Spring Brook Country Club in Morristown, N.J. encouraged local citizens to drop off bottled water and Gatorade, which would be sent along to one of the largest hospitals in the coronavirus hotbed. Also, clubs in Arizona and Florida make grocery essentials available to members, while New England golfers learn there are repercussions for crossing state lines to play golf.
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/.
—On March 29, Spring Brook Country Club (SBCC) in Morristown, N.J. encouraged local citizens to drop off bottled water and Gatorade, which would be sent along to one of the largest hospitals in the Northeast, Morristown Medical Center, Golf News Hub reported. SBCC holds a 501-c foundation that benefits non-profit businesses and membership’s passion-projects throughout the year.
“Our foundation began as a way to give back to our community, YMCA, orphanages and various other local programming,” said Tony Santillo, Head Golf Professional at SBCC. “When the virus became apparent as it has in recent weeks, it only made sense to shift our efforts to those on the frontlines of this pandemic.”
SBCC dropped off sandwiches to emergency room staff last March 27, and the hospital team expressed their ongoing need for water, Gatorade and snacks as they worked around the clock, Golf News Hub reported. The Morristown community responded with four truckloads of supplies.
“We are very pleased with the call to action we have had from our membership and friends around Morristown,” Santillo said. “We look forward to continuing to be a resource for our first responders for as long as they need us.”
—Both Desert Highlands in Arizona and Sailfish Point in Florida offer a pantry for its members, where they can buy essentials (paper items, disinfectant, bread, milk, cheese, deli, proteins, beverages, etc.) from the club and not have to deal with going to the grocery store. The club carefully packages the items and either will deliver them to the members’ house or members can pick them up in front of the clubhouse. Residents and members, especially with those underlying medical conditions, truly appreciate the club providing this for them.
“Like the ice cream truck we used to chase as youths, the Slammin’ Sammie’s Cocktail Cart has become quite popular at Sailfish Point,” the club reported. “At various times throughout the spring and during the pandemic, the cart will tour the community—playing music and serving canned beer, wine and other spirits to help residents get outside and decompress while staying home.”
—Pinehurst Resort’s Employee Relief Fund Auction, which closed at 8:30 p.m. on March 30, raised nearly $300,000 for resort and country club employees. The auction totals by experience are available at by clicking here.
The Background: With the closing of the hotels and restaurants by the COVID-19 crisis, hundreds of Pinehurst Resort and Country Club employees have been impacted. Many people asked how they could help.
Starting the morning of March 28, the resort officially launched an auction of exclusive “Pinehurst Experiences” never offered before and likely never offered again. All of the proceeds from the auction will benefit the Pinehurst Employee Relief Fund.
Anyone was welcome to bid on the one-of-a-kind experiences during the auction. Within hours of launching, tens of thousands of dollar had been raised.
—As the numbers of confirmed positive cases of coronavirus continues to grow in Riverside County, Calif. five new cases of the virus has been confirmed at Indian Wells Country Club, the Palm Springs Desert Sun reported. An e-mail sent to the membership this week said five of its members have tested positive for the virus, while another person tested negative.
Indian Wells Country Club officials told the Desert Sun April 2 they had no comment on the e-mail out of respect for the privacy of the club’s members.
There is no way to know if the five people who tested positive were exposed to the virus at Indian Wells Country Club or elsewhere, and there were no specifics whether any of the five has developed symptoms of the virus, the Desert Sun reported. The e-mail did not specify if the five people live at Indian Wells Country Club or outside of the gates of the community, though it did say that everyone who could have had contact with the five at the club over the last month, either through golf or other social activities, have been notified of the positive tests.
Indian Wells is the latest club to have at least one positive test in the Coachella Valley, the Desert Sun reported. In early March a positive test was reported for a woman who was a member at Tamarisk Country Club in Rancho Mirage, but who did not live at the club. Tamarisk responded by closing its clubhouse and fitness center, closures that have become common in the desert as courses struggle with the decision to close entirely or remain open at least for golf in the face of a county order that all golf courses public or private must close.
That order was issued in March with no specific date for the closures to end, but the county said April 2 courses should remain shuttered through June 19.
“The conscious approach is to parlay a successful argument that golf can be one of these activities that can be played safely into having the sport be one of the first that comes online when the other activities return,” said Craig Kessler, director of governmental affairs for the Southern California Golf Association, which oversees most amateur golf tournaments in the area.
While Kessler said the Riverside County order to shut golf courses is pretty clear, he admitted that stopping all golf, especially at private clubs, can be difficult to enforce when the golf courses are the backyards of residents, the Desert Sun reported.
“As a practical matter, you can’t stop someone from throwing a football in a park,” Kessler said.
Penalties for Breaking Government Mandates
—Three Massachusetts men are facing misdemeanor charges for violating Rhode Island’s quarantine order by playing a round of golf, WLNE reported. According to Richmond Police Chief Elwood Johnson, three men parked two cars with Massachusetts license plates at a McDonald’s. McDonald’s employees observed the men exit the cars and transfer golf bags to a vehicle with a Rhode Island license plate.
The men left the two cars at the McDonald’s parking lot and then drove a mile and a half down the road, WLNE reported.
“[It] is uncommon for people to leave their vehicles parked there,” said Johnson.
Johnson said the men drove to Meadowbrook Golf Course, which is only open to Rhode Island residents, WLNE reported. While the men were playing golf, employees at McDonald’s called police to report the suspicious activity.
“Kudos to McDonald’s for picking up the phone and alerting us to this,” said Johnson.
Hours later, police observed the men return to the parking lot and return the golf equipment to the Massachusetts-registered vehicle, WLNE reported. An investigation later revealed the three men, assisted by a Narragansett resident, had played a round of golf at the nearby Meadowbrook Golf Course.
Police have now charged the three men with violating Governor Gina Raimondo’s executive order for non-residents to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days, WLNE reported.
“It was clear in this instance they were aware of it and they were trying to hide the fact they were from another state,” said Johnson.
The men were released with a summons to appear in district court May 14, WLNE reported. If convicted, they could face a fine up to $500 or up to 90 days in jail.
Since Massachusetts ordered its golf courses closed, Richmond Police stated that they received numerous calls alerting them to the presence of out-of-town golfers, WLNE reported. Police said Meadowbrook had a sign posted that it was open to Rhode Island residents only, and since yesterday’s incident, will begin checking golfer’s identification.
—Following incidents in Naugatuck and Fairfield, Conn. last week, local golf courses have been finding ways to give their golfers safe and fun experiences when they hit the links.
Late last week, C+RB reported on a video posted on Facebook showing golfers and other residents at Hop Brook Golf Course in Naugatuck forming in large groups in the parking lot.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has urged everyone to practice social-distancing as an essential action in slowing the spread of COVID-19, The Southington Observer reported. Just hours after the video was posted, Mayor Pete Hess ordered the course to be shut down.
Nick Paradis, the Director of Golf at Hawks Landing Country Club in Southington, told The Observer he was aware of the incident at Hop Brook and measures were taken to make sure a similar incident did not happen on their watch.
In a press release titled “social distancing is essential” Hawks Landing set up certain rules, including five tee times per hour to limit the amount of groups at a tee box at once, The Observer reported. They also encouraged golfers to show up 15 minutes before tee time to prevent a group forming in the parking lot.
Each individual golfer receives their own cart, and the golf shop is closed until further notice, The Observer reported. Tee times and payments for rounds can be made using the EZPZ Local application on their iPhone or Android devices. Hawks Landing has also removed scorecards, pencils, rakes, ball washers, and other items to keep golfers safe.
According to guidelines set by the Connecticut State Golf Association, golfers are encouraged to smooth areas of bunkers with their feet or clubs, The Observer reported. It also states that “disturbed areas in bunkers may be treated as ground under repair. This would allow a player free relief from such areas, but would require such relief to be taken elsewhere within the bunker. An additional available option is to take relief outside the bunker for one penalty stroke.” The CGSA also encouraged golfers to download the GHIN mobile application if they wish to record their scores.
At Chippanee Country Club in Bristol, Golf Professional Gary Sassu said that golf carts have not been issued yet this season, but when they do, their guidelines will state one golfer per cart, The Observer reported. Sassu said that club-cleaning services will also be unavailable to its members at this time.
“We have gone over and above the guidelines that the state of Connecticut sent us to ensure the safety of our members and our staff,” Sassu said.
While there was no official word as of March 30, Sassu and Paradis said they both expected the state of Connecticut to send an order once again to shut down all golf courses, The Observer reported. Paradis said he has received calls and letters with displeasures about the golf courses remaining open. Paradis said he would like for the courses to stay open, but he understands the frustration.
“We are coming to expect to be closed at this point,” Paradis said. “Some golfers, as well as other residents, are being irresponsible during this pandemic. Some people are angry and I get it. We want to get this over with.”
—The USGA announced that due to the evolving dynamics of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the 75th U.S. Women’s Open, originally scheduled for June 4-7 at Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas, has been postponed to Dec. 10-13.
To account for reduced daylight given the move to December, the Jackrabbit Course at Champions Golf Club will be used in conjunction with the Cypress Creek Course, which was originally slated to host all four rounds of championship play. The Jackrabbit will co-host Rounds 1 and 2.
U.S. Women’s Open qualifying, which is run in conjunction with Allied Golf Associations and international federations, is expected to be held on rescheduled dates and potentially some new locations. The USGA is also reviewing how the postponement will affect exemption categories, and definitive changes will be communicated when they are finalized.
—The PGA of America canceled the Senior PGA Championship because of the coronavirus pandemic and the recent stay-at-home order enacted in Michigan. The tournament had been scheduled for May 21-24 at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor, Mich. Next year’s Senior PGA will be played at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla., before the event returns to Harbor Shores in 2022.
Virus Affects Courses Differently
—The coronavirus pandemic has shut down competitive sports but so far it has spared two public courses in Enid, Okla. Or, more accurately, neither has been forced to close, the Enid News reported. However, the impact has been felt differently at Meadowlake Golf Course and Pheasant Run Golf Club. Michael League, Meadowlake’s Director of Operations and Course Superintendent, reports play has increased at the city of Enid municipal golf course compared to what is typical this time of year.
“We have experienced more play than normal,” League said on March 31. “I think the reason is that because people need to be outdoors, they need to get out and do something and golf is very safe to do that and not be in contact with other people.”
However, for Pheasant Run’s Jon Pralle, the impact has been felt in many ways, including a fall-off in play, the News reported. He says business has probably dropped “80-90 percent.” The loss of green fees impacts Pralle more directly.
“I have to run the whole course and pay out all the bills out of my own pocket,” Pralle said Tuesday. “The [Oakwood] country club has a lot of members they can lean on. I don’t. I have a few. Meadowlake has the whole city of Enid to sponsor them, so it’s tougher for me to fight through.”
Both courses have taken steps to ensure player safety and modified its rules and set up accordingly, the News reported. A significant impact has been the loss or postponement of tournaments for both facilities and the uncertainty of whether they can be rescheduled.
“We’re going to miss out on the revenue from those events—they bring in quite a bit,” said League. “We had to cancel the United Way event and the Leadership Greater Enid event was to be at the end of this month. Their goal was to raise $20,000. We’re hoping it’s only postponed and not completely canceled.”
League also noted the loss of events such as high school competitions and the annual Enid Fourball tournament which features competition between Meadowlake and Oakwood, the News reported. League said it may be played in the fall if the schedules between the two courses can be worked out—or it may not be played at all.
The unplanned downtime created by loss of tournaments and other competitions has enabled Meadowlake to alter necessary maintenance, the News reported. The course was closed April 1 while it underwent aerification, which normally is done over the course of two days twice per year, doing 9 holes at a time to allow only half of the course to be shut down during the process.
“Being a superintendent, you’re used to battling the weather, something like this pops up is something you never plan for,” League said. “However, superintendents are used to being creative.”
One of the problems facing Pheasant Run that Meadowlake has not had to face, could be perception, the News reported. Because Pheasant Run offers memberships, some may not realize it is a public course. But there also may be another misperception about revenue sources.
Pheasant Run is surrounded by high-end housing, but homeowners don’t pay dues through an association or individually, making the importance of green fees even more critical, the News reported.
“I am just an individual trying to make it work vs. the city and I know they can make it work because I have to pay my water bill every month,” Pralle noted.
But while the current environment has offered unforeseen challenges, both courses intend to keep going through the current difficulties, the News reported.
“We have to fight through this,” Pralle said. “The course itself is probably better than it’s been in years. The greens are running good, the course is cleaned up. We’re open to the public and we have takeout. Come on out, golf all you want while the sun is out.”
League said Meadowlake is persevering as well.
“Our staff has been working above and beyond and doing extra duties even though we are kind of at a minimal staff because we’re really not into the season yet and we are on a hiring freeze,” League said. “They’re trying to do more with less and they’re doing a good job. They realize this is important to the community and we want to continue to provide as long as we’re allowed to.”
—Despite golf courses being closed under Gov. Tony Evers’ “safer at home” order, Dunn County in northwestern Wisconsin is allowing them to open as long as they follow distancing guidelines and patrons have paid a membership at the course, the Wisconsin State Journal. A letter from the Dunn County Sheriff’s Office, which was posted on social media by the Menomonie Golf and Country Club, describes those guidelines and says that courses following them are not in violation of the Governor’s order.
Golf courses are not specifically mentioned in Evers’ order, but in an e-mail to State Journal reporter Mitchell Schmidt last week, Evers spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff listed golf courses as businesses that would close. The order was announced as a measure to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Golf courses are allowed to maintain their grounds as part of essential businesses under the order.
“What our courses are doing is allowing their members to show up and walk and golf the course,” Dunn County Sheriff Kevin Bygd said. “As far as I’m concerned, if they take online sales of yearly memberships, I don’t see a violation.”
Bygd told the State Journal it becomes a “danger zone” if courses try to take advantage of the county’s decision by selling one-day memberships at rates around the average greens fees. But if courses maintain their grounds, following distancing guidelines, and want to allow members to golf, Bygd said he doesn’t know where a violation occurs.
An online petition that started a week ago is asking Governor Evers to open golf courses statewide if golfers take the proper social distancing precautions, WLUK reported. As of April 2, the petition has more than 60,000 signatures.
—Golf courses around Ashland, Ky. are making a concerted effort to keep players safe during the coronavirus outbreak, The Daily Independent reported. Some of the signs: More spacing between tee times, outside check-ins at clubhouses and absence of bunker rakes. Also, no touching of flagsticks allowed.
“We are doing whatever we can, following guidelines,” said Rich Mahar, owner of Sandy Creek Golf Course in Boyd County.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear recently encouraged all courses to restrict the use of golf carts, The Daily Independent reported. On April 1, state parks courses across the state instituted a walking-only policy. The lone exception is made for individuals with a valid handicap card.
Golfers are reminded to heed warnings.
“Please do not congregate on the tee box or practice areas,” Steve Kennedy, Park Manager as well as PGA professional at Grayson Lake’s Hidden Cove Golf Course, shared recently in a Facebook post. “I have a family member who is fighting for his life due to this terrible virus and we need to do everything possible to prevent the spread, especially to our elderly. I pray that we can return to normal before May but we need to help each other to be safe.”
—The response to the coronavirus pandemic has shut down a lot of things in Marion County, Ohio, but it turns out golf isn’t one of them, the Marion Star reported. Green Acres Golf Course, Kings Mill Golf Club and the Marion Country Club are all open for business. However, there are restrictions.
“We can’t let anybody into the clubhouse,” longtime Green Acres owner and Club Professional Steve Grimes said. “They have to put the money in the box, and we tell them what to put in. We have the cups three inches above ground so when they putt and hit the cup, it counts. We tell them to two-putt. We tell them to keep their distance and no carts. They have to walk or take a pull cart. That’s what we’re doing.”
It’s a similar situation at Kings Mill, the Star reported.
“The clubhouse is closed, but people can come out and walk and golf,” Kings Mill owner Linda Krom said. “If they don’t golf, they can just come out and walk. I have an honor system in place where they just put the money for their golf through the little mail slot next to the front door. That’s what we’re doing.”
—The Golf Club of Dallas is taking several steps to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus, The Dallas Morning News reported. Among them is limiting players to one person per cart. No more than five customers are allowed in the golf shop at a time, and doors are propped open so no one has to touch the doors or door handles. Whatever can be sanitized is sanitized to protect customers and employees.
Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order March 31, “which does not prohibit people from accessing essential services or engaging in essential daily activities, … such as visiting parks, hunting or fishing, or engaging in physical activity like jogging or bicycling, so long as the necessary precautions are maintained to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and to minimize in person contact with people who are not in the same household.”
Dallas County Commissioner Clay Jenkins revised Dallas County’s shelter in place order March 29 to include golf among “Essential Activities.”
Two Grand Prairie municipal courses—Prairie Lakes and Tangle Ridge—reopened April 1 after being closed for a week, The Morning News reported. At Prairie Lakes, Head Professional Bert Walker said scorecards and pencils are not issued because they are not disinfected.
“[April 1] is the first day we’ve been open,” he said. “I don’t know what the policy will be next week.”
Tangle Ridge Director of Golf Mark Viskozki said every tee time April 1 was booked.
—Riverside County, Calif. Public Health Officers have issued a new order that closes all golf courses in Riverside County, whether public or private, until June 19, KESQ reported. The new order was issued on April 2 and is effective immediately.
“Use of golf courses, and their ancillary areas, shall not be permitted by any person or group, regardless of membership status, course admission cost, or party size,” reads the order.
Those who violate the order are subject to fines, imprisonment, or both, KESQ reported. There are also civil penalties of up to $1,000 a day.
Maintenance and landscaping work is still allowed at the facility so that it is ready when play is once again allowed, KESQ reported. Security is also allowed to continue operating.
This new order comes just a few days after various local private golf clubs sent a letter to the county asking for play to be allowed.
“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,” reads the letter in part, from general managers of most of the valley’s private clubs. “By the game’s nature, golfers play more than six feet apart and, in most cases, remain up to hundreds of feet apart.”
—The Maine State Golf Association and golf courses hoped Governor Janet Mills would take a mulligan on her decision to classify golf as a non-essential business during the COVID-19 pandemic, but her decision to close golf courses for the month of April still stands after an appeal, the Sun Journal reported. Courses were challenging a portion of the mandate in Gov. Mills’ executive order, which was announced on March 31.
“At this time, we are closed due to the ‘Stay Healthy at Home Mandate,’” Fox Ridge Golf Club wrote in a Facebook post. “We are working with GolfMe, the MSGA and the state to enact industry wide best practices that may allow us to reopen under section 5 of the mandate which allows for the engagement in outdoor exercise activities. Until we are able to reopen the course is closed to all access including walking and non-golf recreation.”
Section five of the mandate says “Engaging in outdoor exercise activities, such as fishing, walking, hiking, running or biking, but only in compliance with the gathering restriction in Executive Order 14 FY 19/20 and all applicable social distancing guidance published by the U.S. and Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
Brian Bickford, the MSGA execute director, is trying to figure out why golf is being treated differently than other physical activities.
“I feel like our sport had done a lot to change our role from being a golf course to be more of a park setting,” Bickford said. “In other words, it’s called park and play, it’s kind of a program that states have instituted which is a seamless no touch transition from the parking lot to the course back to the parking lot and out. That acts like a park.
“The thing we have spent a lot of time working on is golf courses have a lot of built-in social distancing mechanisms … that a park wouldn’t or a hiking trail wouldn’t,” he said.
—Vermont golf courses must remain closed through at least April 15, per Gov. Phil Scott’s executive order regarding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Burlington (Vt.) Free Press reported. The governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” mandate went into effect on March 25, yet left vague interpretations for those in the golf industry that weren’t cleared up until later.
“We closed because that seems like it’s the right thing to do. People’s health and safety come before any monetary gain,” said PGA professional Jon Milne, part of the group that purchased Neshobe Golf Club earlier this year. “It’s too bad. It could’ve been a banner year for golf courses around the state … and it’s not going to be a banner year.”
What can golf courses do?
“Could we continue to maintain the golf courses?” said Todd Trono, the Professional and General Manager at Williston Golf Club. “That’s critical. That’s first and foremost our biggest concern. Could you imagine if we couldn’t care for the golf course until June?”
Golf advocates explained the importance of maintaining the course, particularly as weather warms and grass begins to grow again, the Free Press reported. If clubs couldn’t mow the grass for multiple months they might struggle to regain control.
The golf course superintendents association assured state officials that the limited grounds crew staff would do everything it could to obey distancing and safety restrictions, the Free Press reported. The state conceded that necessary repair work and other course maintenance tasks such as mowing greens and fairways, aerification work and chemical treatments could continue, according to Trono.
Course restaurants can operate like any other licensed food and beverage operation under the current restrictions—curbside takeout and delivery only—though not all will without the built-in traffic provided by an open course.
—The Oregonian provided a list and status of Portland-area courses. Review that list HERE.
—The Lonnie Poole Golf Course on Centennial Campus in Raleigh, N.C. remains open as an essential outdoor activity. But the staff is taking extraordinary measures to protect golfers during the pandemic, North Carolina State University reported. While all outings and events were immediately canceled in mid-March, play was still allowed for individuals and groups of up to four.
It was a lifesaver for the 11-year old golf course on Centennial Campus, a self-sustaining, independent business that receives no operating funds from the university, because it kept some revenue coming in through what is typically the busiest time of the year, NC State reported. It’s completely touch-free. Players make tee times online. They check in outside the pro shop, which is closed to all customers. Both the Terrace Dining Room restaurant and the bar are closed and on-course beverage cart service has been idled. The snack bar, however, is available for take-out service and locker rooms are still open.
A full staff is needed to manage all the extra precautions, and hourly workers in positions deemed essential are being paid, per state mandate, at time-and-a-half, NC State reported. The driving range is still open, but attendants wearing rubber gloves deliver buckets of balls to players who purchase them before their rounds. Bag stands and club washing stations, however, have been removed. And every day, range balls are collected, cleaned and sanitized.
—As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, golf courses across Pennsylvania have been forced to close to help ensure social distancing protocol … if they’re located within the state, that is, the Olean Times Herald reported. As part of Governor Tom Wolf’s orders in recent weeks to close “non-essential” businesses, golf courses around the Keystone State have been shuttered just as their seasons were just about to begin. Take a short drive into New York, though, and the story is different. Courses in the Empire State have been able to remain open, so long as safety protocols are in place.
The way New York has handled things is something that Pine Acres president C.J. Mackey feels could work in Pennsylvania, the Times Herald reported. That said, circumstances across local New York golf clubs vary. Not all courses in Cattaraugus County, New York chose to stay open.
Elkdale Country Club in Salamanca is closed until the pandemic ends while St. Bonaventure postponed its season start until May 1, and that date is only tentative, the Times Herald reported. Meanwhile, Ellicottville’s Holiday Valley and Wellsville and Franklinville’s Ischua Valley country clubs are on hold, while other courses are in the same limbo. Among those open are Birch Run and the Bartlett Country Club.