Members of the American Society of Golf Course Architects participated in a Twitter chat Thursday in response to industry changes based on Coronavirus and Covid-19. They discussed what they are hearing from clients across the golf industry and seeing at golf facilities in their own areas. The chat transcript follows.
What is your general message to the golf course industry today?
ASGCA President Jan Bel Jan: I’ve tried to put myself in the shoes of club owners/operators. We should be aware of and weigh government stances (federal/state/local) each day. In this uncertain time, we must still respect staff members, golfers and feelings about personal safety and economic security.
ASGCA Past President Jeff Blume: I’m doing fine and am still visiting sites as normal. I have many projects underway that are carrying forward.
Forrest Richardson, ASGCA: The game has survived wars, recessions and even plagues. We can all agree the game is a reprieve from everyday troubles, so I think we need to look inward to see how it might help society at this point in time.
What has your interaction with clients been like the past couple weeks? How have things changed and how can you be effective?
ASGCA Past President Tom Marzolf: We are switching to video member meetings and using GoToMeeting – a good site for meetings to look at drawings and talk thru the computer. Fazio Design is still working. We are building four new courses this year and working on lots of renovations.
Jason Straka, ASGCA: Fry/Straka Golf has a new remodel client that is going to disinfect carts and have them available for one person to drive around the course together for an on-site meeting. No meeting will take place within an enclosed space.
Richardson: We’ve resurrected our ability to hold meetings via GoToMeeting. We had a nine-person meeting Tuesday and it has kept a project on schedule, avoided travel and allowed our client (the State of California) to adhere to their governor’s rules on in-person meetings.
What is your message to someone at a facility considering a project?
ASGCA Past President Dr. Michael Hurdzan: A golf course is a living organism that must be continually fed, watered, groomed, treated for pests and nurtured whether there are golfers or not. Golf may not be high on the spectrum of discretionary spending, although it should be if people think about it.
Richardson: We need to be safe, but we also need to keep people working so they are able to support their families. The best advice I can give now is to try your best to allow work to continue, but make sure you’re protecting everyone as it gets done.
ASGCA Executive Director Chad Ritterbusch: We need to be safe and good neighbors but golf is unique as a recreational pursuit that can still be played safely; just as the golf course industry can carry forward, just in a different way.
What is happening with respect to golf course construction?
Blume: My clients that are under construction are moving ahead without delay so far. I’m starting a new small renovation in San Antonio in a couple of weeks and hoping to finish up a local job in the next six weeks.
ASGCA Past President John LaFoy: From a construction standpoint, work continues on three of my current projects. Nothing is different than normal, except maybe dispensing of the handshakes.
Straka: Wadsworth Golf Construction was contacted by one of our mutual clients and asked if they were going to shut down construction. Wadsworth met and said since their construction is outside that they could keep good social distance; low risk to their employees.
Compared to the economic crisis of 2008, do you think golf facilities are better-equipped to handle today’s challenges?
ASGCA Past President Clyde Johnston: A golf facility that made it through the last 12 years should be in better shape, but I see some that are unable to perform needed repairs/renovations; bunkers being the most visible. When I talk to people, I always highlight the game’s benefits.
Ritterbusch: Those who used the circumstances 12 years ago to plan ahead tended to do best coming out of the volatility. Travel and other aspects may be affected now but the best courses (existing and potential) will talk about options with their architects and other team members.
Are you playing golf this week?
Brit Stenson, ASGCA: I have played, yes, and even shot my age for the first time last week! My club has closed all inside functions (dining, fitness, bridge, locker rooms, golf shop, etc.) but golf and tennis are still open for now. Walking and carrying my own clubs feels safe.
LaFoy: The clubs near me are remaining open (except the dining rooms) and members are using carts. Other courses where I am working allow walking only.
Any additional comments?
Bel Jan: As much as we know that playing golf and being outside is healthful, some government agencies may disagree on the grounds of protecting workforces. The same may be true for some clubs who want to assure they have staff who will return once the crisis is over.
Richardson: Golf is a tremendous individual sport with built-in social distancing. While many municipal park systems are closing, at most I have read about, the golf courses are remaining open; they don’t pose the close encounters associated with other facilities.
LaFoy: I recently referred a repeat client of mine to an ASGCA member architect who lives 20 minutes from the course needing attention rather than me flying 700 miles to get to the course. It provides another architect work and saves the client money on expenses.
Marzolf: Golf courses are staying open in our area. The grass is getting cut.