(Hollywood Golf Club)
The Deal, N.J. club has effectively used Zoom meetings and other technology to bring in eight new members over the last two months, even with mandated club closings, social-distancing rules and working-from-home challenges. Also in today’s update: Massachusetts is last state to open courses, but “effective immediately” aspect still catches some off guard; signs emerge that game is growing as one of few available recreational options; and Medalist GC lands Mickelson-Woods charity rematch, this time with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, too.
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/.
Zooming In On Success
Hollywood Golf Club, in Deal, N.J. is similar to other clubs in how it sets its strategy and timing for recruiting new members, says Membership Coordinator/Executive Assistant Lisa D’Amato.
“We wait until December 31st to be advised of any resignations by our members for the upcoming year,” D’Amato says. “In 2019, for the first time in our 121-year history, we imposed a wait list for membership, so at the start of 2020 we embraced the new year knowing how many positions we would need to fill.
“January in New Jersey does not warrant a lot of inquiries regarding membership, due to the weather,” D’Amato says. “But by February, especially if it’s a mild one as it was this year, many are wondering what club they are going to call home for golf play in March.
“Unfortunately for everyone in March of 2020, with the coronavirus, joining a golf club was not a priority for most prospects, if a thought at all,” she adds.
“But Hollywood Golf Club was very fortunate to have several things in place that worked in our favor and made recruiting successful, even with mandated club closings, social-distancing rules and working-from-home challenges,” D’Amato reports.
“First of all, we have always had an online application process and most of the paperwork and background vetting is also handled via e-mail and online, so most of this could continue as usual,” she notes.
“Because we keep a database of membership inquiries, we were able to reach out to those who had contacted us last fall and early this year,” D’Amato continues. “Our Membership Committee Chairs, Mitchell Ansell and Jonathan Schultz, along with myself, wasted no time in setting up virtual interviews on Zoom for those who were at that point in the membership process.
“The attendance was overwhelmingly 100% every time and the meetings went so smoothly that they decided to hold virtual meet-and-greet meetings to get to know some candidates who otherwise knew little or no members of our club.
“All in all, we have been able to bring in eight new members in the past two months, with several more in the pipeline at different stages of our membership process,” D’Amato says. “We believe the success at this time is not only due to technology, but because there were little to no scheduling conflicts.
“Another important contributor to our success is that the Membership Committee is fully supported by our General Manager, Salil Bokil, CCM, and Stephan Lowy, President, who served in the past as Membership Chair and continues to be very ‘hands on’ with the Committee,” D’Amato adds. “As I often say and as this experience has shown again, ‘It takes a village” to have success with bringing in good, qualified members to join our ‘Hollywood Family.’ “
Speed Golf in Massachusetts
Boston.com reported that at Murphy’s Garrison Golf Center in Haverhill, Mass., Kristin Murphy, daughter-in-law of owner Ted Murphy, said “The phone has been ringing constantly,” hours after Gov. Charlie Baker’s announcement on May 7th that golf could resume in Massachusetts, effective immediately. Massachusetts represented the last state to announce a lifting of its ban on play; golf is now being played again, or scheduled to be played soon, in 49 states (golf courses in Alaska have yet to open).
At Bradford Country Club in Haverhill, also owned by the Murphy family, Kristin’s husband, Kevin, said “We basically just opened our tee sheet, threw the pins in, and we were ready to go. We probably got 100 phone calls in the first hour.”
Since the sport was deemed non-essential, Boston.com reported, the Alliance of Massachusetts Golf Organizations had been working to reverse the decision. After a successful meeting with the state’s reopening board last Saturday, word spread that the call to open could be coming soon, but personnel around the state were surprised by the May 7th decision to resume immediately.
“We knew that there was not going to be much of a runway for when a decision and an announcement would be made,” said Jesse Menachem, the Executive Director and CEO of Mass Golf. “There was some understanding that it could be [immediate], but we weren’t really overly confident in that.”
Some courses simply needed more time, Boston.com reported. While golf course maintenance was allowed during the statewide ban, some facilities need to welcome back laid-off employees to run check-in and assure necessary safety measures are being taken.
North Andover (Mass.) Country Club planned to open on Friday, May 8th, according to General Manager Jeff Isbell, who is also President of the New England chapter of the Club Management Association of America. An e-mail was sent to North Andover members outlining the state-mandated safety guidelines, with plans to reinforce them in a webinar on the night of May 7th, before the club’s reopening.
“We’re a little disappointed that it was announced [suddenly],” Isbell said. “We sort of listened and waited patiently for the governor to say when. It would have been nice for a couple days’ heads up, but we’re excited and appreciative.”
David Stott, Superintendent at Chequessett Country Club in Wellfleet, Mass., told Boston.com that his course was planning to open sometime during the week of May 11th.
“All of us are a little off guard,” said Stott, who is the president of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of Cape Cod. “We asked for three days’ notice and unfortunately, we didn’t get that. We’ve been inundated with requests and questions, and it would’ve been nice to get out in front of it.”
Gov. Baker advised 15 minutes of separation between tee times and no use of carts when courses reopen, and the latter is something that club managers are hoping to reverse, Boston.com reported. In addition to represent another stream of revenue for facilities that already have to catch up from losing the start of their season, carts accommodate elderly or disabled golfers who otherwise cannot play the course.
“Anything is better than nothing at this point,” said Kevin Murphy, who said he had to turn away a disabled patron at Bradford Country Club because he could not legally rent him a cart. “The last couple weeks have been tough, but I understand the decision, and we’ll work with these restrictions.”
Set for a Growth Spurt?
As play has resumed at clubs and golf around the nation, a reports in The New York Times highlighted how golf may now have a chance to expand its reach to people looking for a safe outdoor respite.
Around noon on April 17, Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota announced that the state’s 450 golf courses, shuttered because of the coronavirus pandemic, could open the next day. At 3 p.m., the
At Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., The Times reported, about 25 miles southwest of Minneapolis, it took two seconds for 172 golfers to fill the entire tee sheet for the following day, after Gov. Tim Walk announced the opening of that state’s 450 golf courses.
Hazeltine’s staff activated its automated online tee-time booking system at 3 p.m. after Walz’s announcement at noon, The Times reported. Chandler Withington, the club’s head golf professional, reported that “two seconds after 3 o’clock, every tee time until 6:30 p.m. was accessed by somebody.”
“Throughout the state, every course was packed,” Withington added. “With so many things you can’t do right now and so few things you can do, golf has never felt so much like a freedom.”
Course operators nationwide add that they are seeing something new in their client behaviors and demographics, The Times reported. Entire families that have been cooped up at home are arriving at the first tee to play together. Sales of discounted youth golf passes are exploding, and more golfers are walking the course because usually only family members can share a cart.
“I’m also seeing a lot of people who haven’t played golf in a while,” said Scott Krieger, the head pro and General Manager at Broadmoor Golf Course in Portland, Ore.
“And more fathers and sons, fathers and daughters and husbands and wives, too.”
Krieger said his course is in such high demand that he could host 300 golfers per day, but he has been limiting the total to 150 to prevent overcrowding, The Times reported.
“People get it,” he said. “Everybody keeps saying, ‘Man, it just feels good to get out.’”
It is not customary for recreational golfers to be universally content, especially after a challenging round replete with bad bounces and bogeys, The Times noted. But the coronavirus pandemic has apparently blunted the grumpiness.
“People have bigger things to worry about than a three-putt on the final green,” said Mike David, Executive Director of the Indiana Golf Office, which oversees five golf entities in the state. “Golf is a relief.”
Added Tim Christ, the Director of Golf Operations for the Essex County Parks Department in New Jersey: “People coming to the course are wearing face masks, but I could tell they were smiling.”
To avoid the risk of any reports of unsafe play that could lead to privileges being revoked, at some courses the temperature of every player is checked upon arrival and those with a fever are turned away, The Timesreported. And where golf carts are permitted, their post-round cleansing has become so rigorous that Art Walton, a
Vice President at the Crystal Springs Resort in New Jersey, has begun calling some employees “golf cart hygienists” instead of attendants.
Still, there has been pushback in some states about whether golfers are appropriately practicing social distancing, The Times reported. David, the Indiana golf official, said people have taken photos of groups of golfers and sent them to government agencies as evidence to support allegations that established golf course safeguards are being violated.
“Someone sees four golf carts together and thinks that’s a lot of people when it’s actually four people in four carts,” David said. “A lot of it is a wrong perception.”
But among golf’s stakeholders, the game’s place as one of a limited number of outdoor activities sanctioned by health and governmental officials, albeit with restrictions, is being seen as giving golf a chance to expand its reach. In a press conference call to announce “Back2Golf,” the three-stage plan of best practices and uniform safety protocols that is being put in place for the industry’s full return, Seth Waugh, CEO of the PGA of America, said he is encouraged that golf is now being viewed as, “really just a walk in the park.”
“You’re seeing a playing-in-the-park kind of atmosphere that’s going on in lots of places in the country that we touch,” Waugh said. “We’re hoping that this ironically could end up being a growth opportunity,” he added.
Medalist GC Lands Next Woods-Mickelson Match
A $10 million donation to coronavirus relief efforts is part of the plan that was unveiled for “The Match: Champions for Charity,” to be played May 24 at the Medalist Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Fla., ESPN.com reported.
Turner Sports made the announcement of the donation that will accompany the previously announced extension of the original Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson match. Two years ago, Woods and Mickelson signed on to play “The Match,” a winner-take-all 18-hole event in Las Vegas on the day after Thanksgiving. The event was supposed to be streamed, although there were numerous technical issues involved. Mickelson won the $9 million first prize.
As part of that event, there was the expectation that Woods and Mickelson would do something more, perhaps bringing on partners, ESPN.com reported. The new event will also include former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning and new Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady.
Woods will team with Manning and Mickelson with Brady in an 18-hole match that will include nine holes of best ball and nine holes of modified alternate shot, to be televised by TNT and TBS at 3 p.m. Eastern time.
According to the event organizers, the players will collectively make a $10 million donation to relief efforts, ESPN.com reported. Fundraising will also include a partnership with the All In Challenge—an initiative that is providing food to those in need—as well as on-course competitive challenges for charity.
The event will be played without spectators. Players will not use caddies during the event, but will ride in their own carts.
A match involving those four participants has been in the works for some time, but was put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent shutdown of sports in March. The event has been approved by the PGA Tour, ESPN.com reported.
The PGA Tour has not held an event since the Players Championship was canceled after the first round on March 12. It has since released a revised schedule with the hopes of starting June 11 at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas.
Fundraising will support national and local beneficiaries through Direct Relief, which helps equip healthcare workers with medical supplies; the American Red Cross, which is involved in collecting convalescent plasma for coronavirus treatment; Save Small Business, a grant-making initiative to help small business employers who are struggling because of the pandemic; and the All In Challenge.
As part of the All In Challenge, each of the players will donate a custom experience that is expected to raise more funds, with viewers having the ability to enter a live raffle for the experiences being offered by Woods and Mickelson.