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

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Matt Miller

Superintendent, Carey Park Golf Course
President, Kansas GCSA

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

The golf season was better than last year in our area.

How was the weather for your area this year?

The weather was great for warm season grasses. It was more of a struggle for the cool season grass courses.

How was your experience with labor this year?

Being a municipal course, our staff was drastically reduced based on anticipated sales tax shortfalls. We operated on about half the maintenance staff we typically have.

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

I had a lot of correspondence early with concerns about being able to keep their courses open for play or even being able to perform maintenance duties. Most of the comments since then have been about rounds being up and revenues being better than anticipated. We have a large rural area here and much of our state was not affected by COVID-19 early on and that lead to a lot of confusion among our membership.

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

I have had a few superintendents say they actually hit their targeted yearly revenue numbers and some before the end of October.

What are your expectations for 2021?

We have been told that our staffing levels will return to normal but we will see what the COVID-19 status is by next spring.

— S.W.

Paul Bonini

CGCS, Water Town Golf Club, Burlington, Conn.
President, Connecticut Association of Golf Course Superintendents

Generally speaking, how was golf in your area?

Golf in our region was fantastic this year. So many public facilities had record years and many private clubs actually saw new members during the spring because it was so difficult or impossible to obtain tee times at public golf courses.

How was the weather in your area this year?

The Connecticut weather was record setting. It was great golfing weather and very interesting maintenance weather. A drought ran through the region along with record-setting 90-degree days during the summer of 2020. Many golf courses were under water restrictions or were running so low on holding ponds for irrigation. A lot of long days during the summer of 2020, but with the pandemic, we weren’t missing many gatherings or barbecues!

What was your experience with labor this year?

The labor during 2020 was good in my eyes. Early on, we got creative spacing out shifts and break times with the employees. The college help was home about a month early, and the high school help was also available about a week or two before normal. They enjoyed the split or altered start times to the day to avoid too many employees together inside and everyone knew and understood the precautions needed to keep the department healthy and able to maintain the golf course. I heard similar positive comments throughout the state.

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

COVID-19 was everything this year. Oddly enough our industry thrived during the COVID-19 pandemic. How you got through the COVID-19 situation was following guidelines and being creative. Curbside meals to go after a round of golf, individual cart usage, and the absence of ball washers, bunker rakes and water coolers were probably the big items. Early on, many golf courses quickly implemented outside pro shops, prepayment of greens fees and learning to use the golf facility in a new way. The golfers and members throughout the state adjusted to new guidelines pretty well.

What were the notable success stories from your area this year?

There are always several notable stories but I don’t think any would have happened without the big success story of communication and collaboration. The stretch of time between March 6 and March 13 the CAGCS was able to work closely with the CSGA and have golf deemed as an essential business in the state of Connecticut. It was a huge accomplishment and every golf course in the state needs to recognize that work and thank the state for the consideration as an essential business. We were the lone state in the northeast for a while that had golf as an option, I don’t believe my responses would have been so positive without that great news early in March.

What are your expectations for 2021?

My expectations for 2021 are positive. If we were able to get through this year, take what we learned, and realize what comes from proper adjustments there can be success in the future and golf can continue to build and be a strong outlet for many players. I believe we will start the season as we ended in 2020 but we will slowly return the typical golf scenario. I just wonder if any of the 2020 guidelines will become a standard in the future.

— S. J.

Chris Cook

Superintendent, Bailey Ranch Golf Club, Owasso, Okla.
Vice President, Oklahoma GCSA

Generally speaking, how was golf in your area?

Very busy! Courses across the state were reporting increased rounds from 25 to 35 percent. We saw an increase at Bailey of approximately 30 percent.

How was the weather in your area this year?

Weather was ideal as well. Drier than average with enough intermittent rains to hold off drought. Mild temps — it never hit 100, which never happens — which meant lots of great golfing days.

What was your experience with labor this year?

Labor was tricky. We expected a lot of applicants due to historic unemployment but it was a struggle finding enough help. We spent most of the year between 60 and 90 percent staffed. I’m very proud of our team for preparing a great product all season long, for all these new faces, with limited help.

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

Spring course closures were limited to urban areas from what I could tell. I know for us, we stayed open when almost all other courses in Tulsa metro were closed in March and April. It was us and two other public courses that were open. Our play almost doubled for those few months. We were doing 200 to 225 rounds a day, every day during the initial COVID lockdowns.

Once Tulsa county reopened everything June 1, our play backed off a little. We’ve been seeing 130 to 190 rounds almost every day since then. Cooler weather has slowed down play lately, but with a mild fall, we are still doing 60 to 140 rounds a day in November! Many smaller communities haven’t seen as much of the virus and thus didn’t see the need to lock things down like Tulsa and OKC did.

What were the notable success stories from your area this year?

I haven’t heard of any specific success stories except to say most, if not all, courses in our state have done an exceptional job staying open while keeping their employees safe and I have to say golf has come out as the big success story in these days of COVID. As you’ve likely already covered, golf is a great, socially distant, outdoor activity and it’s so great to see all golf courses across the state and country seeing increased numbers of golfers. Hopefully this trend continues into the future.

What are your expectations for 2021?

I still expect to see a renewed interest in golf and I hope to see continued efforts made by courses in Oklahoma to reinvest in their facilities to strengthen their long-term outlooks. We had a couple courses in the Tulsa metro reopen this fall with improved bunkers, greens and irrigation. We are planning a reno next year and there is talk of several other courses making some large-scale improvements in the next few years. The Oklahoma golf economy seems to be quite healthy at the moment.

— S. J.

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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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