With the lack of organized outdoor summer events this summer due to COVID-19, one that is deemed safe is golf, which has a couple of local courses benefiting.
On the north end of Kitsap County, both White Horse Golf Club in Kingston and Meadowmeer Golf & Country Club on Bainbridge Island have seen an uptick in interest after initially being closed at the start of the pandemic.
“It has definitely had its challenges, but overall we are seeing a bit of a resurgence in the golf industry due to the fact that many other activities are not available and people are gravitating to golf due to the fact that it provides both social distancing and much-needed exercise,” said Bruce Christy, PGA general manager and head pro at White Horse.
“Golf operations has been very strong with near-record turnout each month,” Christy continued. “We have set a couple of personal bests for both most rounds played in a day and in a month.”
At Meadowmeer, general manager Dave Tunkarri said they had been reinvesting in the nine-hole golf course before the pandemic started, such as improving the grill and beverage operation.
“We were ready for a nice busy year ,and then we got shut down for about five weeks,” he said. “We were all nervous like everyone else was. Since then, things have really picked up. “
He said he had hoped to sell 30 memberships this year, but that number is now over 100 so they had to start a waiting list .
According to Meadowmeer’s website, a membership grants you reduced golf rates, more access to facilities, preferred tee times, and the chance to enter various leagues, competitions and tournaments. But all of the summer-scheduled events are on hold due to the pandemic, Tunkarri said.
“The funny thing is we’re so busy, it’d be tough to hold them now just because there’s so much demand to play,” he said. It’s actually been a benefit to us not to have those annual member tournaments and such.”
Christie said that White Horse has held a number of smaller tournaments this summer with social distancing in place, but not at the scale of what the course typically does in summer.
“We miss our tournaments, and we feel for the charity events that they support,” Christy said.
Both golf course managers agreed that golf is one of the more appropriate sports or activities to pursue at this time due to its spatial nature.
“It’s a good outdoor activity where you can get outside, get some exercise, and it’s good for the golf business,” Tunkarri said. “I think people are rediscovering golf. It’s a nice spot on the island, it’s local so people aren’t traveling as much so I think there’s just a lot of good things that lined up for us, fortunately.”
Christy said: “I absolutely believe that we are seeing lots of new faces at the golf course due to the need to have an activity that allows people the opportunity to socialize with family and friends. Utilizing the golf course and the practice range allows them an escape from the realities associated with many other activities during this pandemic.”
As for COVID protocols, both courses have eliminated touchpoints on the course such as removing rakes for bunkers and placing foam cup liners in all the holes. Golf carts are sanitized and washed down after each use. Both golf course restaurants, The Cedar Ridge Grill and The Meadowmeer Grill, are operational with table spacing and social distancing guidelines.
“We have gone above and beyond to established protocols to make players feel safe at the golf course,” Christy said.
Tunkarri added, “Everyone’s been really safe, really careful, and consciousness about not taking too many risks.”
In terms of looking ahead, Tunkarri said there is still too much uncertainty right now.
“It’s the crazy thing about this situation. It’s always been like week to week. You just never know what’s going to happen,” he said.
“We hope that a lot of the people who are out playing this year continue to get excited about golf moving forward,” Tunkarri added. “I feel bad for all those businesses that are suffering but we’re actually benefiting. It’s one of those weird things about the whole pandemic.”