By Vinnie Manginelli, PGA
As golf courses, private clubs, and stand-alone ranges reopen with various new rules and regulations, there are many facilities that have been open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, providing their members and golfers a respite from news of the virus and unfortunate unemployment situation across the country. At Golf Range Magazine, we have detailed many instances of golf facilities restructuring their golf operations to adhere to CDC and local health department requirements.
Though many states shut down the game of golf for several weeks at a time, others allowed courses and clubs to remain open with limitations on practice range and cart usage. Looking back over the decades, golf has often provided an escape from crisis, heartache, everyday reality. The spring of 2020 has been no different. As reports of increasing sickness and death inundate the news cycle, the opportunity to walk the fairways of one’s local course or club, or hit a bucket of balls on the range, has helped many Americans keep a level mind and provided a respite from the bad news of the day.
At Ed Oliver Golf Club, in Wilmington, Delaware, PGA instructor, Rebecca Dengler is an LPGA Master Professional and a former PGA Philadelphia Section Teacher of the Year. The facility was one of the few Billy Casper Golf-managed courses that were able to stay open, having followed strict guidelines since they were decreed. “The Governor of the state of Delaware plays here – so we were under extra scrutiny,” Dengler highlights. She also gives credit to the club’s general manager, Rob Polillo, who “did a great job having to adjust every day to new requirements”.
It is that perseverance that enabled Ed Oliver and other clubs nationwide to keep their fairways open to golfers desperate for a distraction. Terravita Golf and Country Club assistant professional, Steve Crane says his Scottsdale, Arizona facility enjoyed its busiest April on record. With no guests allowed, the club’s members found solace in the familiarity of their club and in the camaraderie of each other. “There’s nothing [else] for [members] to do – they can’t arrange to go out for a social function or go out to dinner – so they play golf.”
With all the necessary measures being implemented, golf has proven to be an ideal activity that supports social distancing requirements. With the average age of Crane’s members being 75 years old, ensuring a healthy environment is vital. This Troon facility reduced range capacity by one half and is ensuring extensive cleaning and disinfecting of carts after each round. It’s a new way of operating, but with the importance of the club being evidenced by the rounds hosted during the peak of the pandemic, just remaining open has been a treasured amenity.
With many golfers also longing for the instruction that often provides increased enjoyment in the game, Allen Burton of Allen Burton Golf Academy at Lake Hickory Country Club, in Hickory, North Carolina, has remained active in his teaching. He chose to shut down his in-person instruction temporarily to err on the side of caution, but found success conducting his lessons via Facetime and online through Zoom. He also used the Arccos platform to analyze some of his students’ rounds, virtually shot by shot. From a golfer’s point of view, having this interaction to rely on has been the comfort and support that individuals needed during this time of crisis. “I had a few of my students who had really nice practice facilities right in their own back yard,” Burton commented about the practice environment his students created for themselves.
Kathy Bounds, of Dona Lerner Golf Academy, in Raleigh, North Carolina, found virtual instruction to be a productive use of time, as well as a valuable benefit for her students. Bounds produced videos for students, analyzed video submissions from them, and conducted live lessons throughout the peak of the pandemic. Adding a fitness component, she collaborated with Par4Success, a fitness program designed for golf by Chris Finn, a Licensed Physical Therapist and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, as well as Kelley Brooke, the 2018 LPGA Golf Professional of the Year.
Whether your golf facility was closed for a period of time or you were lucky enough to stay open for business, golf has undoubtedly helped its loyal customers keep their sanity throughout the most trying period that most Americans have faced. Many golfers take the game very seriously, sometimes too seriously – after all, it’s just a game. But the escape that golf has provided will be looked upon favorably for years to come. When all else fails, go walk a few holes.