Many operators in walk-only states are pushing for change, saying they can’t begin to recover all they’ve lost from the delayed and restricted start to their seasons without reinstatement of cart privileges for the golfers who need to use them. Also in today’s report: Some Florida clubs enjoy surprisingly strong end-of-season play; Illinois clubs reconcile unfair imposition of dynamic pricing on residents and seniors; Trump courses open in L.A. and Miami; Maridoe GC gets ready for second tournament; and Muirfield Village GC plans to use RFID chips to make sure fans at the Memorial Tournament keep their distance.
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/.
Carts or No Carts? States Still Differ in Opinion
New York is still officially banning golf carts on courses while play is permitted during the coronavirus pandemic, but will now allow them for individuals with disabilities, USA Today reported. And Wisconsin has a similar policy.
But Michigan reinstated cart use on May 8th and Rhode Island did so the next day. And New Jersey says it’s up to the courses.
Overall, the issue of carts on-site has remained a dicey one, with some states having restrictions and others allowing cart play to resume with few limitations, USA Today reported. And it’s become a prominent part of the fallout from what has been a disjointed rollout of golf during the coronavirus pandemic, with many operators saying they can’t begin to recover all they’ve lost from the delayed and restricted start to their seasons without reinstatement of cart privileges for the golfers who need to use them.
In New York, an updated guidance that has been quietly provided to courses was aimed at complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to Empire State Development, the state’s economic development arm.
The state initially banned golf on April 9, but then, amid protests from courses, let golf resume April 18 only for those who walk.
But that guidance was then updated, USA Today reported, with the state agency saying that “on a case-by-case basis, the use of a motorized cart may be permitted for any individual with a disability who is seeking a reasonable accommodation to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
But even in the state of New York, those rules aren’t being evenly distributed, USA Today reported. In Oneida County, which includes the city of Utica, carts are being allowed on courses, even for those who are not deemed to have a disability.
“We’ve been letting courses use carts as long as they are cleaned and only have one person riding—unless it’s a husband-and-wife team,” Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente said. “We’ve allowed these courses to open, but we need to treat everyone equally. How do you tell an older guy that he needs to walk and carry his bag or pull a handcart for 18 holes?”
When questioned about enforcement, Picente said that the 90/10 rule will always apply. “Ninety percent of people comply — it’s the others that ruin it,” he said. The weight is on the courses to oversee compliance, he added.
New York’s Westchester County opened some of its county courses and allowed carts, but restricted to a single rider, USA Today reported.
Steve Volpicelli, a PGA Professional at Soaring Eagles Golf Course in Horseheads, N.Y., and others also hoping to help course owners across the state put together videos to share with the Governor’s office about how they can expand their business to include golf carts and the driving range, station WETM 18 News of Elmira, N.Y. reported
“It’s all about safety for the customer and the staff,” said Volpiecelli, “and what we do after the golf carts are returned from the person and how we sanitize and get it ready for the next person to come through.”
Volpicelli said that Soaring Eagles is six weeks behind and that courses across the state are hurting due to the virus and business restrictions, WETM reported.
In Rhode Island, with Phase 1 of Gov. Gina Raimondo’s plan to reopen the state’s economy expected to go into effect Saturday, some restrictions placed on the state’s golf courses and golfers are being changed, USA Today reported.
The biggest one for Rhode Island golfers is that electric and gas golf carts will be allowed. Carts will be restricted to one per player, unless two players are from the same household. Carts must be sanitized before and after each round of play.
Courses also must make carts available for those with disabilities recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act, verifying those disabilities through a parking placard issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Meanwhile, the Michigan Golf Course Association notified courses via email Friday that the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, responding to a query from the Small Business Association of Michigan, has allowed carts to return.
“I think it’s big time,” Doug Mervis, who owns a course in Ann Arbor, Mich. said of carts being allowed. “There’s a huge class of people that will only ride. I know people that weren’t playing golf yet because they were waiting for carts.”
When Massachusetts golf courses reopened on May 7th, there was an outcry when governor Charlie Baker banned the use of all motorized carts, which prevented disabled golfers from taking up the sport again, MassLive.com reported.
Baker relaxed the extensive rules and restrictions a bit on May 10th to accommodate golfers who can’t walk long distances, MassLive.com reported. According to the official Massachusetts website detailing coronavirus guidelines for golfers, motorized carts “may be permitted for any individual with a disability who is seeking a reasonable accommodation to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. A golfer who wants to use a cart should provide documentation or otherwise certify in writing to the golf course that he or she has a disability that requires the use of the cart.”
The guidelines also state that carts must be cleaned and sanitized after every use by necessary security and groundskeeping personnel. Non-essential employees are not allowed to help handle rentals or cleaning.
Golfers threatened to sue Massachusetts golf courses for not permitting the use of carts, even though the rule was put in place by the state, and some golfers said they would take their business to Connecticut, MassLive.com reported.
Some Florida Courses Enjoy Late-Season Bonus
As Florida continues to slowly reopen, golf courses are beginning to see more people standing in their tee boxes, station NBC 2 WBBH/WZVN of Fort Myers, Fla. reported.
“It has been a little crazy,” said Kari Phenix, a golf pro at Fort Myers Country Club. “We have been booked solid until 5:30. We are still doing the social distancing. You know, everyone is enjoying being out in the sunshine so it’s a great thing for us.”
Fort Myers CC has seen an uptick in golfers recently due to other courses in the area closing for renovations, WBBH/WZVN reported. Seasonal residents are also staying in the area.
To help with the added players, the club has reopened its sister course, Eastwood Golf Course, WBBH/WZVN reported.
Elgin, Ill. Eliminates Dynamic Pricing for Residents, Seniors
The city of Elgin, Ill. implemented resident and senior discounts on May 11th at The Highlands of Elgin and Wing Park golf courses, with the course’s websites instructing residents to call the golf shops to pay the reduced pricing, the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. reported.
The changes took effect after a Daily Herald story about increased rates in Elgin in the wake of golf courses in Illinois reopening on May 1. Dynamic pricing is based on computer programming that analyzes multiple variables—weather, time of day, availability of tee times and more—and adjusts rates on a competitive model.
Online booking with dynamic pricing still applies to nonresidents, the Daily Herald reported, but there is now a “ceiling,” so rates don’t get too high with high demand, and a “floor,” which allows rates to drop even below regular rates if there is low demand, according to Mike Lehman, the city’s Director of Golf Operations.
The changes don’t apply to the city’s third golf course, Bowes Creek Country Club, which has a different rate structure and variables, and where online booking prices currently are below posted rates, Lehman said.
Golfers flocked back to courses after the state of Illinois eased restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing reopening with only two players teeing off every 15 minutes, the Daily Herald reported. The city of Elgin did its best to respond quickly to the changing restrictions and conditions, but the dynamic pricing computer modeling—never implemented before, with course capacity restricted at 29%—put too much emphasis on the shortage of available tee times, Lehman said.
Golf courses are in a tough spot, because there is pent-up demand from golfers but also much less revenue, Lehman said. “We are just trying to respond to the changes,” he said.
Trump Courses in L.A., Miami Reopen
Eric Trump, Executive Vice President of the Trump Organization, took to Twitter to announce, “We are very excited that Trump National Golf Club, Los Angeles and Trump Doral in Miami are reopened.”
“The courses are absolutely impeccable and our teams are waiting for you!” Trump’s tweet added.
Golfers were urged to call the clubs directly to reserve tee times. At both Trump courses, players would not be allowed to share golf carts, with only one rider per vehicle.
Second Tournament Set for Maridoe GC, This Time with Spieth on Board
On the heels if its initial success with a “social-distancing tournament,” organizers have set things in motion for a second version of the Maridoe Samaritan Fund Invitational, to be held at Maridoe Golf Club in Carrollton, Texas from May 19-21
When tour pros and college players lauded the upscale private club outside Dallas for pulling off its initial 54-hole event (April 28-30)—raising more than $20,000 for the club’s caddie fund and showing how manageable it was to compete while following various social distancing guidelines—the club decided to hold a second event, May 19-21.
Once more, carts and caddies will be prohibited and no bunker rakes will be out on the course (a walking scorer with each group will stay on the cart path and rake bunkers when needed). Each participant can only have one guest, can arrive no earlier than 30 minutes before tee times, and is asked to avoid coming within six feet of fellow competitors. The club’s range will converted into a par-3 course and available for players to warm up quickly before their rounds.
This time, the 76-player field (which reportedly has a waiting list that’s 30 players deep) is expected to have even more PGA Tour representation. In addition to Scottie Scheffler and Viktor Hovland, the winner and third-place finishers in the inaugural event, Jordan Spieth, who played as a marker in April and was robbed of a hole-in-one by a foam spacer in the hole, will be a full competitor.
Abraham Ancer, Ryan Palmer, Beau Hossler, Will Zalatoris, Harry Higgs, John Senden, Doc Redman, Sebastian Munoz, Talor Gooch and Austin Cook are all expected to play, as is former Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo.
“This was a beautiful opportunity to contribute to the Maridoe Samaritan Fund and help those caddies who have been affected,” Maridoe owner Albert Huddleston said in a statement. “Simultaneously, it provides opportunity for tremendous pleasure and support when playing the sport I enjoy most. If you do things correctly, follow guidelines, and all things required under the Dallas County order, then golf is a perfect sport to play.”
Several top-ranked college and amateur golfers are preparing to compete as well, including recently named Fred Haskins Award winner Sahith Theegala, U.S. Amateur runner-up John Augenstein and U.S. Junior Amateur champ Preston Summerhays. When college golfers competed last time, it led to the NCAA reviewing its policy about whether student-athletes could play in events before their scheduled spring college seasons had concluded. Ultimately, the NCAA ruled in favor of allowing the golfers to compete.
Other college standouts slated to participate include Oklahoma’s Quade Cummings, Oklahoma State’s Austin Eckroat, Texas’ Cole Hammer, Baylor’s Cooper Dossey and SMU’s Noah Goodwin. The interest from the top amateurs is understandable. Not only are they competing against top professionals, but they’re getting an early look at the course that is still scheduled to hold the Southern Amateur, July 15-18.
Scheffler earned $9,000 for his one-stroke win over Zalatoris last month, and donated it back to the caddie fund. The winner of the second edition of the event will earn $10,000 to be given to the charity of his choice.
Keeping Their Distance
Golf Digest reported that when the Memorial Tournament is held July 16-19 at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, fans’ movement will be tracked with high-tech badges, in a bid to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission. A radio-frequency-identification (RFID) chip, will be included in tournament badges so that officials can help maintain a healthy spacing on the grounds, according to the report.
Other safety measures outlined by Dan Sullivan, the Memorial’s Executive Director, in a recent virtual information session included limiting ticket sales to an undisclosed number, tightening capacity in the clubhouse and public structures, eliminating grandstands, supplying face masks for staff and volunteers and taking the temperature of anybody on the course grounds.