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As of June 1, virtually 100 percent of the nation’s golf courses were open for play, albeit with a few adjustments and restrictions. There’s even been some live golf on TV, although mostly charitable events with small numbers of players.
Golf has emerged from the darkness that began in March. All local golf courses are now quite busy. Some tee sheets may be filled by those who can’t go to work and have opted to play golf with their newly found spare time.
Sonoma Ranch, NMSU, Picacho and Red Hawk all have rebounded from the forced no-play break with the grass and greens in wonderful condition. The greens have raised cup liners or pool-noodle inserts so players don’t touch the flagsticks. No bunker rakes, tee times at 15-minute intervals and one golfer to a cart. (Please follow the rules.)
During the six-plus weeks of suspended on-course play, the golf industry was busy collaborating on the “Back2Golf Operations Playbook,” which provides detailed procedures and recommendations to lead the judicious and safe return of golf in such trying times.
Input for the playbook came from industry organizations that included the PGA of America, PGA Tour, LPGA, USGA, Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, Club Management Association of America, National Golf Course Owners Association, World Golf Foundation, American Junior Golf Association and The First Tee.
The industry-wide Back2Golf initiative has been primarily focused on ensuring golf courses that have remained operational, or recently re-opened, do so responsibly to protect golfers, employees and all members of the community.
“Golf is more than a game – it is a community, and this effort is one of the most recent examples of how we can all work together and provide the best support to our industry,” says Mike Davis, CEO of the USGA.
The latest data suggests that, in the U.S., golf is primed for a big comeback. With nearly all golf retail locations now open for business, including most pro shops, folks appear to be showing less concern about visiting retail locations.
A recent National Golf Foundation report indicates that golf retail is showing positive signs of recovery, and that there may be an emerging boom among golfing beginners.
“There seems to be a surge in participation among beginning golfers and those who haven’t played for a while,” said Joseph F. Beditz, CEO of NGF. “Course operators are telling us they are seeing lots of new faces, and retailers are saying they are moving an unusually large number of beginners’ boxed sets of clubs.”
If there is a dark cloud on all of this, it is the news that many colleges and universities are eliminating sports programs, including golf. Brown University, an Ivy League school, recently announced that it was cutting men’s and women’s golf as varsity sports, while the University of Akron is scrapping men’s golf.
Total program elimination of all sports now number more than 100. Sports administration experts say that the coronavirus pandemic is a convenient excuse and justification for such wholesale cuts, but the underlying reason is trimming bloated athletics budgets.
Dr. Charlie Blanchard is a licensed psychologist specializing in sports and leadership. Contact Blanchard at firstname.lastname@example.org.