With golf’s resurgent popularity expected to continue, Jeff Holden, Director of Golf Operations at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary, N.C., shared with C+RB how he plans to deal with the demand for tee times this season.
By Jeff Holden, Director of Golf Operations at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary, N.C.
The golf course at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary, N.C. is available only to members and their accompanied guests. Golfers have three options to book a tee time, reports Jeff Holden, the club’s Director of Golf Operations: online through the member website or mobile app; by calling the golf shop directly; or in person with a member of the golf shop staff.
While tee times are not required at Prestonwood, Holden notes, they are now highly encouraged because of the increase in play seen over the past year. “Even during the height of the stay-at-home orders, when golf was one of the few outlets for recreation, we did not require tee times,” he says. “But we sent out multiple communications to our membership via e-mail, encouraging them to reserve a tee time in advance.”
With golf’s resurgent popularity expected to continue, Holden shared with C+RB how he plans to continue to handle the tee-sheet crunch this season.
How did COVID-19 affect rounds played in 2020?
We saw an immediate increase in play as soon as stay-at-home orders were placed in North Carolina and golf courses were allowed to remain open with restrictions. In March, April, May and June, we saw around 200 rounds on each of our three courses on the peak days of Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Our weekday play also increased, because of more and more people working from home.
Overall, we hosted 110,000 rounds of golf in 2020, compared to an average year of approximately 80,000 rounds. Our practice facilities also saw a major increase in traffic. To date, we are still seeing the 30 to 40% increase in rounds played, compared to normal years.
Did you have to make adjustments to the tee sheet and other parts of your operation because of the added play?
We kept our tee-sheet setups the same, with 10-minute intervals throughout the day. We moved all events and league play to tee-time starts only, as opposed to shotgun starts, to comply with capacity limits on outdoor gatherings.
We also moved to single-rider carts only throughout the summer, but noticed more golfers beginning to walk the courses compared to prior years. We also allow residents to utilize their personal golf carts, which helped to prevent a strain on the number of available golf carts each day.
We did notify our members that golf cart availability may be limited during peak times, but we were able to accommodate all cart requests without undue delay throughout the year.
If your long-time core golfers had concerns about tee-time availability in 2020, how did you address that?
Most of our golfers were understanding of the situation and were just happy to be able to come out every day and enjoy the golf facilities. We moved to a different online tee-sheet provider in the fall of 2020, making the booking process much more member-friendly, which helped to alleviate most concerns.
How did your experiences with 2020 affect how you’re planning to handle the tee sheet in 2021?
During a normal golf season, we utilize shotgun starts for almost every tournament, outing and league play day. In 2020, we learned that shotgun starts can be detrimental to our business in that they limit the amount of rounds that can be played, put unnecessary time constraints on morning maintenance practices, and typically lead to a slower pace of play.
In 2021, we plan to minimize the number of shotgun starts and offer more tee-time-only starts, as we’ve learned that it does not impact the overall enjoyment of a particular event. It also helps us accommodate more golfers on the tee sheet during days when we host a league or tournament.
As golf remains popular, are you allocating dedicated times for junior golfers or beginners?
We do not restrict any type of player from reserving a tee time during certain times of the day. We believe all golfers should have equal access to tee times, as long as they are able to follow all of our golf policies and maintain the proper pace of play.
We do host specific leagues and events targeting certain demographics such as juniors and beginners, but do not restrict their daily access times.
If you host outside events, how do you handle it when members can’t access the course?
We only host outside events on Mondays, when we are closed to the membership.