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2020 State of the Industry: A year when weekdays were weekends, weekends were holidays

Headshot: Andrew Jorgensen

Headshot: Andrew Jorgensen

Andrew Jorgensen, CGCS

Vice President, Florida GCSA
Director, Golf Maintenance Operations, On Top of the World Communities & Related Entities, Ocala, Fla.

Generally speaking, how was the golf season in your region?

We are seeing a ton of play not just here, but all around us. Everyone I have spoken with has reported higher than normal rounds. Some have put off normal cultural practices to keep the cash register ringing.

How was your experience with labor this year?

Labor continues to be an issue — quantity and quality. Market value for the green industry, in general, has driven up wages to attract qualified candidates. That being said, we continue to have open positions on our staff.

What were some things that you heard from chapter members about how COVID-19 impacted their year?

Mostly all positive. Those that remained open report increases in rounds played, while those that were forced to close report that they were able to get planned projects completed ahead of schedule. Regardless, COVID-19 has impacted everyone one way or another. Staggering start times, limiting employee interactions and the repetitive sanitation of equipment and facilities, we all have had to go through. Some things were to our benefit, like no water coolers or bunker rakes on the course. We hope that trend continues. The downside is the effect that the increased golf cart traffic will have on our facilities heading into the cooler weather.

Were there notable success stories from your area/chapter this year?

The Florida GCSA partnered with the Florida Turfgrass Association last year and contracted with The Southern Group, a lobbyist firm based in Tallahassee. The Southern Group was instrumental in keeping golf open as much as possible during the quarantine. They were keeping us updated on a daily basis from a state standpoint and provided resources we could use on a local, county level to ensure we remained operating in some sort of capacity. Keeping golf open has provided safe recreation during this period, and superintendents were on the front lines evolving course setup and maintenance practices and communicating to officials on why golf should remain open for business.

What are your expectations for 2021?

I think we are going to see much of the same for 2021. As more and more companies realize that employees don’t need an office to get their work done, we’re going to see rounds climb as these employees can hit the links while still conducting business remotely. We have adjusted our maintenance practices accordingly — improvise, adapt and overcome — I don’t see a lot of this changing.

— C.H.

Photo: Bailey Ranch GC

Bailey Ranch GC (Photo: Chris Cook)

Peter J. Rappoccio, CGCS

President, GCSA of New England
Superintendent, Concord (Mass.) CC

Generally speaking, how was the golf season in your region?

Things here have been good; the golf business has been booming in the Northeast. Every club and facility I’ve talked to has been extremely busy. We average anywhere between 18,000 to 19,000 rounds a year. We’re about to surpass 25,500, without the month of April and the first week of May. We’ve been busy. A huge uptick in young families playing golf, young people playing golf, husbands and wives playing golf. It’s been great.

Were there notable success stories from your club this year?

We maintained the standard of conditions on the course along with how busy we have been. The club, once we started letting guests in, we had the best guest revenue we’ve ever had. Our cart revenue has been great. There are a lot of people playing golf here. And, the club was great to its employees; they did a nice job keeping everyone safe, keep everybody healthy. Members were supportive about doing their part — supporting the course, the staff, supporting operations. It’s been a good success this year. I think 2020 … everything that’s happened, it’s sad that so many people have lost their lives, but looking back, we took some success out of a trying year.

How about success stories for the chapter?

We were able to host a golf event in August, that was a success, to get together for the first time which was good. A lot of the local tournaments that were being held throughout the state, were able to go on without issue. It was a good year for golf in the state of Massachusetts.

What are your expectations for 2021?

I think golf is here to stay. I think the bug is in people’s ears. They’re going to continue to play, whether they go back to work or not. We have a lot of people who drive to Boston for work, and when they get home, they’re home at 6 o’clock and they stay home. Now that they’re working from home, they’re done at 3 o’clock, and they’re heading to the golf course. Our busiest time was from 3 o’clock to 7 o’clock. We’ve got a lot of families, a lot of juniors. Our junior program is through the roof. We’ve added nine and dine events, we’ve add glow-ball events and we’ve added family events. We’re going to grow the game we love and also grow our operations.

— S.J.

Headshot: Brian Stiehler

Headshot: Brian Stiehler

Brian Stiehler, CGCS, MG

President, Carolinas GCSA
Superintendent, Highlands (N.C.) CC

Generally speaking, how was the golf season in your region?

For the most part, daily fee courses seemed to have very successful seasons. The fact that many people were either working from home or temporarily off work as offices closed, more time could be devoted to the game.

Golf was, in many cases, one of the few things that could be done legally in North and South Carolina due to government-ordered closings of other recreational activities. Private golf clubs also seemed to have successful seasons as members are using the facilities at a higher-than-normal amount. Even in cases where guest play was limited, the number of rounds played often exceeded that of past years.

The one segment of the industry that didn’t do so well was facilities dependent on hotels and tourism. The state legislature limited hotel stays for essential business only and even municipal governments enacted their own level of restrictions to eliminate the chance of tourists bringing the virus into their towns and counties.

How was the weather for your area this year?

In western North Carolina, some record rainfall continued to fall through the autumn season. Highlands, N.C., recorded 123 inches of rain by Oct. 31. Many records will be broken in the two states. The hurricane season was also more active this year, bringing more heavy rain events to the Carolinas.

What were some things that you heard from chapter members about how COVID-19 impacted their year?

People, in general, had more time on their hands, and golf benefitted from that. Except for the tourism-dependent facilities, golf did very well. I think most superintendents are pleased with the season but remain skeptical about the lasting impacts of this rise in play.

Were there notable success stories from your area/chapter this year?

There are always positives that come out of every crisis. We became more efficient. We learned to network without the advantage of being face to face.
This year, we learned as an association just how effective our legislative efforts have been over the last 15-20 years. This year, we relied on those relationships, our lobbyists and our association member contacts. It was a fight I will never forget and one I’m proud to have been a part of.

This year, we also learned how creative we can be after deciding to cancel our 2020 Conference and Show, traditionally held in November. Instead, we created “Conference Comes to You,” a 30-seminars-in-30-days event where we partnered with 40 GCSAA chapters and BIGGA (British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association).

And, most importantly, 2020 made me recognize just how critical our sponsors and industry partners are.

What are your expectations for 2021?

This is a tough one. It’s my opinion that we can only hope for an effective vaccine that allows us to return to some resemblance of normalcy. Whatever that turns out to be. I think I speak for most of us when I say there isn’t much that can surprise us at this point. It was an interesting year at best, and I hope 2021 brings good weather, the return of camaraderie and healthy turf to the members of the Carolinas GCSA and the industry as a whole.

— C.H.

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About the Author: Sarah Webb

Sarah Webb is Golfdom's former managing editor. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Wittenberg University, where she studied journalism and Spanish. Prior to her role at Golfdom, Sarah was an intern for Cleveland Magazine and a writing tutor.

About the Author: Seth Jones

Seth Jones, a 18-year veteran of the golf industry media, is Editor-in-Chief of Golfdom magazine and Athletic Turf. A graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Jones began working for Golf Course Management in 1999 as an intern. In his professional career he has won numerous awards, including a Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA) first place general feature writing award for his profile of World Golf Hall of Famer Greg Norman and a TOCA first place photography award for his work covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In his career, Jones has accumulated an impressive list of interviews, including such names as George H.W. Bush, Samuel L. Jackson, Lance Armstrong and Charles Barkley. Jones has also done in-depth interviews with such golfing luminaries as Norman, Gary Player, Nick Price and Lorena Ochoa, to name only a few. Jones is a member of both the Golf Writers Association of America and the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association. Jones can be reached at

About the Author: Christina Herrick

Christina Herrick is the former editor of Golfdom magazine.

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