Golf courses look to avoid coronavirus disruptions

A golf course is not a cruise ship. Golfers play in the great outdoors — over acres upon acres of land — where it seems unlikely that the coronavirus could easily spread. 

However, courses also have lockers, showers, card rooms, clubhouses …

How to manage operations safely in the wake of the outbreak is something golf courses are finding to be paramount, given the stakes. 

As Troon, the world’s largest management company notes on its website: “Troon’s corporate and facility leadership continue to closely monitor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidance related to the coronavirus (COVID-19). As always, the health and safety of our associates, members, guests, and all who visit the facilities we provide services to is our highest priority.”

The COVID-19 had indeed disrupted golf. The sport’s signature event, The Masters, announced it will postpone the tournament. The PGA Tour has canceled the upcoming Players Championship and three subsequent events. 

“We have pledged from the start to be responsible, thoughtful and transparent with our decision process,” the Tour said in a statement. “We did everything possible to create a safe environment for our players in order to continue the event through the weekend, and we were endeavoring to give our fans a much-needed respite from the current climate. But at this point – and as the situation continues to rapidly change – the right thing to do for our players and our fans is to pause.”

The situation is different for the golf industry as a whole. The PGA events attract tens of thousands of fans, the kind of crowds that health officials say can cause the virus to spread rapidly.

Golf courses and clubs can attract many people but not on that scale. One of their worries is the spread of the virus in other ways, such as common-area contact. 

Again, from Troon: “We take standards for cleanliness and hygiene very seriously and ask everyone to remain vigilant in taking additional steps to reduce the risk of exposure to our associates, members, guests and all who visit the facilities where we provide services. Our facilities are working every day to ensure they meet the latest guidance on cleaning and hygiene.”

At least one club was forced to close after it was learned that a guest who played later tested positive for the coronavirus. The Wack Wack Golf and Country Club, in the Philippines ceased operation to clean and disinfect the facility. 

None of the people playing with the guest tested negative for the virus. Two caddies had to be quarantined. 

There have been a number of cases where club members have been diagnosed with the virus. 

According to the Irish Times, the Portmarnock Golf Course in North Dublin had a member who came down with the virus. Fellow members were made aware of the situation, and the club remained open. 

The manager said the club was “satisfied that the protocols it has put in place are the appropriate measures to deal with this scenario, including remaining open for play.”

The Springs Country Club in Coachella Valley in Southern California also had a member who had contracted the virus. After learning so, the club closed several rooms, canceled tournaments but did not shutter the course, according to a local TV station. 

Golf courses are noting the steps they are taking to protect members. For instance, at the Green Valley Ranch Golf Club in Denver, it posted the following on its website: 

“We have instructed our staff to regularly wash their hands and continue to routinely clean and disinfect all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace. Our outside employees are using disinfectant wipes on the steering wheels, seats, and GPS screens on our golf carts. As further protection for our guests and employees, any employee that is sick is required to stay home and any employee on duty showing signs or symptoms of illness will be sent home immediately.”

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