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COVID-19 survey recap: Looking up … and ahead

By |  June 9, 2020 0 Comments

As of mid-May, about 98 percent of golf courses in the U.S. were open for business, according to a survey by the National Golf Foundation.

As of press time, 96 percent of respondents to the second Golfdom coronavirus survey reported their courses are open for play, compared to only 44 percent who responded similarly to Golfdom’s first coronavirus survey just one month earlier.

As one survey respondent stated, “It’s a zoo!”

Another respondent said, “Since reopening, we have had our busiest days ever!”

Editor’s Note: Learn how rounds have exploded at Des Moines (Iowa) G&CC despite — or perhaps because of — the COVID-19 pandemic. Find the story here.

Many respondents added that while their courses have reopened, they are cautious and careful to adhere strictly to COVID-19 regulations for the safety of crew members and golfers alike.

And so, while it may not quite be “business as usual” for the golf course world, there’s certainly hope on the horizon for a productive golf season in 2020.


While in mid-April, about 33 percent of respondents said only 0 to 24 percent of their staff was working, the situation changed drastically by mid-May, with almost 39 percent of respondents saying 100 percent of their staff was working.

Staffing during COVID responses (Graph: Golfdom Staff)

Graph: Golfdom Staff

As one respondent said, “In the beginning, we had half of our guys laid off, but now we are at 90 percent back working. By June 1, we will be back to 100 percent.”

Another respondent said, “The extremely cool spring has helped in not needing (as many staff members), but now that the turf is starting to grow more quickly, our remaining full-time seasonal staff are coming back next week.”

In mid-May, 61 percent of respondents had 75 percent or more of their staff working, while in mid-April, just 25 percent reported three-quarters or more of their crew was working.

One respondent said, “We were waiting for the club to reopen, and we had to acquire an infrared thermometer and PPE (personal protective equipment) and carefully update our operating protocols to protect our crew members and golfers.”


Superintendents proved quick on their feet — and their aerators — during the early stages of the pandemic, with about 34 percent of respondents saying their course changed its typical aeration schedule.

One respondent said, “We already aerified greens, tees and fairways in April, before the course opened. It’s normally done in July or August.”


Photo: Golfdom Staff

Many golf courses took advantage of course closures to perform maintenance ahead of time. Other maintenance changes respondents mentioned include using more plant growth regulators (PGRs) to reduce the frequency of mowing; mowing less frequently; and reducing beautification projects such as mulching and planting flowers. At some courses, weather also had a hand in changing maintenance practices, as one respondent said, “The cool spring has pushed back some chemical applications, so they are going out later than usual.”

Staying up to date

Sixty-nine percent of respondents said their personal network of superintendents was their top resource for learning about best practices. Industry publications came in second, with 54 percent of respondents including them in their top resources. You can find a plethora of resources here on our website — including superintendent interviews, supplier and association updates, Zoom interviews with golf industry experts and more.

On a personal note, we’re all thrilled to see our science editor, Karl Danneberger, Ph.D., is recovering and already has returned to the pages of the magazine after only a one-month hiatus. Read the full story and a watch a video interview detailing how Karl fell ill and then successfully recovered from COVID-19. Read the Turf Doc’s column for June here. Welcome home, Karl.

The breakdown

Golfdom’s second survey, sent in mid-May, garnered 96 respondents, comprised of 71 superintendents, three assistant superintendents, nine general managers, eight owners and five people in other roles. Golfdom’s first survey, sent in mid-April, garnered 200 responses, comprised of 132 superintendents, five assistant superintendents, 30 general managers, 22 owners and 11 people in other roles.

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