With Governor Mike DeWine saying that “caterers made a really good point” in convincing the state they have facilities that can be operated as safely as restaurants and bars, wedding and banquet receptions of up to 300 people will now be allowed to be held again in the state, starting June 1. Also in this report: A 96-year-old is a front-line hero for a New Mexico course; Illinois clubs get ready for a new phase with relaxed operating restrictions, but some in Chicago are still left behind; Connecticut clubs slowly come back to life; and a Minnesota citizen wonders why a golf course has been closed while a fireworks show will still go on.
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+RBcommunity to [email protected].
All of C+RB’s daily updates on the coronavirus situation can be found at https://clubandresortbusiness.com/category/covid-19/.
Happy Buckeye Brides
Ohio will allow wedding and banquet receptions of up to 300 people to be held again starting June 1, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced on May 21st.
The move is the latest in a series of steps by Gov. Mike DeWine’s administration to roll back social-distancing rules set up weeks ago to curb the spread of the coronavirus, cleveland.com reported.
Husted, speaking at DeWine’s coronavirus briefing, said catering and banquet centers will be allowed to reopen under the same rules as restaurants and bars, cleveland.com reported. That includes six-foot distancing between tables and no congregating, he said.
“We recognize that there are a lot of weddings and events that are important to people’s lives that can and should go on,” Husted said. “We are just asking that it be done safely—as safely as possible—to avoid the spread of the virus.”
DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney said after the briefing that the state’s limit on mass gatherings of more than 10 people remains in place, cleveland.com reported. However, just like customers at restaurants and bars, up to 300 people can attend a wedding reception so long as they remain in small groups socially distanced from one another.
Tierney also clarified that the 300-person limit was per facility, meaning venues that can host multiple weddings at the same time couldn’t stage two 300-person events simultaneously, cleveland.com reported. The state set the limit at 300 people, Tierney continued, because that was the number recommended by a state working group recommended for restaurants.
“The most important thing” is for people to keep their distance from each other, DeWine said.
“Caterers made a really good point. They said, ‘Look, we have a place we can do it. We can provide the exact same distancing that a restaurant can,'” the governor said. That argument, DeWine said, “makes sense.”
Golf’s Front-Line Hero
Station KRQE of Albuquerque, N.M. featured Paul Baker, 96, and how he’s not letting the pandemic keep him from his passion for golf. While he isn’t able to play right now under mandates for walking-only play, KRQE reported, Baker is still committed to keeping the University of New Mexico North Golf Course in good shape and keeping the golfers there smiling.
Paul Baker again got an early start at the course on the day KRQE’s cameras followed him around there, trimming hedges, tending to the golf carts and doing other things to make golfers had everything they need. “I’m not married and I got my house cleaned and I have to have something to do,” Baker said.
Baker has been volunteering at the course for 30 years, KRQE reported. “The north course is his life—it’s his reason to get up in the morning,” said head golf pro, Roger Case
Typically Baker does still play a round after he sets up for the day, but because he needs a walker to help him get around, that part of his routine has changed for now, KRQE reported. “We had a regular foursome and played every day,” he said. “So I’m anxious to get back to that.”
Even while golf courses were closed for more than a month for all types of play, Baker was still busy behind the scenes, KRQE reported. “With golf being shut down for a while he was even coming on his own when we weren’t even open and manicuring the grounds around the shop and spending time here keeping things spruced up,” Case said.
“He’s just a giving guy and it’s not about the golf privileges,” Case added. “He just loves to be here; it’s his life.”
KRQE’s full video report can be viewed at https://www.krqe.com/health/coronavirus-new-mexico/96-year-old-golf-course-volunteer-continues-work-amid-coronavirus-outbreak/
(Some) Illinois Golfers Get Good News
The term “phase three” will be as welcome for many Illinois golfers as “free beer” and “unlimited mulligans,” the Chicago Tribune reported.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said all four regions of Illinois are on track to move to phase three of his reopening plan May 29, and that would bring significant changes to the state’s golf courses, the Tribune reported.
Pritzker spokeswomen Charity Greene confirmed that the following parts of normal club and course operations, all currently restricted, would be allowed in the next phase:
- Threesomes and foursomes.
- Single-rider carts, with members of the same family allowed to share a ride.
- Outdoor dining.
- A 10-minute spread between tee times.
All of that would be a welcome change for industry veterans such as Tim Miles, CEO of GolfVisions, the Tribune reported. Course management businesses such as his have taken a financial hit because of Pritzker’s “strict safety guidelines,” which since May 1 have called for twosomes spread 15 minutes apart.
Now there’s the potential to sell 24 green fees an hour, rather than eight. And cart revenue will increase because players will not have to prove they have a “physical limitation.”
“We’ve got a couple of troubled properties because the golf courses are frickin’ vacant,” Miles said before the new phase was announced. “We need to get carts and foursomes.”
Progress was still not foreseen, however, for some courses in the city of Chicago, the Tribunereported.
A spokeswoman for Mayor Lori Lightfoot did not immediately reply to a question regarding policies in Chicago, the Tribune reported. Courses such as Harborside International as well as Cook County Forest Preserve courses including Indian Boundary, Billy Caldwell and Edgebrook were shuttered on May 8 with no specific explanation.
The web pages for those courses, the Tribune reported, still say: “Temporarily closed — Per the City of Chicago Department of Health we are closed for the remainder of May. Please check back on our website, social media and e-mails for updates on re-opening information.”
Chicago Park District courses such as Jackson Park and Robert A. Black have remained closed all along, as has the Diversey Driving Range, the Tribune reported.
The Mayor’s office has also declined to say why some tennis courts in the city are open while others are closed, the Tribune reported.
Connecticut Clubs Slowly Come Back to Life
A report in the New Haven (Conn.) Register highlighted how clubs in Connecticut are making the best of the restrictions they must now operate under.
“I think golf itself has shown it is really an incredible sport and exercise and physical activity,” said Bill Shaw, General Manager of Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield, Conn.
And limits on the use of golf carts, because of the extra work needed to keep them sanitized, have had a positive side, Shaw added. “I think a lot of people, they do enjoy walking,” he said.
“Everyone’s being just so careful. It’s heartwarming when you see them out there,” Shaw said. “We’re only frustrated because we do want to be with our families and friends.”
Tim Dillman, General Manager of Grassy Hill Country Club in Orange, Conn., has kept the course open, along with an outdoor grill, so members “can grab a beer and a burger and get back on the course,” theRegister reported. For a time, Dillman was the club’s only employee, which had to let people go after all of the social events that Grassy Hill hosts were either canceled or rescheduled.
“Those that can golf can find a little bit of tranquility while they’re out there,” Dillman said. “Once everything else closed, this is all that was out there.” Members of other clubs that had closed joined Grassy Hill, he added.
Grassy Hill’s course was open throughout the winter, but it hasn’t been easy for the club, the Registerreported. “We do almost $1 million in catering revenue up here,” Dillman said. “Since March 21, there was a full stop.” Catering for weddings, bas and bar mitzvahs, baby and wedding showers and golf outings is “really our bread and butter,” he added.
The next date on the club’s calendar is a baby shower scheduled for late June, the Register reported. “We’re going to do it a la carte on the front patio,” Dillman said.
Like other parts of the state economy, country clubs in Connecticut are opening in phases, the Registerreported. Brooklawn CC and other golf clubs in Fairfield have worked with the town to determine how and when to reopen, Shaw said First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick “has been incredible,” Shaw added. “I would say she’s the right person at the right time.”
At first, only four of Brooklawn’s seven tennis courts were opened, separated by empty courts, and no doubles were allowed, except for families living together, the Register reported. “They could only serve with their own ball. They couldn’t touch the other person’s ball,” Shaw said. “A week ago, we put orange cones between all the courts and opened up all the courts.”
The decision was based on “looking at the patterns of the members and the traffic,” he added. “We wanted to go really slow. You had to stay in your car until it was time to go to your court,” and leave once the match was over.
On May 20, the Register reported, Brooklawn started outdoor dining with 16 tables. “We’re very fortunate. We have a huge wraparound porch that goes around the front of the building,” Shaw said. The tables are set “much further apart than what’s recommended by the state,” he added. Each table is used just once for lunch and only four can be cleaned and turned over at dinner.
The staff is given specific tasks, the Register reported. “We have two teams of four,” Shaw said. “One person takes the order, one person serves food and beverage, one person clears the food and one person sanitizes.” It’s worth the trouble, he added. “The more people see what you’re doing to keep them and your staff safe, the more comfortable they’ll be in coming here,” he said.
The golf course also has remained open at the New Haven Country Club in Hamden, Conn., the Registerreported. The club has received guidance for its operation from the state Department of Economic Development (DECD), working with the Connecticut State Golf Association, said President Bob Cox.
“What we’ve done is to as scrupulously as possible follow every one of those DECD guidelines,” Cox said. “Our course has remained open, but with some decidedly different protocols than in years past.”
Like other clubs, at first, “our golf course was open just for walkers,” because cleaning the carts would require extra staff, Cox said. More recently, he added, “we found some old gas-powered carts—we had 10 or 15 of them—and we basically leased them to members” who were physically unable to walk the course.
“We gave [those members] the key to the cart [and] a parking space,” Cox said. Each member was responsible for cleaning his or her own cart.
“That worked OK and now that we’ve hit May 20, we are going to add staff and begin the process of bringing our fleet of golf carts out, not just for any member who’s physically limited but for any member who desires to use them,” Cox said. Even now, however, “members are going to be strongly encouraged to continue walking,” he added.
Carts still are limited to one person at New Haven CC and there is no storage of golf clubs, which the club usually offers, the Register reported. Guests won’t be permitted at the club until this week. “We want to get our house in order with our own people,” Cox said.
Food has been available for takeout, which “has been successful beyond our wildest imagination,” Cox said. There is a large patio and other outdoor areas, and tables were put out Wednesday so people can sit for lunch and dinner.
Serving as President of the club this year has “certainly been challenging, but it’s also tremendously rewarding in some ways, in the sense that my Board members who serve with me I couldn’t be more complimentary,” Cox said.
“I think everybody is doing as good a job as possible to make it as good as it can be, recognizing health and safety concerns,” he added. “It’s like a family—I think everybody’s doing the best they can.”
Fireworks Over Golf?
A letter-writer to the Duluth (Minn.) News-Tribune questioned the priorities and logic of that city’s decision to only postpone its annual 4th of July fireworks display while it had closed a local golf course for the entire season.
“Let me begin by saying I certainly understand the need for the city of Duluth to make needed adjustments to the budget during these unprecedented times,” wrote Zach Taran of Proctor, Minn. “What I don’t understand is Mayor Emily Larson postponing the Fourth of July fireworks display until around Labor Day, rather than cancelling it altogether.
“[Mayor Larson] decided to close Lester Park Golf Course for the entire season, even though an open course would have permitted countless folks recreation and exercise in a healthy manner for several months,” Taran continued. “I’m not sure what the actual savings will wind up being for the city. Does Larson think that blowing probably around $50,000-plus on a fireworks show for 20 minutes of oohs and ahhs is money well spent?
“There are many things people look forward to in life, but I for one think she could use those funds for something a bit more strategic,” Taran concluded.