THE BUG THAT SAVED GOLF CONTINUED…
By R.J. Smiley
This article will examine two areas where COVID-19 BUG has changed golf forever.
In late March, while self-quarantined in my Florida condo, I visualized how the golf industry could actually benefit from the work-from-home mania created by COVID-19. As I wrote the first “Bug That Saved Golf” story for Tee Times, I assumed that in a few short months the whole China Virus Thing would be… only a memory. You know what I mean, like bell-bottom pants or lime green shag carpet.
Was I ever wrong!
In only a few short months (that sometimes seemed like forever) the COVID-19 virus has changed the way we will live forever. Some segments of society have prospered. (Timing is everything when doing a rain dance.) Some segments of our society have quickly died as people have discovered that going to fine restaurants or a mall are not a necessity.
My perceptions were also very wrong! The BUG did bring change to golf, but to a much greater degree than I visualized. First, I did not take into account the fact that schools would be closed, and kids would be looking for activities that would burn that youthful energy. Second, I did not factor in the fact that many golf courses would ban the use of power golf cars. When the pressure was off, they allowed golf cars to a single rider only.
I spend three or four days per week on a variety of golf courses – both rural and urban, from private clubs to munis. I learn from observation.
KIDS ARE PLAYING MORE GOLF
With schools closed and most organized youth activities cancelled kids have much more time to do – WHAT??? With parents working from home they have time to chauffeur kids around and spend more family time doing things together – WHAT???
More than ever before, I have witnessed kids along with their parents on a practice green at their local golf course. They are chipping and putting having a great time. This activity was, I believe, invented to get the kids and their parents out of the house to kill some time. Getting fresh air and sun was a bonus. But, to the golf industry they are playing golf! The same holds true for parents who are now spending time, that is now in abundance, with their kids playing golf. The parents enjoy the experience and the kids are learning to love the lifelong game.
As I approach the age of eighty, like a freight train going full speed, I look at my playing companions (most over 65). We all started playing golf when we were kids. It was during the Arnold Palmer days when golf on TV was a big deal. Our dads wanted to be like Arnold, and they took us kids to the golf course – often. (Not much on TV in those days. No computers streaming music and movies. No text messages or video games.) We continued to play golf off and on throughout our lifetime.
The percentage increase in the number of kids who have started playing golf and the number of rounds played by kids will not be fully comprehended for several years. But observation has shown me that more kids are playing more rounds of golf.
What we have learned is that off campus formal education and work-from-home, in various forms, will be with us forever. Golf, an outdoor recreational activity enjoyed by family members of all ages, will prosper from the BUG.
GOLFERS ARE WALKING AGAIN
Prior to the BUG, most golfers, especially senior golfers, rode power golf cars. Then the virus cloud darkened the sky. When the pandemic panic arrived on the golf courses, golf like most all recreational activities shutdown also. Slowly golf courses began to re-open, but with no approved procedure in place, golf car use was prohibited. Golfers, who saw themselves as prisoners, were eager to get to the fresh air on the golf course even if they had to walk. Golf pushcart sales went through the roof.
Today, only a few months after the pandemic panic, riding a golf car is getting back to normal. The plastic privacy dividers have allowed golfers to once again ride two in a car.
Observation: Many golfers who once rode a golf cart every round are now walking by choice. They have learned the joy of walking the golf course.
Battery powered pushcart technology has been waiting in the weeds for this day. The batteries have become lighter and longer lasting. The remote controls available for push carts are easy to use and intuitive. In this writer’s opinion, battery powered push casts will be available at many golf courses on a rental basis.
The BUG has helped golf in two ways: Kids are playing more insuring a stable and growing future. Golfers are walking more improving the overall health of an already healthier than the average human segment of the population. Plus, sales of battery powered push carts will continue to grow.