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Golf’s top 5 challenges in 2020

By |  September 3, 2020 0 Comments
Headshot: Mark Woodward

Mark Woodward

2020 is turning out to be one of the most challenging years in all of our lives. Very few of us who are alive today have been through anything like what we have in the past several months. After all, the last major pandemic in the U.S. was in 1918.

We all know how it’s affected our lives, our loved ones, our jobs, our communities, our country and even the world as a whole. But how has it affected the golf industry?

Let’s talk about what will be the top five challenges for golf in the year 2020 as I see them.

COVID-19. This challenge changed everything we do in golf, and as we all know, we’re still dealing with this one. It’s my guess that many of the things we changed in how golf is played will carry on even after the virus has subsided, like cup inserts, no touching the pin, single riders in golf carts, no caddies, no valet parking … and the list goes on. I also believe that many of the things we learned to do to reduce the spread of the virus should continue to be done as a societal shift moving forward (e.g., washing our hands more regularly, social distancing and virtual meetings).

Revenue/loss of revenue. For many golf courses, the loss of revenue for almost four-plus months could have a huge negative impact on their long-term sustainability. Obviously, some golf courses in the north may not have been in the middle of their peak season at the beginning, but golf courses in the southern part of the nation were right in the middle of their peak when COVID-19 hit. We’ve lost a large number of courses over the past several years, but in many cases, this resetting of the number of golf courses has been good. My fear now is we will lose a number of golf courses that can’t come out of the pandemic and recover.

Golfers/rounds. Will there be a net gain or net loss in the number of golfers during and after the pandemic? I believe this could go either way. Some golf courses in the Southwest actually saw a record number of rounds during April and May because golf courses were deemed essential and stayed open with many social distancing practices put in place.

Some people are chomping at the bit to get out and play, while others who are considering taking up the game may decide not to. Growing the game is still a high priority for the golf associations and is necessary for the good of our industry. We need to continue to do everything we can to gain and retain golfers for long-term sustainability.

Labor. Many golf courses struggled with finding and retaining quality labor prior to the pandemic. And now, coming out of the pandemic, there will be a large number of people who are unemployed. The question is, will working at a golf course in any capacity appeal to them? My gut tells me that labor will continue to be a challenge at many facilities.

Uncertainty. This is probably one of the hardest things to come to grips with because we just don’t know what’s going to happen moving forward. Most golf courses and associations have canceled tournaments, outings and events or modified them greatly for the foreseeable future. Determining the right time to start rescheduling events is the challenge. Will the virus have a resurgence? It has in many states including Arizona, where I am. Will it be possible to recover some of the lost revenues? Will golfers come out and play, or will the labor situation improve to pre-COVID-19 numbers?

All we can do as we get through the summer is stay safe, continue to practice social distancing, wear masks, communicate and wait and see what our “new normal” is going to look like.

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