Many government officials, as well as some among the general citizenry, have shown complete misunderstanding of not only how and why golf is played and who plays it, but also of what the difference is between a golf course and a full-service club.
You certainly haven’t had to look or listen very hard to find or hear stupid comments that have been made in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak—and I’m not just talking about what comes out of Washington, D.C. My personal annoyance level keeps getting sent through the roof by the self-absorbed news, sports and weather people who are all so eager and pleased to tell us each day that they’re now “broadcasting from my home,” as if we can’t see that anyway or might not fully appreciate that they’re making such a world-saving sacrifice.
The club and golf industries have certainly been subjected to their share of ignorant comments during all of this as well. I’ve collected many contenders over the past weeks, but at this point I’m going to give the award for Most Idiotic to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, who posted a series of Facebook videos during the period when that state was still banning golf.
First, Nessel tried to be cute, responding to those who asked why courses weren’t open with statements like “Obviously, many of you are concerned about the impact COVID-19 may have on your golf handicap. And if your game is anything like mine, this temporary break won’t really matter much—you’ll still be terrible at golf when you get back out onto the greens. So please stick to practicing on the putting greens in your house—you’ll protect the public, and no one but the members of your family will know how really bad at golf you are.”
When that approach (not surprisingly) failed to calm the clamor for Michigan’s courses to reopen, Nessel followed up with this exasperated tweet: “I just can’t hear about one more [black person dying] while getting a barrage of complaints from white folks outraged because they can’t go golfing.” Her account then blew up with multiple photos of rainbow foursomes and Tiger Woods.
Unfortunately, Nessel was only the most blatant offender among many government officials, as well as some among the general citizenry, who have shown complete ignorance of not only how and why golf is played and who plays it, but also of what the difference is between a golf course and a full-service club. Our industry organizations—especially the National Club Association, Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, and National Golf Course Owners Association—are to be commended for how they patiently and effectively made the case for not only why golf should be played and could be done so safely, but also for highlighting the larger contributions of the club industry in supporting social distancing and relief efforts during shelter-in-place mandates. Club staffs and memberships throughout the country quickly mobilized to make it possible for many people to get meals and supplies safely, whether or not they lived in a golf community, and to provide immense support to front-line workers. In the process they helped to give local economies badly needed infusions through their support of area businesses, while also retaining a significant number of jobs and not taking bailout funds.
None of this should be forgotten or abandoned as recovery gets underway. Clubs’ accomplishments and efforts should continue to be trumpeted, and realistic portrayals of club memberships and activities should be emphasized.
Additionally, needed reforms that can help clubs support a faster return to prosperity should be pursued. For example, in an era when facility “capacity” will now have a whole new meaning, the time is right to push for revamping of tax-code restrictions on carryout food and other off-site activities that stand to limit clubs’ ability to provide what will now be much more important and in-demand services.