(Photo of Deerfield GC by Jenna Miller/Delaware News Journal)
Also in today’s roundup: Pinecrest GC partners with a local community agency to help residents in need restock their shelves, offering discounted play as an incentive for contributions; Troon launches “Moments Matter” resource to help maintain connections; National Golf Club Owners Association opens its discussion forum to non-members; and clubs where golf is allowed take extra steps to keep everyone on the straight and (not so) narrow.
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/.
A Good Walk, With No Spoilage
While all public and private golf courses in Palm Beach County, Fla. have been closed by Executive Order, Mizner Country Club in Delray Beach, Fla. has reopened its course to allow members to walk or jog on the cart paths, from 8 a.m. until sundown.
The action marks the first time in the club’s history that walkers have been permitted on the cart paths. It comes with safety policies that have imposed to ensure the safety of the members that will take advantage of the opportunity, as well as those on Mizner’s golf course maintenance staff that will still be working on the course.
Those policies include:
- Golf play is strictly prohibited in any form.
- Residents must remain on the cart paths unless passing others, to maintain social distancing of 6 feet.
- Walking on the turf or any portion of the golf course (the rough, fairways, tees, greens, bunkers), unless for social distancing, is strictly prohibited.
- Children under 16 years of age must be accompanied by an adult, age 18 years or older.
Rangers and security personnel will patrol the course to ensure that the social distancing requirement is adhered to by passing walkers and joggers.
“When Palm Beach County issued the Executive Order to close public and private golf courses, our management team met to discuss how we could meet member requests for walking and jogging paths on the club property,” said Larry Savvides, Mizner CC’s General Manager and Chief Operating Officer.
“We encourage our membership to enjoy a walk or jog amidst the beautiful scenery of our stunning golf course,” Savvides added. “It is a remarkable masterpiece and will now serve our membership during the closing as an opportunity to enjoy its serenity. These are stressful times, and we are all working together to protect our health, the health of our families and the health of our staff.”
Pinecrest Golf Club in Bluffton, S.C. has partnered with the Bluffton Self Help community organization to help restock shelves for residents in need, Bluffton Today reported. With a donation of a minimum of four products, Pinecrest is extending an offer to play 18 holes for a cart-fee rate of $22 through April (play is still currently allowed in South Carolina, under proper social-distancing and sanitation guidelines).
Those staying in place can choose instead to purchase a 10-round play card for $250, with rounds valid for play through 2020. Ten percent of each card purchased will be donated to Bluffton Self Help, Bluffton Today reported.
Items being collected are canned fruit, dry rice, dry beans, pasta sauce and hygiene and toiletry items.
“We like to be very community-oriented and do what we can,” said General Manager Jimmy Powell. “If we’re open, we’re trying to do some community awareness and help with a food drive. We also want to make sure those people staying in place can help as well.”
Seizing the Moments
Troon has introduced a new guest- and member-facing resource, “Moments Matter,” designed to help Troon-affiliated clubs and their communities stay connected during the disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
“Moments Matter” resources are available to Troon-affiliated clubs through digital download and include a collection of stories, activities, information and moments to help maintain connections. “Moments Matter” content is developed daily by Troon associates and corporate leaders around the world or through Troon partners.
Troon-affiliated facilities may then customize the content to fit their club needs, and then digitally deliver fresh programming to members, guests and followers on a regular basis.
All “Moments Matter” resource assets fall under three pillars:
- Moments to HELP – through discernible actions for help members, supporting staff, serving communities, and providing assistance. Examples include associates delivering groceries to those in need, staff members making face masks for local hospitals, and club staff leading local food drives. On a corporate basis, Troon is supporting the St. Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix, Ariz. through sales of 2020 Arizona Summer Troon Cards. The program, launched locally on April 2nd, has already raised more than $5,000 for the state’s largest food bank.
- Moments to LEAD – through innovation, communication and action that focus on serving the needs of members and guests. Examples include adapting to changing situations, while serving the social and physical fitness needs of members and guests. The Troon Corporate team has implemented, and continues to update, an online resource guide for club leaders and associates that includes up-to-the-minute health and legislative directives, best practices and messaging templates.
- Moments to INSPIRE – through programming and communication bringing life and inspiration, and continuing to fuel passions for fun. Examples include golf lessons, fitness classes, tennis tips and cooking advice, plus entertaining short stories and videos, all delivered digitally to communities. Troon is providing daily online content from Top 100 golf instructors, including complimentary Monday through Friday Facebook Live sessions, daily tennis/fitness content from Cliff Drysdale Tennis and culinary content from RealFood Hospitality, Strategy and Design.
“We believe in the power of memorable and meaningful moments, especially in the current circumstances,” said Tim Schantz, President and CEO, Troon. “Be kind, be purposeful, and take care of one another. These are values that guide us as a company and are the pillars of our Moments Matter initiative.
“Since launching the Moments Matter initiative some 10 days ago, the response from members, guests and associates around the world has been extremely positive,” Schantz added. “We’re all in this together and, together, we’ll all recover from this.”
For more information, go to https://www.troon.com/moments/
The National Golf Course Owners Association (NGCOA) has opened Accelerate, its members-only online discussion community, to all golf course owners and operators. Access will be available through May 31, 2020 at no cost or obligation to the facility. Interested owners and operators can sign up for the free access at bit.ly/Join_Accelerate.
“If we can open the lines of communication between more golf course owners and operators, perhaps we can play a part in greater business survival and recovery,” said Jay Karen, the NGCOA’s CEO. “Having one location where course operators can connect, share and learn as proven to be one of the most valuable benefits for our members.”
Protecting the Privilege
Reports from clubs and courses in states and other areas where golf is being allowed have included many comments from managers about the additional precautions they’re now taking, and the extra requirements they’re imposing, to thwart abuses that could prompt a crackdown from governmental authorities and a shutdown of play.
Golf courses in Shawnee County, Kan. at first remained open in late March before being shut down by the Shawnee County Health Department on March 26, The Capital-Journal of Topeka reported. After a meeting of local golf professionals came up with safety and social-distancing guidelines in the days following their closure, the courses were given an exemption from the statewide stay-at-home mandate issued by Gov. Laura Kelly and allowed to reopen. Courses operated by GreatLife Golf and Fitness and the Topeka Country Club resumed play on March 30, and the county-run courses followed on April 2nd.
Even in reopening, The Capital-Journal reported, the courses know that their status is tenuous and could be reversed at any time if violations become rampant.
“We’re under the microscope and we have to do everything in our power to keep people safe—not just the golfers, but our employees as well,” Scott Mellen, Head Professional at the Lake Shawnee Golf Course in Topeka, Kan., told The Capital-Journal. “There are people on both sides of the fence with this thing. Is golf essential? Not necessarily. But is it exercise? Absolutely. So what we’re trying to do is distance those golfers from each other.
“They know if they get together and it’s a tailgate party in the parking lot, we’ll be shut down, plain and simple,” Mellen added. “We hope that a few bad apples don’t ruin it for everybody, but we haven’t seen anything like that yet, and hope that continues.”
Added Rick Farrant, President of GreatLife Golf and Fitness, which operates Shawnee Country Club in Topeka: “Under the circumstances, we’re over-monitoring. We don’t want a situation that crosses the line and jeopardizes access. I think we’re providing a safe environment and we’re doing everything in our power to make sure that it is safe.”
“I think they’re all so appreciative that they get to be out there that there’s been no pushback whatsoever,” Farrant added.
Shawnee County Parks and Recreation Director Tim Laurent said the county’s decision to reopen its courses last week wasn’t one taken lightly, The Capital-Journal reported. He also noted that it wasn’t without controversy.
“I’ve gotten plenty of feedback both for and against,” Laurent said. “For the folks that are contacting us and concerned about the decision, I just point to the rules we’ve put in place and steps we’ve taken to ensure people’s safety.
“That typically doesn’t help their feeling or change their minds on the situation, but it’s important that people understand what we’re trying to do, what the rules are we’ve put in place and the steps we’re taking to make it safe, going that extra mile,” Laurent added.
“When you look at the rules that have been set up, the majority of them are somewhat controlled by the course staff—taking money, food, merchandise, setting up tee times,” Laurent said. “That’s something we can control and we have our own internal checks and balances. But once the golfers get on the course themselves, they have to do their part. We’re relying on them to follow the social-distancing rules in their own groups.”
Golfers included in The Capital-Journal’s report also expressed their understanding of what was at stake. “I think everybody needs to realize if you want to play golf at all, you have to go by the rules,” Chuck Norris said prior to teeing off at Cypress Ridge Golf Course in Topeka “It’s a sport that is self-governed and we’re used to following rules. It’s a good avenue for exercise and getting fresh air, and if you follow the rules I don’t see where there are any negatives, really.
Norris was out with his wife, Cindy, on Sunday afternoon, April 5th, for an activity the two have shared for years. He told The Capital-Journal that he also has other groups he regularly plays with, including mid-week and weekend get-togethers that can include up to 20 or more guys. But with the new guidelines, he said, those regular outings have been altered or scrapped.
“The last two weeks, the guy who organizes those felt like it was contrary to the rules to keep doing that,” he said. “We just felt better that right now, let’s just let everybody do their own thing. That’s what it amounts to right now; if you want to play golf, it’s just a little different than what we’re used to. But we’re still getting to play golf, and that’s a good thing.”
As the weather gets more and more conducive to ideal golf conditions, each course knows it will deal with a higher amount of traffic, The Capital-Journal reported. But from what they’ve seen so far, their patrons have done their part to ensure the guidelines are being met.
In Bend, Ore., the Tetherow Resort, which is now closed to outside guests, is asking that members not play with people they don’t know, station KTVZ News Channel 21 reported. And if they don’t follow the guidelines in place, they won’t be allowed to return to play the course until the social distancing order is lifted.
Tetherow is also asking anyone who has been outside of the area to self-quarantine for 14 days before coming to the course to play, KTVZ reported. It has kept the driving range open, but the grass mats have been spread out farther from each other. The golf shops are closed, but guests will be assisted by staff if they need to purchase something. Rentals are no longer provided, so everyone must have your own clubs. And no more than one person can ride in a golf cart, unless they’re from the same household.
Chris Van Der Velde, the resort’s Managing Partner, told KTVZ that the changes that have been made are designed to help members adhere to the governor’s orders for self-distancing, while still allowing them to be active.
“I do think that this sport, because it is outside and you’re only playing with four or less, you can keep social distancing,” Van Der Velde said. “I’ve really implored my members and my staff to really pay attention to keeping each other safe and healthy. It is a crazy time, and we’re just trying to get through it like everyone else.”
In Delaware, which has become an oasis in a golfing desert, with golf courses closed in neighboring Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Laura Heien, Executive Director of the Delaware State Golf Association, told the Delaware News Journal that she has been on calls with the governor’s office and other elected officials to pass on their guidance to golf course operators, especially about the restrictions on out-of-state golfers that went into effect March 30.
“We’ve had a lot of conversations about making sure none of our courses is the bad apple that ruins the bunch,” Heien said. “Thankfully, a lot of our government folks see the value in what golf has to offer with social distancing and exercise.”
Delaware golf course operators have made all of the necessary changes to ensure social distancing, the News Journal reported. “We’ve got to make it safe for guests and employees,” said Michael Tobiason Jr., Head Golf Professional at Deerfield Golf Club in Newark, Del. “We’ve done everything we can to mitigate all of these contact points.
“It’s the one game out there that you can easily implement social distancing with just a few restrictions,” Tobiason Jr. added. “All the golfers that I’ve seen are more than happy to do that. They’re not complaining. They’re just happy that we’re open and they can get out there.”
Delaware’s courses did enjoy a one-week windfall from out-of-state visitors, as most golf was shuttered in the neighboring states around March 23, the News Journal reported. But starting at 8 a.m. March 30, Gov. Carney required all out-of-state visitors coming to Delaware for a non-essential purpose to self-quarantine for 14 days.
“We were getting a lot of people from outside Delaware,” Tobiason Jr. said. “We were doing 150 rounds a day. Now we’re at about 65-70 rounds per day, which is easily manageable.”
“Business is significantly down,” Frank Horton, Managing Partner at Back Creek Golf Club and The Links at St. Anne’s in Middletown, Del., said about the result of the governor’s directive. “This last order, when the governor closed the state, that really, really hurt. But it’s probably all for the best, honestly. Hopefully, it will allow this to get over sooner versus later.”
When the out-of-state restrictions went into effect, Back Creek and St. Anne’s took immediate action, Horton said. “We called every single person on our tee sheet for the next 10 days to let them know, ‘If you are from out of state, you need to be aware that this ban is in place,’” he said. “I would say 99 percent of them canceled their tee times immediately. And the other 1 percent canceled their tee times eventually, after they thought about it.”
Horton told the News Journal that he doesn’t want his staff to check IDs, because that would require contact between golfers and employees. But other enforcement efforts are in place.
“The local law enforcement has done a great job in patrolling our parking lot and ticketing those people that they verify,” Horton said. “I think we’re just going to leave it up to them to police it.”
Several courses have also stored their golf carts, requiring golfers to walk the course until restrictions are lifted, the News Journal reported. That has also contributed to a decline in rounds at Deerfield, one of the state’s hilliest courses, which went to walking only on March 30.
“That was a big one, especially for our golf course,” Tobiason Jr. said. “We just thought it’s very hard to disinfect an entire golf cart. For the safety of our employees and our guests, it was just in the best interest to go away from golf carts for the time being.”
But Horton said carts are still available at Back Creek and St. Anne’s. The courses have increased the intervals between tee times to 15 minutes, and limited carts to one rider unless two golfers share the same household.
“Seniors want to get out, too,” he noted. “For them to do so and walk 18 holes, in a lot of cases that’s just not feasible. If you give them a single golf cart and they can drive around and still enjoy a game of golf safely, I don’t want to say no to them.”
Tell Us What You Think!
You must be logged in to post a comment.