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November 2020

Permanent Escape: The Preserve Golf Club Becomes Homebase For Many Members

By Steve Eubanks

It will take many months, maybe years, to realize the societal changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. One early indicator, though, has been the avalanche of address changes. Not since the Dustbowl of the 1930s has America seen such mass migration. As employers adjusted to remote work environments, with Zoom and Microsoft Teams replacing in-office meetings, many eyes were opened to the cost savings and quality-of-life assets that come with telecommuting. Expensive offices that were vacated during the shutdown may remain empty as efficiency experts run cost-benefit analyses. A good number of employees now expect to work from home forever. 

And where did top-tier executives go to work remotely? Many of them went to their weekend or summer homes at their golf clubs. And a good number are staying.

“Being more of a destination-type club where most of our members who don’t live here (permanently), we’ve seen a pretty serious uptick in rounds and business because a good number of our members chose to shelter here with us,” said Brian Sleeman, the head golf professional at The Preserve Golf Club in Carmel Valley, California, a half-hour drive southeast of Pebble Beach  “(Those members) decided to come to Pebble Beach or Carmel or somewhere else on the coast where they could get out of the city (during the pandemic) and enjoy the outdoors safely.”

For Preserve members, the decision was easy. Situated on a 20,000-acre nature preserve with 100 miles of hiking trails in addition to the golf, those who lived and worked in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Los Angeles and even as far away as Chicago flocked to the Northern California valley for what they thought would be a two- to four-week flattening-the-curve break. Nine months later, they may never leave.

“I can think of a good number of members who have a home here who would normally come every so often for a few days,” Sleeman said. “Now, they have been here since March and they don’t see any reason to leave. Our resident services took care of shopping for those first couple of months so there was no reason to go outside the gates of the property.”

A couple of months extended into the summer and then the fall. Preserve members, like so many others, found the work-from-home lifestyle attractive.  

“We’re in a little bit of a bubble,” Sleeman said. “It gives our members a chance to get outside and escape the craziness of the world with their families.

“Even losing seven weeks (to the pandemic early, when golf was closed throughout California), we are ahead of budget in terms of rounds for the entire year. And we expect that activity to continue. The things you do here are naturally designed for social distancing given the nature of the property, so people are really engaged here like never before.”

The increase in rounds has been from members. Where guests once made up 40- to 45% of the total play at The Preserve, members now account for the vast majority of rounds. And again, like much of the country, families and new golfers have been the fastest growing segment. 

Like many other clubs, The Preserve anticipates business to hum through the holidays as members stick around through the end of the year and beyond.

“We expect a bit of an uptick in holiday business because people who normally come here in the summer are now here through the fall and winter,” Sleeman said. “We budget November through March as a slower period but that is likely to change. So we think we’ll see an uptick in business, certainly this year and maybe next.”

 

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