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July 2020

Adapting To Change Requires Creativity And Coordination

By Ronnie Miles

As of June 2, more than 95% of U.S.-based golf courses have reopened with varying guidelines and controls in place. Many of these courses are seeing a record number of rounds being played. For some, this is great news, and for others, meeting the new market demand is out of reach. A minimal number of courses in Phase 1 of reopening limits play to walking only, while others require operating with single-rider carts.

Most courses have reported that even with an inventory of 80 carts, they are unable to meet the increased demand. Even increasing the time between tee times does not enable them to meet their demand for carts. Without increasing the cart fleet they have lost income.

Golf course owners and operators have been very creative in developing operational systems to adjust to their community’s restrictive phasing plan. One initiative developed and implemented by a number of golf courses is installing portable dividers for golf carts. These units are marketed as a way to allow two riders per cart while maintaining physical separation.

Are these modifications legal? Do modified carts meet the local social distancing requirements? Some operators have reached out to their local officials and received approval to use this device as long as they are sanitized after each use, as with the entire golf cart.

NGCOA submitted this modification as a potential addition to the new Back2Golf (B2G) guidelines. The B2G team forwarded the concept to their representative from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to review as a potential change to the national B2G guidelines. Although the CDC denied including this option in our national B2G guidelines, this device could be approved on an individual, case-by-case basis.

Recently an NGCOA member course owner in south Florida contacted us with a cart seat divider he developed. His product was reviewed and assessed by an infectious disease specialist from Boynton Beach, Florida. The specialist stated, “This device drastically reduces the chance of droplet exposure from the fellow golfer sitting next to you in the same cart.” He further stated, “It is truly an innovative barrier device during this pandemic and a good option in the future of the golf industry.”

This assessment provides owners and operators support for this initiative; however, as we have learned, reopening guidance varies across the country. In a few states, the Governor’s office provides guidelines their entire state must follow. In most states, Governors have delegated this authority to county and municipal officials. The golf course owner in south Florida submitted a request of approval from the Mayor of Palm Beach and has been approved to use the seat divider device in two-rider carts.

NGCOA supports the industry at every level, national, state and local, by providing you the latest guidance and policy changes that affect your business. This also includes addressing public policy that affects our owners and operators. We will continue to assist our industry’s efforts to safely reopen our golf courses and clubhouses.

We encourage everyone to continue sharing your best practices. We will all become better together!

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