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May 2020

Regent Golf Management Navigates Disparate Agency Directives

By Steve Eubanks

By week three, it was hard to know where to turn and whom to trust. From the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, golf managers were reading and digesting all the information they could, including reports from the CDC and daily updates from the Coronavirus Task Force. But as more and more governors held daily briefings and put out new mandates and restrictions, it became almost impossible to follow the litany of suggestions, mandates and ever-evolving restrictions.

Tampa, Florida, for example, removed tennis-court nets, despite the fact that tennis is played a minimum of eight and usually 80 feet apart.

Almost 85 percent of the golf courses in California closed following Governor Gavin Newsome’s order for businesses to shut their doors and employees to work from home. Florida was a mixed bag, with courses closing in Miami-Dade County but remaining open at places like The Villages, a retirement community with 50 courses and a population with an average age of 71.

Golf in Pennsylvania and Maryland was ordered closed, but courses in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Mississippi remained open and busy. Connecticut courses were closed until a grass-roots group of local golf associations petitioned lawmakers to carve out an exemption.

For golf managers, it’s a mess.

“It’s not enough to know the federal and state mandates; you have to be engaged with every city council and county manager,” said Tim Dunlap, a partner with Regent Golf. Regent has management contracts with clubs on both the East and West coasts, making it almost impossible to keep up with all the disparate guidelines.

“It’s a serious thing we’re dealing with, no doubt,” Dunlap said. “But if you engage in best practices – if you leave the flagsticks in, take out the rakes and coolers, increase the distance between hitting bays on the range, and sterilize your golf cars and range balls just like you would the dishes and cookware in your kitchen to avoid cross-contamination – golf is just as safe as walking your dog. We certainly aren’t telling people to lock their doors and stay inside all day every day.

“If I’m understanding the guidelines correctly, social distancing is just that, keeping a healthy distance between you and other people and not congregating in close proximity. Golf allows for all of that while promoting exercise and good mental health.

“I get it that some states are in worse shape than others, that some cities have higher rates of infection, and I understand that things are moving quickly and it’s tough for officials to think through every scenario, but golf is a good outlet,” Dunlap said. “It’s the one business and the one activity that politicians should be promoting, not shutting down.” 

In the meantime, Dunlap and other multi-course managers are staying abreast of every change in every city and every state in which they operate. It’s a nightmare. But that can be said for the trials facing every business.

Editor note: The content of this story was written prior to a press-deadline date of mid-March. Please refer to the latest Center for Disease Control website or your local government agencies for the most current health guidelines.

 

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