(Photo by David Lane, Manchester Union-Leader)
While the Bedford, N.H. club has seen a 45 percent increase in golf activity and a 20 to 30 percent gain in membership sales and inquiries, it was still facing a $2 million-plus loss for the year because of lost events. But recent weeks have brought “a lot more inquiries for weddings and events,” reports Director of Marketing and Communications Catherine McNamara, even though the club is currently only allowed to operate at half-capacity. “People are very open to our new guidelines [for social distancing and other safety requirements],” McNamara said.
At a time when golf membership is on the rise at the Manchester Country Club in Bedford, N.H., the property is finding itself in a unique situation, because its event center has been unusually quiet, the Manchester Union-Leader reported.
“We have had to change our way of thinking, but we are still very optimistic,” General Manager Brian Kelley, PGA, CCM, told the Union-Leader.
(Editor’s Note: Kelley was interviewed by the Union-Leader before the announcement on July 20 that he was leaving Manchester CC, where he had been in his General Manager role for over six-and-a-half years, to become the new General Manager/Chief Operating Officer at The Quechee Club in Quechee, Vt.)
Membership at Manchester CC was flourishing because residents aren’t traveling or taking vacation, the Union-Leader reported, but the event side of the business has been slow, said Kelley, who noted that 50 percent of the club’s revenue is based on events, food and beverages.
The club was forced to temporarily shut its doors in March, apply for a Paycheck Protection Program loan and wait until it received the green light to reopen for golf activities and outdoor dining in mid-May, the Union-Leader reported.
“Unfortunately, we had to furlough the majority of our staff,” said Kelley. The facility employs about 115 workers during its peak season, the Union-Leader reported.
The company quickly created an emergency relief fund for its staff to assist employees with their rent and other bills, Kelley said.
It was also a little bit of a scramble to get the golf course ready for its reopening and to switch to a new, mandated platform requiring reserved tee times, Kelley told the Union-Leader.
“This was a culture change for our club, but it has worked out fantastic,” he said.
Where typically, the club hosts a daily average of 150-165 rounds of golf, the Union-Leader reported, Kelley said about 190-200 rounds of golf are now taking place each day.
For June, Manchester CC experienced a 45 percent increase in golf activity compared to the same month last year, Kelley said, and there has been about a 20 to 30 percent increase in membership sales and inquiries.
In addition to playing more golf, the club’s 770 members are eating outside at the club and purchasing more merchandise at the retail store, he added.
But the events side of the club’s business is still suffering, Kelley told the Union-Leader. “We are still predicting a $2 million to $2.5 million revenue loss for this year,” he said. “We will never be able to make the revenue [from lost events] up.”
In 2013, Manchester CC underwent significant renovations with the goal of hosting more community events and realized great success from that effort, Kelley told the Union-Leader. But this year, many events such as weddings and corporate gatherings have been postponed and pushed off until 2021.
The last few weeks, however, have seen some private events take place at the club, including an end-of-life celebration, the Union-Leader reported. And a wedding is scheduled for the end of August.
While Manchester CC’s great room typically accommodates 300 guests, the club is currently permitted to operate only at half-capacity, the Union-Leader reported. So for now, it is limiting guests at 117 for events, and visitors are being asked to wear face masks when not seated at their table.
“We are starting to see a lot more inquiries for weddings and events now,” Catherine McNamara, the club’s Director of Marketing and Communications, told the Union-Leader. “People are very open to our new guidelines.”
“Everyone’s comfort levels are all over the place,” McNamara added, noting that it has been helpful that the individual event spaces at the club also include some type of outdoor area.
Outdoor dining has also been busy for the past several weeks at the club, she said, and two tents are now stationed outside to assist with events and meals.
While Manchester CC would continue to follow state regulations and communicate with its members as the situation changed, Kelley told the Union-Leader, and while the rest of 2020 remained a mystery, he remained optimistic that 2021 would be strong.