Over the past several weeks, NGF’s research staff has been conducting nationwide telephone polls to objectively assess the impact of the coronavirus on golf course operations.
The latest findings show that approximately 44% of golf courses are currently open nationwide, an estimate that includes both in-season regions where facilities have temporary suspended golf operations due to the coronavirus and some northernmost parts of the U.S. where play has not yet begun due to weather.
The initial weekly survey, conducted in late March, indicated that roughly 46% of courses were open across the U.S., including 74% in regions that were considered “in-season.” While the recent survey of 1,279 nationally representative facilities suggests a slight decline in courses open to play, it is within the study’s margin of error of +/- 3%.
The latest national sampling doesn’t reflect recent updates to executive orders in states like New York, Texas and Nevada, where governors specified that golf falls under the category of a “non-essential” business. These rulings (on April 8 and 9) will undoubtedly have an effect on the number of courses open to play, both regionally and nationally, and will be reflected in the next national poll.
There will likely still be local challenges to those updated orders, so while some courses may suspend operations temporarily, others will not. For now, the status of those states is listed as “pending” in our governance section, with further clarity likely to come in the coming days. Despite the latest updates to the orders in New York, Texas and Nevada, those states wouldn’t be able to be universally “closed” in the national mapping until the next survey is conducted in the coming week.
For example, a joint statement from the Metropolitan Golf Association, PGA Metropolitan Section and the Met GCSA says their interpretation of the latest advisory does not affect non-commercial recreation activities on golf courses — a perspective that might apply to hundreds of private clubs in the area.
“Nothing in (the) guidance supports the conclusion that golf, as a pure recreational activity, played in accordance with the CDC’s social distancing guidelines and other health safeguards, is prohibited or that private golf courses must lock their gates to members simply carrying their own bags or walking for exercise,” the organizations said in the statement.
With temperatures continuing to rise across the country and more of the northernmost states and regions officially starting their golf seasons, NGF researchers also examined the percentage of open courses by region, without the seasonal designations.
The majority of golf facilities in the South remain open for play, even while local mandates have temporarily halted play in golf-rich areas like West Palm Beach, Florida, as well as some major urban areas.
Not yet reflected in the above breakout of regional openings is the latest news out of New York, Texas and Nevada. These rulings will likely have a significant impact in the Mid-Atlantic, where golf restrictions were already in place for New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and the West South Central, where Texas has almost 60% more courses than the other three states (Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma) combined.
As noted on the map, the government-mandated shutdown of golf operations in Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois has had an significant effect in the East North Central region. Likewise, courses in the West region — many of which are open year-round — are also subject to widespread restrictions on golf (notably California, Washington and Hawaii).
For more in-depth research and insight on the coronavirus impact on the golf industry, click here to visit the NGF’s webpage for special COVID-19 updates.
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