For the first time in five weeks of NGF’s nationwide surveys to objectively assess the impact of the coronavirus on golf course operations, more than 50 percent of facilities nationwide are open to play.
The latest findings (as of the week ending April 26) show that approximately 58% of golf courses were open nationwide, with a notable increase last week as more states and counties eased restrictions on golf. Wisconsin and Michigan allowed walking-only golf as of April 24, more New York courses continue to reopen with similar operational modifications and at least 10 of California‘s 58 counties are now permitting play.
The previous week, 49% of courses had been open.
The upward trajectory is projected to continue even more significantly as additional states and counties include golf among safe, outdoor activities permitted during the coronavirus pandemic. The latest NGF projections suggest that 78% of courses could be open by mid-May or earlier, as Illinois, Pennsylvania and Maine will allow courses to reopen as of May 1, New Jersey follows on May 2, and Washington golf resumes May 5..
“As we successfully continue to flatten the curve to protect our physical health, it is critical that we also focus on our physical and mental health during these extraordinary times,” Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said in a news release. “As the weather warms and daylight lengthens, enjoying time outdoors is an important way to manage stress. As we start to take measured, limited steps to reopen our commonwealth, reopening these industries will help to rebuild our economy and strengthen our mental health.”
Pennsylvania is home to about 700 golf courses. Illinois boasts more than 650, New Jersey has around 320, and Washington has just under 300.
“Outdoor recreation is one of the best things we can do to promote physical, mental and emotional well-being for Washingtonians during a time of great stress and isolation,” Washington Governor Jay Inslee said in a statement about the partial reopening of recreational activities that includes hunting and fishing in addition to golf. “And springtime in our state is Washington at its best and people want to be out enjoying outdoor activities in a safe and responsible way.
In addition to the forthcoming reopening of those states, additional courses in other states that recently gave golf the thumbs up — Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin — will also be progressively welcoming golfers back. Those three states have almost 2,000 golf courses between them, but not all immediately opened when permitted to do so, whether due to weather conditions or requiring more time to get fully operational.
The map at the top of this page 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. NGF researchers have now accumulated almost 7,000 unique facility valuations to date, with a sampling margin of error of +/- 3% for the weekly polling. The previous opening rates were 49% (last week) and then 48%, 44% and 46%, respectively.
Other golf-rich states getting back into the swing are New York and California.
In New York, state officials had ruled that golf isn’t considered an essential business, yet operations continue at many of the state’s 850 courses.
Under the latest guidance provided by Empire State Development, golf courses can’t have employees working on-site except for groundskeeping and security purposes — both essential services that can provided by employees, vendors or contractors. In addition, “private operators” may permit individuals access to the property as long as there are no gatherings of any kind and appropriate social distancing measures are “strictly abided.”
When the New York State Club Association asked the state for clarification on the language, it was determined that private operators (not necessarily just private clubs) can’t have any employees working the recreational component of the golf operation, but can designate security personnel — such as a golf professional and a starter, for example — to enforce social distancing. Club houses, pro shops and locker rooms must be closed, no golf carts or caddies are permitted, and social distancing is mandatory at all times.
Out West, the percentage of openings continues to creep upwards as several counties in California, among them Riverside, Ventura, Placer, Napa, Stanislaus, Orange, San Bernardino and San Luis Obispo, opted to allow courses to re-open at their discretion as an outdoor activity provided extensive safety procedures are implemented.
“We are positioned to focus on the road to reopening because our residents and businesses have sacrificed so much to comply with the Public Health Orders and slow the spread of the virus in our community,” said Ventura County CEO Mike Powers.
NGF researchers also continue to examine the percentage of open courses by region, without seasonal designations.
Notably, the biggest increases in the past week were around the Great Lakes given the re-openings in Michigan and Wisconsin, and in the Mid Atlantic, where New York openings rise while golf remains temporarily shut down in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Those figures will unquestionably continue to climb in the coming week with Illinois and Pennsylvania courses both welcoming golfers back.
Meanwhile, the majority of golf facilities remain open for play throughout the Southern states.
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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