It was “Leap Week” for golf. About a dozen additional states began allowing golf play or announced they soon would, which required us to adjust our forecast of courses open for play twice in the past few days. At the risk of having you skip the details (or your regular Tuesday visit to our COVID-19 impacts page) we decided to let the cat out of the bag today … we are now forecasting 90% of courses in the U.S. to be open for play by May 17.
Let’s continue to be careful though … golf has really been given a “yellow light,” not a “green light.” The eyes of non-golfers, more than nine out of ten Americans including the vast majority of journalists and politicians, will be on us as we lead the way for participation sports to gradually resume while still in the middle of a serious pandemic. Course owners and operators need to strictly adhere to local requirements, and golfers should be reminded they will be playing before the largest galleries of their lives. I don’t think it would take too many well-publicized screwups to cause lights to begin to turn red again.
I only wish the recent surge in the number of courses allowed to resume play was more closely correlated with industry revenues. Given restrictions widely in place, some courses will actually be providing golf “below cost” without normal merchandise, food and beverage, and cart fees bolstering overall revenue per round. Consider, for example, that in NJ tee time intervals have been mandated at 16 minutes for the time being and groups are generally being limited to two players instead of foursomes.
Golf retail continues to be mostly shut down, although we are beginning to see re-openings in that sector. And resort golf is likely to stay soft well into the season given a general reluctance to travel.
So, the business of golf is not out of the woods, but at least now maybe we can say we’ve found our ball and it’s not an unplayable lie.
This e-mail was written by the President and Chief Executive Officer, Joseph F Beditz, Ph.D., of the National Golf Foundation.