Industry News

New numbers for GolfNow golf course operator survey show how pandemic impacts public golf

Prepayment of tee times a necessity for doing business for the majority of operators surveyed

ORLANDO, Fla. (April 24, 2020) – While the nation’s golf courses deal with unprecedented disruption of their day-to-day business due to state and city mandates due to the coronavirus pandemic, GOLFNOW is shedding some light on their most-pressing challenges by revealing results from golf course operator surveys taken in March and April.

With the most recent survey concluding on April 15, a total of nearly 1,300 responses were divided among the two questionnaires.

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The most definitive data point in the research—whether the reporting facilities had closed for play—increased from a 42 percent to 62 percent, in just the couple of weeks between surveys. For many of those remaining open, manpower had been reduced by layoffs and furloughs. In the March GOLFNOW survey, 24 percent of respondents reported having laid off at least half their workers. In the April follow-up, that percentage had increased to 39 percent. Another 12 percent responding to the April survey said they had furloughed or laid off between one-quarter and one-half of their workforce.

Changes to payment practices are under consideration at many courses, with some operators describing online prepayment as a necessity for doing business. Short-staffing has been commonplace and the need to maintain safety precautions is vital, two factors that favor the “park and play” approach and discourage in-shop payment.

A pair of questions in the April survey revealed that among respondents who remain open for business, 52 percent were not accepting cash. The second question asked generally about forms of payment and provided multiple response options. A combined 17 percent said they had either “changed to online payments only” or “changed to credit card by phone only.” Six out of 10 said they were still at the golf shop counter, collecting payments and checking golfers in.

Mild winter weather in large parts of the U.S., combined with the lack of other entertainment options, increased early-spring golf activity in some places. The March survey revealed 24 percent said that rounds played had increased over the same period in 2019. In the April survey, 15 percent said rounds were even or increased.

When asked in the April survey how long their course could go without green fee revenue during golf season before their business “suffers irreparable damage,” 27 percent said less than one month, 50 percent said from one to three months and the remaining 22 percent said they could go three months or longer.

On that basis, interest in government relief was evident. Almost two-thirds, 63 percent, said they had visited the SBA.gov website in search of information about CARES Act programs to assist small businesses in distress as a result of COVID-19 disruptions.

Projections and speculation about the country’s transition from the COVID-19 crisis to a gradually more open economy have mentioned golf as an activity more easily restarted than many others. That may be a partial reason for the fairly optimistic outlook that emerges from the April study, which concludes with the question: “What do you expect business levels to be like following the COVID-19 outbreak?”

One in three, exactly 33 percent, said business would be “about normal.” A spirited 8 percent said “much better” than before and 22 percent said “slightly better” than before. Meanwhile 29 percent felt it would be “slightly worse” than before the crisis and 9 percent said “much worse.”

About GOLFNOW
GOLFNOW is an innovative technology company that creates seamless ways for golfers and golf courses to better connect. GOLFNOW operates the largest online tee-time marketplace in the world, offering 3.5 million registered golfers a variety of ways to stay connected to their favorite courses and the ability to easily book tee times online and via mobile devices any time of day. GOLFPASS members receive special playing perks through GOLFNOW, including tee time credit and rewards, with GOLFPASS+ members benefiting from waived booking fees, cancellation protection and 25 percent more rewards points. GOLFNOW is an extension of the GOLF Business Solutions’ suite of digital businesses, owned by NBC Sports and managed by GOLF Channel. With offices in Orlando, Fla., and Belfast, Northern Ireland, GOLF Business Solutions also provides technology, support and marketing services to more than 9,000 golf courses in 24 countries around the world.

-NBC Sports Group-

Media contact:
Dan Higgins
GOLF Channel Communications
Dan.Higgins@GOLFChannel.com
407-496-81078

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