Updated daily: Golf industry responds to coronavirus

By |  March 30, 2020 0 Comments

Editor’s note: We will continue to update this post as information becomes available.

Updated March 30, 2020

NGF conducts first nationwide poll of golf courses and launches new webpage to track coronavirus effects

This past week, the National Golf Foundation (NGF) conducted an exclusive nationwide poll of golf courses, the results of which are the centerpiece of a new NGF COVID-19 webpage that provides information and key data points on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the golf business.

The website features the latest national estimates of the percentage of U.S. golf courses that are open for play, broken out by facility type, municipal, daily fee and private, as well in-season and out-of-season geographies. The telephone poll was conducted on March 24-25 among a sample of 1,006 golf facilities randomly selected from the NGF’s complete database of more than 14,000 golf facilities that were operating as of the end of last year. Results are accurate to within plus or minus three percent.

The website also includes a national tracker that details whether golf is permitted on a state level by various governmental rulings, golf course operators’ perceptions on the volume of play within the past week and consumer research that reveals how their behaviors (playing and purchasing) have been affected.

Additionally, the NGF’s special COVID-19 site provides links to useful golf industry and government websites, as well as recent articles of interest, including one by NGF that provides an overview of the impact of the pandemic on various sectors of the golf industry, including retail and equipment manufacturers, golf management companies and course suppliers.

The research and findings will be regularly updated through ongoing national polls and surveys, and are available via NGF.org or the organization’s communications website, www.thengfq.com/covid-19.

For the most updated industry information and data, please follow NGF’s social media feeds.

Twitter: @NGF_GolfBizInfo

LinkedIn: National Golf Foundation

 

Updated March 25, 2020

USGA Green Section launches COVID-19 Resource Center

The USGA Green Section has launched a COVID-19 resource center due to the spread of COVID-19 having a tremendous impact on golf courses across the country.

Courses are taking unique approaches to course setup and presentation to minimize the risk of spreading the virus, operating with limited staff and facing resource impacts that are likely to get worse, and the USGA Green Section would like to help all golf facilities manage the agronomic, labor and budgetary challenges caused by the virus.

In addition to encouraging course superintendents, managers and owners to utilize the content on this resource page, the USGA Green Section invites you to contact one of its USGA regional agronomists. They can offer customized advice and guidance for your course as the industry navigates these uncharted waters together.

Rapid changes for Teugega CC

For Ian Daniels, superintendent of Teugega Country Club, in Rome, N.Y., things have been changing rapidly. Last week the state started with a mandate of a 50 percent reduction in the overall workforce. That quickly changed to 75 percent to 100 percent of nonessential workers. While Daniels says there was a bit of confusion as to what each reduction meant, now he and his local chapter board of directors are trying to understand where golf and golf courses fit in.

“There’s no clarification about who can work,” he says. “We all have quite a huge asset that we need to take care of. Golf courses can rapidly decline if you’re not doing the minimum maintenance.”

Daniels says, though, that the “stay in place” order comes at a decent time in the early spring season, noting his crew wasn’t scheduled to return to work until the first Monday in April. He’s rolled greens once and the course hasn’t been mowed yet and still has its “winter shagginess.” Mother Nature has also played a hand in everything.

“We had favorable weather last week,” he said. “Monday (March 23) we got a shot of snow — we got four inches of snow.”

Daniels Tweeted out a photo of the snow on the course that simply said: “that puts everything on ‘PAUSE’ for a little while…”

He says he and local association members are advocating for golf courses to be open for play, or at least get some clarity as to what N.Y. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s stay at home orders mean for golf courses and superintendents in the state.

“Right now, none of us are sure what’s going on,” he says. “All we can do is come up with a written plan – if we have staff how that would look. The members want to be outside. There’s not many things they can do for recreation anymore. We’re trying to say golf is a safe place.”

He says they’ve communicated with members that the expectations of course conditions should be altered, based on the pandemic.

“Our turf is much more resilient and it needs us less than we think,” he says. “We’ve communicated to our members that all we want to do is provide you a place to play golf. Right now, we just don’t know how much staff we’ll have to maintain it.”

He says a bright spot is that with reduced staff and maintenance, it’s going to give golfers a chance to play the game as it was created.

“My golf course is 100 years old,” he says. “It wasn’t designed with current technology in mind. For classic golf courses, you get a chance to see what it’s like. It’s going to be different, but it takes you back to a much simpler game, with no frills. You’re out there hitting the ball and enjoying the experience.”

He does note that for now, his facility is in good financial shape.

“We’ve already collected two-thirds of our dues. We feel like we’re sitting on a little security and we can ride this out.”

But, with four weddings on the books and tournaments and events scheduled for later in the season, things could soon get more complicated.

“We’re OK but it all depends on how (long) it lasts,” he says. “I feel for those courses that don’t have that luxury . … We have to try to be supportive of each other.”

Daniels is optimistic that the industry can withstand this uncertainty.

“One thing that our superintendent field is good at is adapting and adjusting. Every season is a different challenge. Last season, I didn’t see green grass until April 16. I had severely damaged greens and greens shut down until May 28. I dealt with a hard spring last year and winter damage from ice. As hard as this is, we’re all really good at overcoming. This is one that nobody has ever heard of. We’ll be fine and adjust and overcome.”

 

Updated March 24, 2020

In line with the scientific projections and government instructions surrounding COVID-19, Bernhard and Co. has come to the decision to suspend its operations with immediate effect on March 24.

Steven Nixon, director of Bernhard Co., said: “Nobody knows how long this crisis will last, but clearly it will become much more difficult to continue to trade for several months. However, we will keep customers and partners up to date with developments and will review the situation weekly, observing always the government’s advice.”

The company asks that customers please be patient during this time and it thanks its employees, customers, suppliers and partners, for their continued support.

For any queries, please contact Bernhard Co. on at queries@bernhard.co.uk.

 

Updated March 23, 2020

GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans discusses Coronavirus pandemic and Washington, D.C., efforts

Golfdom caught up with GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans late last week. The topic, naturally, was how the GCSAA and the industry moves forward during the constantly changing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re working to get language out there that will allow us to keep maintenance facilities up and running despite the state mandates,” Evans says. “Golf maintenance is a very unique industry. It’s a specialty crop. You have to water it, you have to take care of it. We’re not asking that golf courses stay open for play.”

On that note, Evans says he believes golf is unique in that it is safe to play during the pandemic.

“You can play golf in a safe way. You can be separated over 150 acres,” he says. “But every time I turn around, something changes.”

Evans says the association’s partnership with its allies in the game of golf have all become vitally important during the pandemic.

“We have our lobbyist in Washington, D.C., we’re working with We Are Golf, the PGA Tour … what’s coming from Washington is being written at a lightning-fast pace, and we’re going through it trying to make sure golf is not left out,” Evans says. “We’re being vigilant about that. The health of people, the supplies we need, that’s obviously first. We’re further down the line. But we want to make sure golf is treated fairly.”

Evans says most of the staff at GCSAA headquarters in Lawrence, Kan., are working from home. In the meantime, the two departments that were on the biggest scramble were the government affairs team and the GCSAA field staff.

“The field staff are gathering intel. We rely on them for gathering information from our members,” he said. “We just did a video conference call. We’re going to push a lot of information out to the chapters soon.”

The GCSAA scheduled a COVID-19 webinar for today at 1 p.m., limited to the first 500 attendees.

When asked if GCSAA might have specific recommendations on how to keep courses safe, Evans said they’re relying on the Center for Disease Control for information.

“The general practices issues by the CDC, that’s what we’re employing,” he said. “It’s not foolproof … we have to rely on our members to take caution. At the end of the day, they have a job to get done and they have to protect that asset. There’s a balance between the two.”

Evans says that GCSAA has ceased all committee meetings and put Rounds 4 Research on hold. He also says they’re in a holding pattern on how long anything will be postponed until there’s a better understanding of how the Coronavirus will sweep the nation.

“This is certainly going to push things to the third and fourth quarter, but by then, hopefully we’re back up and going,” Evans says. “At that point, we’ll look at the golf economy and how far courses have fallen back. It’s going to be a short golf season for a lot of states. We’re in for a wild ride. The situation we’re in, this crisis, then the ensuing economic fallout … no one knows what to expect. But we want golf to move forward. Right now, golf courses have a great opportunity because you can apply the CDC standards, social distancing, and be in nature, clear your mind. It’s imperative we do that for our own mental health. And if golf courses aren’t allowed to stay open? Then allow the superintendents and their staffs to continue working to fulfill their jobs and maintain those 150 acres.”

 

Updated March 21, 2020

“I refuse to use the word normal,” says Sean Reehoorn superintendent of Aldarra Golf Club in Sammamish, Wash. “We’re really strict on the social distancing,” noting that his crew does solo work, with the exception of the two employees who live together. Morning meetings are held with employees staying 6 feet apart.

Reehoorn says social distancing is going to make him a better manager of his crew, noting “I’m going to be more hands-off.”

He says he has to trust his employees will do the job they’re asked to do, instead of him “standing right next to them, saying ‘This is exactly how you need to do this.”

And he says expectations of managing a golf course during COVID-19 have to change. “Our goal is to not let the golf course decline.”

And with all the sanitizing, social distancing and new realities of this world, he wonders how much of what’s in place now will become standard.

“What are all the things that are not going to go away?” he says. “What’s the new standard going to be July 1, 2020?”

Personally, Reehoorn says his family shops for groceries online. And he’s encouraging his team to practice both gratitude and appreciation, as this “gives us an opportunity to be present in our lives.”

And he says the course is doing what it can to take care of its employees.

“We’ve spent our whole career putting the golf course first,” he says. “We encourage the staff to try to focus on their family, that’s far more important than being here.”

 Keeping communications going

Rhett Evans and his team at GCSAA are working late hours from home, trying to do all they can to make sure their membership and the game is being served.

The Government Relations and the Field Staff were among the busiest departments at the association, trying to keep communication open with members and Washington, D.C.

“Golf is a specialty crop. You have to water it, you have to take care of it,” Evans says. “We’re crafting language — not asking that golf courses stay open — but that you can work in a safe way and be spread out over 150 acres. But every time I turn around, something changes.”

Evans was hopeful that people will be allowed to play golf, calling it a respite from the current chaos. “You can apply the (Center for Disease Control) standards, you can do the social distancing,” he says. “And at the same time, you can be in nature and clear your mind. It’s important we do that for our own mental health.”

As far as how the pandemic might affect the association and golf itself, Evans can only guess.

“For now, all committee meetings and Rounds 4 Research have been canceled. Everything is being pushed to the third and fourth quarter,” Evans says. “At that point, we’ll look at the golf economy and how far courses have fallen back. It’s going to be a short golf season for a lot of states. We’re in for a wild ride. But we want golf to still move forward.”

Reducing staff

Corey Barnes, golf course superintendent at Chambersburg Country Club in Chambersburg, Penn., says that with two new employees this year, he’s had to get creative on now to manage his crew. He split his crew so that each crew works every other week, so each team had experienced equipment operators.

“I had to take my best guys and split them up, so we have operators on both crews. If somebody got sick, at least I’d have enough staff to maintain the golf course to a reasonable standard.”

With employees working six-hour days, Monday through Friday every other week, the club has encouraged the maintenance staff to apply for unemployment because of the reduction of hours.

The club also has banned golf carts, and the clubhouse and range facility are closed. Coolers are out and disinfected. Flag sticks are still out and wiped down after use. Golfers are encouraged to use gloves to remove the flag or a towel to remove the ball from the cup.

Barnes says the course just moved from a two-cup system on greens. He’s considering moving back, but wonders, “Does that create another spot for contact?”

Rounds are up, but Barnes says that’s likely because of the pleasant weather. But, as far as the future of the course, Barnes says he and his crew are going to do the best they can to keep the course in a playable shape.

“We can’t get it all done with a half-crew. But we’re going to maintain it to a reasonable standard.”

Things change every day

“Things change every day according to national news and state news — it’s all pretty unknown right now and everyone’s on edge,” says Steve Link, superintendent at Skagit Golf & Country Club north of Seattle, where the first outbreak in the United States was reported.

“If we do have to close, I’m pretty sure people would just come onto the course, but we haven’t discussed the possibility of closing yet … my gut feeling is that it won’t affect golf much at all,” he notes.

Link says that because of nice weather in the area, a surprising amount of golf is being played on the course. “Everyone’s antsy to get on the golf course and get into the fresh air and sunshine,” he says.

Start times for Link’s seven-person crew have been staggered by 10-15 minutes. They use a white board for the day’s jobs and communicate via text to maintain social distance.

Aside from removing flags and bunker rates and covering cups, everything gets a bath in bleach and water solution—keys, steering wheels, gates.

In the event that he’ll have to cut some staff, the club’s members have offered to pay up to two weeks for any hours missed, and according to Link, there are programs like emergency unemployment in case hours get cut drastically.

Looking ahead, the future is uncertain, just like it is around the rest of the country. For now, he says, “We do have work if people are able to come in and want to come in.”

 

Updated: March 20, 2020

“Things are … different,” says Jacob Close, superintendent at Sudden Valley Golf Course in Bellingham, Wash.

Close has an insider’s perspective on the efforts to control the coronavirus in the Pacific Northwest. His wife, Natasha, is on the front lines studying the coronavirus as an epidemiologist with the Washington State Department of Health.

Armed with her knowledge, Close is doing everything to keep his crew as far from each other as possible, and everything in the shop as clean as possible.

On a larger scale, he credits the work of the Western Washington Golf Course Superintendents Association for following up with golf courses to see what they were doing and presenting that information to the state to ensure it is aware of how golf courses are making their facilities safe for visitors.

It’s a waiting game to see how state officials react to changes in the progression of COVID-19. In the meantime, Sudden Valley is trying to finish up some irrigation work, and Close says he’s planning for wall-to-wall plant growth regulator and fungicide applications in case the course shuts down for several weeks.

“Our commitment is to keep our people working, but there’s just a 50/50 chance we’ll be able to keep them employed over the summer,” Close says. “Tournaments have been a big hit for us, losing 90 percent of their bookings through May. If that continues to happen, you could see budgets negatively affected for several years.”

He thinks back to his experience working at Waverley Country Club in Portland, Ore. during 9/11. “Stuff changed after that that we never came back from,” he said. “Staffing levels weren’t the same … and when we did eventually come back from that, there was nobody to hire.

“There’s some real doomsday predictions, but I don’t think you’ll see the closures of courses for the rest of the year. But I could be wrong.”

Rounds up in Texas

Despite many of the concerns surrounding COVID-19, Bent Tree Country Club in Dallas has seen an uptick in rounds played, according to Grounds and Greens Superintendent Blake Cain.

In fact, the club has seen about 25-30 rounds played each day between March 17 and March 19, but March 20 and March 21 could see up to 80-plus rounds each day as long as the course stays open.

“I think right now that we’re going to be busier than we would be without the coronavirus because more people are at home, not at work, and so they want to get out of quarantine,” Cain says. “The first place a lot of avid golfers are going to go to is the golf course.”

To ensure golfers and maintenance staff remain safe, the club has implemented an array of proactive safety measures.

“I think people are looking at the golf course as a place to retreat to in this difficult time, so we want to make things as enjoyable and safe as possible,” Cain says.

Bent Tree has removed bunker rakes; implemented a pool noodle in the bottom of the cup so the ball doesn’t fall to the bottom, to make it easier for golfers to remove it; limited the areas that staff is interacting with maintenance facilities; conducted job assignment meetings outdoors in the main parking lot to keep people separated; isolated employees’ lunch breaks; required employees to wear gloves; and sanitized any common areas.

The club also reached out to employees in the susceptible age range (60 years of age and older), asking them to stay safe and remain at home. They will be paid while on leave.

“All of those employees were very happy with that consideration and took us up on that offer,” Cain says. “We just want to provide a safe work environment for everyone.”

Cain adds that within the past day and a half, the club’s Indeed page has also experienced an upswing in applications, receiving applications from people who are otherwise out of work, such as restaurant workers and bartenders.

National Club Association’s resources

The National Club Association’s new Coronavirus Resource Center contains vital information in areas such as Workforce, Health & Safety and Emergency Legislation, and includes guidance from trusted sources, FAQs from industry experts, template communications for clubs and much more. NCA also will offer a webinar for members on March 23 at 11 a.m. EST: NCA COVID-19 Public Health Town Hall: A Medical Update and Q&A with Dr. Catherine L. Troisi. Register here.

 

Updated: March 19, 2020

Kafka Granite is pledging to support local restaurants in Wisconsin. In a post on Facebook, the company said “Each day, we will be purchasing lunch for one of our facilities and each week we’ll feature a new local restaurant. We challenge other businesses to do the same, wherever you are! We understand we are facing tough economic times, so do what you can. If we all do a little, it will add up to a lot!”

A study in humanity

Bob Farren, Pinehurst Resort’s director of golf course maintenance, likens the situation surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak to the Sept. 11 attacks.

“When that happened, that was kind of a different situation, but it happened and then everyone was emotionally drained by it and affected by it, but we fought our way through it,” Farren says. “The fighting instinct isn’t there that was had in 9/11, so that’s a different emotion, but you’re concerned, and you want to know what’s going on, but no one knows … We’re doing what we can to maintain as much normalcy as we can.”

Dinners and events at the club are canceled, and Pinehurst is telling employees not to come in if they don’t feel well or if they’re afraid to come in. Bigger corporate events that were scheduled within the next eight to 10 weeks have been canceled, but smaller “buddy golf” social trips are still on, for the most part.

The club in Pinehurst, N.C., also has developed a task force comprised of a small group of division heads to share information and stay on top of the situation, which Farren says is “changing and fluid from one hour to the next.”

However, as of Monday, March 16, people are still playing golf at the resort.

“People leave the flagstick in more. They’re not raking bunkers,” Farren says. “You see people’s lifestyles, habits are changing, (but) we have a core of membership who live here, and they love to play golf and they love to be outside, and they’re doing that.”

Looking ahead, Farren believes that Pinehurst will emerge from the outbreak without taking a major hit.

“The fact is that we’re all in the same boat, but I don’t think long-term-wise, the next month or two, it’s going to have a great effect,” he says. “I don’t see us recovering back to the levels that we anticipated for this year, but I think at the end of the year, providing things settle out in the next eight or 10 weeks, I think we’ll be fine.”

He adds, “It’s going to be a study in humanity once this thing is over to see what people did and why they did things.”

 

Updated March 18, 2020

The PGA Tour has canceled four more events: RBC Heritage (April 13-19); Zurich Classic of New Orleans (April 20-26); Wells Fargo Championship (April 27-May 3); and AT&T Byron Nelson (May 4-10).

The PGA Championship (May 14-17) has been postponed for a later date to be announced. The Regions Tradition was rescheduled to Sept. 24-27 and the Mastercard Japan Championship will not be played due to travel advisories put in place by the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and the U.S. State Department.

First USGA championships also canceled

USGA has canceled the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball, originally scheduled for April 25-29 at Quail Creek Country Club in Naples, Fla., and the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, originally scheduled for May 23-27 at Philadelphia (Pa.) Cricket Club. 

In addition, the USGA has canceled first stage qualifying for the 2020 U.S. Open and qualifying for the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open. USGA says it will look to reconfigure qualifying moving forward. As of now, the U.S. Women’s Open at Champions Golf Club and the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club are still moving forward.

Pinehurst response to COVID-19

Bob Farren, Pinehurst Resort & Country Club‘s director of golf course and ground management, likens the situation surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak to the Sept. 11 attacks.

“When that happened, that was kind of a different situation, but it happened and then everyone was emotionally drained by it and affected by it, but we fought our way through it,” Farren says. “The fighting instinct isn’t there that was had in 9/11, so that’s a different emotion, but you’re concerned and you want to know what’s going on but no one knows … We’re doing what we can to maintain as much normalcy as we can.”

Dinners and events at the club are canceled, and Pinehurst is telling employees not to come in if they don’t feel well or if they’re afraid to come in. Bigger corporate events that were scheduled within the next eight to 10 weeks have been canceled, but smaller “buddy golf” social trips are still on for the most part.

The club has also developed a task force comprised of a small group of division heads, to share information and stay on top of the situation, which Farren says is “changing and fluid from one hour to the next.”

However, as of Monday, March 16, people are still playing golf at the resort.

“People leave the flagstick in more. They’re not raking bunkers,” Farren says. “You see people’s lifestyles, habits are changing, (but) we have a core of membership who live here, and they love to play golf, and they love to be outside, and they’re doing that.”

Looking ahead, Farren believes that Pinehurst will emerge from the outbreak without taking a major hit.

Bayer committed to providing business continuity

As of March 17, Bayer remains committed to providing business continuity in its daily operations and ensuring it delivers on commitments to customers around the world to the greatest extent possible under these challenging circumstances.

For its Crop Science product supply, R&D and seed production sites, the company has staffing plans in place to maintain plant and facility operations in order to provide customers with the products and services they depend on.

Bayer is also committed to keeping customers informed of any changes that may come in the days or weeks to follow. The safety and well-being of its employees, customers, business partners and the communities in which they live and work remains a top priority.

 

Updated March 17, 2020

A sign at Naperville Country Club discourages outside vendors from entering the facility. (Photo: Naperville CC)

A sign at Naperville Country Club discourages outside vendors from entering the facility. (Photo: Naperville CC)

For Naperville Country Club in Naperville, Ill., the main concern is limiting its employees’ exposure to the coronavirus, according to superintendent Kyle Barton.

The precautionary measures in place at the club include disinfecting all door handles and surfaces multiple times daily, assigning each person a specific cart, wearing gloves while working, staggering lunch times so 6 feet of distance is kept among employees, wiping down steering wheels after use, washing hands often, wiping down tools with disinfectant after use, staying home if sick and not allowing outside vendors until further notice.

“(These measures) keep our exposure level to a minimum,” Barton says. “We’re only a staff of five right now, so if we can keep (contact) to a staff of five and their families who they’re coming into contact with, then we’re just limiting exposure.”

He hopes that these measures will prevent a shutdown of his maintenance department.

“So far, it hasn’t affected our workplace other than us taking precautionary measures. If we show that we’re taking the proper precautions, we won’t have to shut down our maintenance department,” Barton says. “We can’t really help whether they shut down the clubhouse or golf course or not, but we want to be able to keep working on the golf course so that when this whole thing is over, (golfers) have a good playing surface to come back to.”

Barton adds that since the club is in its off-season right now, the effect of COVID-19 hasn’t been a huge issue yet, even if a shutdown of golf courses does go into effect.

“I think long term, we’ll be OK,” he says. “I would say in the very near future, it’s going to change some people’s plans and change the way people think. We’re going to have to come together and get through it.”

One superintendent source tells Golfdom that his course is still open, but in addition to removing commonly touched items flagsticks and bunker rakes, he’s spreading out his crews by separating them into thirds and staggering shifts.

“We’re just trying to figure out ways, since what they’re saying is, with the coronavirus, if one person gets sick, everyone on that team will need to be quarantined,” he says.

Now, one of the course’s mechanic’s sole job is sanitizing. All team meetings are held outside, and aside from his typical scheduling via Task Tracker, the superintendent is sending out directions so his crew members stay separate.

In the event of a closure, he’s following hurricane procedures: making sure fuel is full on equipment and that sprays are ready in the event that the team receives a 12-hour notice to stop operations for a week or so.

“Grass doesn’t care what the coronavirus is; it’s still going to grow,” he says. “So, we can spray PGR out on the course and make sure that nothing grows for a week, week and a half while we’re gone.”

 

Updated March 16, 2020

For Kasey Kauff, director of grounds at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas, the biggest concern he’s facing with the coronavirus where his PGA Tour event — the AT&T Byron Nelson — falls right in the middle of an eight-week window that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised against gatherings of 50 people or more.

“We’re in this weird window,” Kauff says. “If our tournament was in July, I would be less concerned. The longer we wait, the more money we spend if we have (the event) or not.”

Kauff says volunteers will be coming in from across the country — and the globe — for the tournament, and there are hotel blocks and other preparations that come with the tournament.

“We want a concrete decision made,” he says. “It’s this weird place of ‘I don’t know.’ I feel sorry for the guys and girls of other clubs who were built out and got other things ready. Until someone tells us otherwise, we’re just going business as usual.”

Kauff says there are people out playing golf on his course, but the weather hasn’t been that conducive to golfing.

And, several school districts in North Texas have extended spring break to three weeks, and Kauff says play is often down when families go on vacations timed with spring break. But, these circumstances are different.

And, Kauff says he has a few employees coming back from Latin American countries that he’s encouraging to go into self-quarantine for two weeks just to be on the safe side.

He adds that he thinks golf is a great opportunity to get outside.

“Playing golf at a golf course is a great way to social distance yourself,” he says. “You’re 30 yards away. Play golf!”

Golfdom reached Andy Wilson, director of grounds at Bethpage State Park, on Monday afternoon, March 16, as he was driving around the course with foursomes scattered about the Yellow Course.

“We’re cutting greens today — the Yellow Course is open,” he says.

This past weekend (March 13-15) at Bethpage, the Blue, Yellow and Green courses were open. The venue hosted the 2019 PGA Championship on its Black Course.

“The clubhouse was saying that golfers were happy to be out of the house and happy that we were open,” Wilson says. “It’s surreal to be the facility that’s open when a lot of other things are closing.”

He says that crew members are being more vigilant about hygiene and hand washing. He says that he had a crew meeting this morning to communicate that their safety is the most important issue at hand.

“If they aren’t feeling well and they have to stay home, or if they have to be caretakers for kids that are home — we’re obviously going to approve that. It would be pretty silly of us to hold people to a pretty high standard with such unknowns,” he explains.

He adds, “We’re doing our best to get the season underway, but what employer would keep their employee at work in the middle of a quarantine if they didn’t want to be? There are much bigger things happening,” he says. “For me, when I heard that New York City schools are going to be closed until April 20, that means we’re in this for a good four to six weeks.”

Be prepared for ‘anything’

Chambers Bay Golf Course, in University Place, Wash., is near the epicenter of the Seattle COVID-19 outbreak. But, Eric Johnson, director of agronomy, says it’s still status quo for the course.

“As for golf maintenance, nothing has changed yet,” Johnson says as of Monday, March 16. “We have a near-full tee sheet through this weekend. We are communicating with the staff to be prepared for ‘anything’ regarding their schedule.”

A college golf tournament that was to be held next month at the course was canceled.

Johnson does expect that school closings in King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties will likely impact him as well as his staff.

“We are in uncharted territory with this pandemic, and the situation is pretty fluid,” he says. “We are expecting to have illness-related absences and will encourage staff to err on the side of caution by staying home if necessary. Fortunately, the turfgrass is still transitioning out of winter, so there’s not a big demand for mowing. The priority is staying healthy; the golf course will be here tomorrow.”

Johnson says he’s reminding staff that there is sick time and vacation time, and they are to use it if they feel sick. He’s encouraging his staff to do basic things like wash hands and increase the cleaning frequency of high-contact items such as steering wheels, seats, doorknobs, railings, etc.

Helpful planning 

McCord Golf Safety shared a checklist via Twitter from the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, noting “By now you must have at least considered how the coronavirus may impact your golf course and specifically your maintenance team. Here’s a checklist from HHS and CDC that may be helpful in your planning.”

GCSAA staff transitions to remote operations

The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) says the organization will modify its operations for the foreseeable future to assist in reducing the spread of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The transition is effective Monday, March 16.

The association says no GCSAA team member has tested positive for the virus, this move is out of an abundance of caution and the headquarters building will not be open to the public. 

“We are very fortunate that we invested in the technology to be able to continue to provide the high level of member service we are known for while keeping the health and safety of our members and staff at the forefront,” Rhett Evans, GCSAA CEO says. “We will continue to monitor the situation to determine when we feel it is safe to return to our traditional operation.”

GCSAA members can continue to access all of GCSAA’s websites, and they can continue to receive assistance by calling 800-472-7878 or emailing mbrhelp@gcsaa.org or reaching out to staff at their direct numbers or email. A full list of GCSAA contacts is available at https://www.gcsaa.org/contact.

 

Originally published March 13, 2020

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan announced all PGA Tour events, starting with The Players Championship and continuing through the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio, Texas, are canceled due to concerns over the novel coronavirus or COVID-19.

“Even though we feel we have a safe environment, and we’ve done all the right things, we can’t proceed,” he said. “It’s not right to proceed.”

Monahan pointed to the closing of two major theme parks in Florida as an indication of the magnitude of the decision.

“We just felt like given all those factors, it was time to move on,” he said.

Masters follows suit

Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, last week said everything was going to continue as planned at Augusta National. However, as of March 13, The Masters, along with the Augusta National Women’s Amateur and the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals, will be postponed.

“Unfortunately, the ever-increasing risks associated with the widespread Coronavirus COVID-19 have led us to a decision that undoubtedly will be disappointing to many, although I am confident is appropriate under these unique circumstances,” Ridley said in a statement. “Ultimately, the health and well-being of everyone associated with these events and the citizens of the Augusta community led us to this decision. We hope this postponement puts us in the best position to safely host the Masters Tournament and our amateur events at some later date.”

Ridley says Augusta National will continue to work with the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Office of the Governor of Georgia, the Georgia Department of Public Health, the City of Augusta and all other local authorities and updates will be posted to Masters.com.

“As COVID-19 continues to impact the lives of people everywhere, we seek your understanding of this decision and know you share our concern given these trying times,” Ridley said.

No change to USGA 

The United States Golf Association (USGA), which stages the U.S. Open has released the following response:

 “The USGA has been carefully monitoring all information available regarding the novel coronavirus COVID-19 and remains focused on the health and safety of the USGA community, including our staff, players, officials, volunteers and spectators. We have established an internal task force and are communicating on a regular basis with our peers in the golf community and the broader sports world as information on this evolving issue continues to be shared. Our leadership continues to follow current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization and will remain vigilant in working with local and state authorities to monitor the virus and its implications for the entire USGA community.

Our championship season begins in late April and runs through September, with the U.S. Open being played in June, and as of today, we have not made any decisions to alter this schedule. We are committed to being proactive in updating our constituents regarding any changes and will provide more information as it becomes available. We will take action in the event there are direct impacts to our people or our championships, including our qualifiers.”

 



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