting
According to the World Health Organization, cleaning refers to removing germs, dirt and impurities from surfaces. Cleaning does not kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.
Disinfecting refers to using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.
Cleaning and/or disinfecting are both important ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Vehicle Maintenance Checklist
-Examine for worn belts and hoses, replace as necessary
-Check engine oil level, add or change if necessary
-Clean engine cooling air intake and change air filter
-Clean and tighten the battery terminals
-Lubricate the shift cable pivots, and front suspension
-Check and water batteries
-Examine for worn cables, replace as necessary
-Clean and tighten the battery terminals and battery hold-downs
-Drive the car and listen for unusual noises and proper steering and braking
-Examine and perform a front wheel alignment as necessary
-Inflate all tires to proper psi
-Examine and lubricate the brake system
-Clean the vehicle using products recommended in the Owner’s manual
-Prep the car for storage if necessary (key off, car in tow, park brake set)
—To do its part amidst the coronavirus pandemic, Riegel Linen is now manufacturing masks in addition to surgical towels, sheeting and mattress pads for existing and new customers. Known nationwide for its sheeting, terry, and table linen products for hotels and restaurants, the hospitality textile manufacturer is also helping the local community.
As part of its new “Hospitality Strong” initiative, Riegel Linen CEO Bill Josey gifted 75 washable cloth face masks to international students at the University of South Carolina Aiken who are unable to return home due to the quarantine. An additional 45 masks were donated to the USC Aiken Police Department serving the campus community.
Healthcare products manufactured today by Riegel Linen in McCormick, S.C., include two-piece and four-piece washable cloth face masks (designed for barrier protection only), 100 percent cotton surgical towels, mattress pads, and sheeting for hospital beds.
“Riegel Linen is proud to be assisting the local community and the healthcare industry with these critical personal protection supplies,” said Wyatt “Tim” Shirley, Riegel Linen Director of Manufacturing. “Not only does this transition enable us to keep our valued employees working, but we are providing a great service to both hospitals and hotels. Today tens of thousands of hotels have offered their facilities to the medical community to house patients or host healthcare workers and their families. Riegel Linen is well positioned to equip anyone needing masks and other textile medical products with these items quickly and cost effectively. Only by working together will we remain #HospitalityStrong.”
—Golf equipment brand Honma Golf has launched two fundraising efforts in support of the PGA of America’s newly-established Golf Emergency Relief Fund, which provides short-term financial assistance to members of the golf industry workforce who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Using #PickUpYourPro as a rallying cry, Honma hopes to raise at least $25,000 in support of the industry-spanning relief campaign.
Honma, which has operating headquarters in both Carlsbad, Calif. and Sakata, Japan, has established a charity fundraiser at honmagolf.rallyup.com, giving golfers the opportunity to win premium current-model Honma equipment as well as rare and collectible clubs and accessories.
Honma’s charitable #PickUpYourPro initiative, which features nearly $50,000 in Honma retail product, invites donors to support the Golf Emergency Relief Fund by contributing $10, $25, $50 or $100 fixed-entry amounts between April 22 and May 15. In turn, donors have a chance to win attractive product packages. Winners will be selected randomly on May 20.
“As a part of this close-knit family we know the golf industry to be, the Honma team is acting on a responsibility to do what we can to help lift those affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic,” says John Kawaja, President of Honma Golf. “The Golf Emergency Relief Fund will provide crucial support for many of the men and women who are the very lifeblood of this business. In this time of crisis, it’s inspiring to see golf people unite for this cause to Pick Up Your Pro.”
Honma is also contributing 10 percent of the proceeds from all online sales at honmagolf.com from April 15 through May 30 to the PGA’s Golf Emergency Relief Fund. This includes sales of all Honma golf clubs and accessories.
“Even simple gestures can have a significant impact during this crisis, so we appreciate every bit of support golfers can lend to the folks who make this industry special,” Kawaja says.
The Golf Emergency Relief Fund was initiated by the PGA of America through a lead pledge of $5 million and a matching fund for gifts by third parties of up to $2.5 million. The PGA contribution included every member of the executive leadership team voluntarily reducing their compensation as well as pledges of personal donations from members of the PGA’s Board of Directors. The effort is also being supported in various ways by a number of industry organizations, including the Golf Course Superintendent Association of America, PGA TOUR, LPGA, United States Golf Association, National Golf Course Owners Association and Association of Golf Merchandisers.
“The golf industry is in an unprecedented crisis, and our friends, colleagues and their families need our help right away,” said PGA of America president Suzy Whaley. “We have to ensure that the heart and soul of our game – our people – are able to get back on their feet and continue to serve others down the road. Eventually, golf will return, but first we need to reach out and help people in our industry during this national emergency.”