Dubai, United Arab Emirates: A noticeable improvement in pace of play is one of the positive by-products as golf clubs re-open for business following an easing of restrictions.
Speaking in the latest in a series of Asian Golf Industry Federation podcasts with leading lights from the industry that are being broadcast at www.agif.asia, DJ Flanders, Senior Vice President, Troon International, said early evidence points to golfers playing more quickly – partially a result of new safety measures being introduced.
“All of our facilities that have re-opened have seen an improvement in pace of play with less players in the group. That’s a positive for golf,” said Flanders, whose role includes growing Troon’s portfolio internationally as well as engaging with properties the company manages in 34 countries outside North America.
He said: “We’re seeing a maximum of two to three players in every group so that we can manage social distancing, Some courses are going walking only and some are allowing golf carts, but it has to be the same driver throughout so that there’s a limit to the contact among the players.
“Interestingly, a lot of clubs have increased their tee-times to 15-minute intervals when they used to be at 10. They thought they needed that for social distancing. But some courses that have re-opened have seen an improvement in the pace of play, so they’ve gone from longer spaced out tee-times to shorter ones and still have been able to keep their players safe.
“That’s something that some clubs might like to keep in mind. Maybe start at one interval but be prepared to adjust it so that you can get as many people on the golf course as you can and still be safe.”
For clubs that are preparing to re-open in the coming weeks, Flanders advocates discouraging walk-ons, reducing touch points and stepping up hygiene measures.
He said: “The most important thing is to know exactly how much volume is coming onto your property – get away from allowing walk-ons, try to make sure if you have an App or website for tee-times you’re pushing everyone through that technology so that you can control what’s coming in to your business.
“When we first re-opened, we saw quite a few people trying to walk-on. What that does is create a situation where someone is standing in front of the counter trying to find out about tee-times, while somebody else is coming in who already has a tee-time.
“That creates a potential contact point between two guests that you really shouldn’t have if you’re managing the flow of your guests. I’d recommend leveraging technology and having some space in there.”
Also being implemented is the reduction of touch points through the golf experience, said Flanders, citing widespread removal of rakes, not handing out amenities to guests, no cooler boxes and not touching the flagstick.
He said: “Anything to reduce that potential cross-contamination between guests is going to be the new norm until a vaccine is found. We’re seeing temperature checks and face masks being worn more, particularly in the clubhouse. It isn’t as much a regulation on the golf course itself, but when players are showing up there’s a desire for them to wear face masks.
“From a food and beverage standpoint, we’re seeing a lot of regulations on the amount of occupancy you’re allowed to have. It varies from country to country but it’s generally between 25 per cent and 30 per cent of your business. A lot of our clubs are having to look at their seating plans and how we can spread out our guests to keep them safe while they’re dining inside the clubhouse. We’ve also seen takeaway become extremely popular. Some people aren’t comfortable dining at the club, but they’re comfortable to take food home.
“We’re also seeing clubs stepping up their cleanliness, putting a health and safety officer in place that maybe wasn’t there before. In the past, it used to be agronomic conditions were the biggest focus, but I think through this current epidemic health and safety has gone to the top of the list with agronomic conditions.
“Without exception, every place that has re-opened has been busy – which is good and bad. If you’re not prepared and your staff are not prepared, you could potentially be putting your associates and members and guests in a bad situation. So, definitely you have to be prepared for it to be busy when you re-open.”
**Troon is an Executive Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation. If you’d like to reach the Federation’s 10,000+ global audience via newsletter, website, Facebook and LinkedIn, become an AGIF member. For further details, please visit https://agif.asia/join-the-agif/