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June 2020

The new normal on the horizon


By Jay Karen

When I look back on 24 years in association management, I can clearly see two seminal moments which now appear to have been like genetic mutations in the American economy and culture. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, we saw a nation forever change the way it approached the question of security against people intent on doing harm. The economy took a serious blow, and we were encouraged to get back out there with our families and shop as a remedy. After the Great Recession began in 2007, we took a hard look at failures in systems that were supposed to prop up the “American Dream.” I would argue that only after 9/11 did we have a feeling that a “new normal” was upon us, and that after the recession things would get back to normal in a year or two. And generally, they did. 

The COVID-19 crisis feels like another mutation is underway, and like with 9/11, this one portends long-term, systemic changes. The fear we are experiencing is of a different kind. It’s not the fear of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, should an evil force get away with a hostile attack on American soil. When you don’t feel safe standing within six feet of a friend, or touching a door knob, you know you’re in something that will be far-reaching and long-lasting. 

With each genetic mutation come new ways to approach sweeping challenges. The golf industry, from the televised events to the Thursday afternoon wine-and-nine at your local public course, will all experience some level of change. Health inspection and work safety programs managed by the government will see newfound emphasis and interest, which will ensure additional burdens on golf course operators. Touchless payments will finally go mainstream. More kiosk-type services, meant to minimize gathering and proximity to surfaces, will enter the customer experience. Ways to automate services will be sought not to save on HR expenses, but rather to minimize human contact and interaction.

Because even when a vaccine is created for COVID-19, we will still wonder - when will the next virus hit? Will we have to stay-in-place and quarantine yet again?  Or perhaps, what can we do now to avoid contracting or spreading viruses in general?  Cover your mouth when you sneeze and wash your hands, which were the two primary rules my mother insisted upon, will seem quaint and old fashioned. And woefully inadequate.

It’s daunting to think of what’s in store for the golf industry. But I will leave you with this. Amidst all the great difficulties that will come, we will see golf rise as the ideal recreational sport that all of us have known, and known well. Soon, the once skeptical eye will see what we see: golf lives at the intersection of solitude and social; it thrives because of the expanse of land, water and air around the participant; and it is as versatile as any other recreational activity. We are well-suited for what’s to come.

I pledge that NGCOA will do everything we can to support this industry and our members. We were here before the crisis, supporting your business.  We’ll be with you through the crisis.  And we will see you on the other side.

Let us know what we can do to help.



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