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 (as of the week ending April 12) show that approximately 48% 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 a few northernmost parts of the U.S. where play has not yet begun due to weather.
In previous weeks, those figures were 46% and 44%, respectively, with a sampling margin of error of +/- 3%. The above map reflects the operating status of approximately one-third of the nation’s golf facilities and accounts for the most nationally representative sample of courses currently available, one that includes daily fee, private, municipal, resort and residential communities.
The findings reflect the at-times uncertain nature of golf operations in states like Texas and New York, where recent amendments to executive orders specified that golf is a non-essential business, and doesn’t yet factor in the impact of the forthcoming resumption of golf operations in Minnesota (April 18) and Wisconsin (April 24). Both states have recently amended their executive orders to allow a greater range of outdoor activities, including golf.
While the governor of Texas, which has the fifth-most courses in the country, last week said golf was a non-essential business, he later clarified that they can continue to allow play provided they maintain safe distancing practices and adhere to adjusted operational guidelines prescribed the CDC.
In the Northeast, New York’s various golf associations said last week that the state’s recent “non-essential” advisory didn’t affect non-commercial recreation activities — an interpretation that would potentially pertain to hundreds of private clubs in the region. In addition, a number of courses in upstate New York far from the epicenter of the virus in New York City were just starting their seasons after being closed for wintry weather conditions.
The Metropolitan Golf Association on April 11 noted that a number of New York public golf facilities were informed by local authorities, such as county fire marshals, that they were required to close. As confusion remained around whether private courses statewide would be forced to comply with the executive order, the MGA urged clubs to consult with local authorities regarding the status of golf on their property. Per the latest information from representatives of Empire State Development, however, no golf is to be played on golf courses in New York until further notice.
While about 50% of surveyed courses in upstate New York remained open after news of the amended executive order first came out, that number may drop significantly in the forthcoming national update.
NGF researchers also continue to examine the percentage of open courses by region, without seasonal designations.
The majority of golf facilities in the South remain open for play, even after a number of courses in Texas shut down following the “non-essential” ruling, while local mandates have temporarily halted play in golf-rich areas like West Palm Beach, Florida, as well as some major urban areas.
The biggest jump in course openings was in the Mountain Region despite the recent halt of golf operations in Nevada, where only 3% of courses remain open after the governor’s recent executive order restricting play. A week ago, 67% of the state’s courses were open.
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, yet openings were up in the past week due to more courses welcoming golfers in states like Indiana and Ohio.
These numbers may change further as the updated stay-at-home order in Wisconsin will allow almost 550 public and private courses to open as of April 24 and additional facilities that were closed due to weather move “in-season.” Under Wisconsin’s updated order, issued by Governor Tony Evers and the Department of Health, all golfers playing at the state’s courses must walk, with the use of golf carts prohibited among the operational restrictions in place.
Minnesota’s executive order, updated on April 17, allows state residents to engage in golf — as well as activities like boating, fishing, hunting and hiking — as long as they maintain six feet of distance from others, avoid crowded places and stay near their homes.
Meanwhile, the continued shutdown of the majority of courses throughout California is impacting the Western Region even though more than 85% of courses remain open in Oregon.
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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