Bogor, Indonesia: Wee Peng Siong has called on the experience he gained as general manager at a 27-hole golf club in China during SARS to guide and inform him through the current Covid-19 pandemic.
Recalling the 2003 virus outbreak, Singapore-born industry stalwart Wee said: “We would generally host between 95,000 and 100,000 rounds per year at the club, but in the year of SARS we hosted about 110,000 rounds. Why? Everybody in Hong Kong didn’t want to go to the office any more. They wanted to be out in the open and take in fresh air.
“Our hotels were full and the golf courses were full. It was a great time for business. We had to have very good locker rooms. Sanitisation was very important, especially in the shower areas. No more whirlpools. That was a good experience for me which kind of helped me to prepare for Covid-19.”
Seventeen years after SARS, Wee, now the General Manager at Indonesia’s award-winning Riverside Golf Club, has seem similar behavioural patterns in recent weeks at venues that have been able to remain open, albeit with restrictions.
He said: “The start of April was really tough, but after we communicated our best practices, golfers came out to try and it’s been busy since then – almost like other normal weeks. Last week, we had 730 rounds and this week we’re probably going to do 680 rounds. That’s a normal week for us.
“Even in good days we’re not normally over-crowded. If you have too many people around then the golf course is going to be torn up and the golf experience is not going to be there. So, we don’t pack the golf course – we don’t have 180 golfers in the morning and another 150 in the afternoon. We just don’t do that kind of thing.
“On a good day for us, it’s 120 or 130 players in the morning and 100 in the afternoon. That’s it. If you add that up over the week, it still comes to more than 700 rounds. So, in that sense the last couple of weeks have been quite normal for us.”
In order to abide by social distancing practices, Riverside Golf Club has aligned with Indonesian bodies such as the Club Managers Association and Golf Course Owners Association, following guidelines they have set down.
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, Wee said: “We’ve reduced capacity. Instead of seven minutes between tee-times, they’re now 14 minutes apart. So instead of 150 players in the morning we’re hosting anywhere between 80 to 90, maximum.
“To facilitate that and to improve the experience, we give golfers one cart each so they can drive anywhere and they have their own prerogative to practice social distancing on the course.
“In the clubhouse, we have 250 lockers in the changing room but at any one time we limit the number of people to 20. In the restaurants all the tables have been reconfigured. There are a lot more tables on the corridors because our restaurant is not an enclosed area and there’s no air conditioning. It’s an open concept. We’ve left all the doors open in all the air con areas.”
*To listen to the full interview with Wee Peng Siong, please visit https://agif.asia/agif-podcast/
**Riverside Golf Club is a Golf Course Facility 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/