Our focus, at least for now, is on how it will affect golf course maintenance professionals. Will (or, more likely, when will) your course close? Will you and your crew be able to continue to work on the turf during various state lockdowns and quarantines? And what tips can you provide other turfheads across the country?
“There are many questions, depending on what level you’re at in your state,” GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans said Monday afternoon during a town hall webinar, “and we have many answers.”
Evans said he and his staff have “been working around the clock,” talking with state and local officials, lobbying for courses to remain open as a safe escape during the pandemic — or at least allowing maintenance to continue under social distancing guidelines.
“We have been in constant contact, working on joint messaging,” said Evans, who also sits on the boards of the World Golf Foundation and the We Are Golf coalition. “We’ve employed a three-pronged approach to our outreach and advocacy: To support the facilities and their decisions, to appeal to keep golf course maintenance operations in operation, and to engage in all federal coronavirus legislation moving through congress and to make sure golf is not discriminated against or shortchanged on relief.”
No matter your state, GCSAA officials urged the importance of a single, unified message — especially at the state level — and how to put together a plan on how to operate over the next few weeks. “Some states have kept courses open and maintenance operations are moving forward,” said Michael Lee, manager of government affairs for the GCSAA, “in many states maintenance operations are unclear, and some states have closed courses and limited maintenance operations.”
Lee provided examples of how situations in different states. In Nevada, for example, Governor Steve Sisolak agreed that courses should remain open for play for now, while in Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer closed courses and maintenance operations. “Having a well-organized coalition and communicating with them is important,” Lee said, “and this is an example. The coalition wrote a letter to the governor after she closed courses, and she reversed her ruling.” Play may soon be restricted in the Great Lake State, but “we’re confident maintenance will be able to continue.”
How should you respond in your state? Lee stressed that the first step is to get in touch with your field staff rep. “They will help guide the response,” he said. Guidance documents are online — titled “Message to Lawmakers to Keep Play Open” and “Message to Lawmakers to Keep Maintenance Going When Play has Been Closed” — to provide a blueprint for getting a letter to your state’s governor or your local mayor. “We must know what you are dealing with. Circulate within your state. Having a unified voice is critical.”
More courses will shut down either voluntarily or through state orders, and more superintendents will be forced to halt their maintenance operations. Those stories are coming — and some might be shared on more GCSAA Covid-19 webinars, which Evans said will continue roughly weekly. For now, though, communicate, remain safe, help flatten the curve.
“The amount of information and the fluidity of information is overwhelming,” Evans said. “Remember to take a break and do those things that will help you in the coming months.”
And, to borrow a metaphor from another great game, keep your stick on the ice. We’re all in this together.