Notice the four-letter word in the headline. G-o-o-d. There, we wrote it. Twice already.
Much of what we heard and read this year ranged from nasty to nauseous. Lives were lost, jobs became vulnerable and main-street businesses shuttered. None of it seemed imaginable last December. Now, we’re in this December. This year will become last year in a few weeks.
Golf escaped many of the hardships pestering other industries reliant on discretionary income. Mass acreage can be tricky and costly to maintain, but it allows for spacing and safety, a pair of qualities with immeasurable societal value.
Following a spring sucker punch, which included a period in early April when more courses were closed than opened, the industry experienced quantifiable and anecdotal good in the back nine of 2020. Rounds played nationally through September were up 8.7 percent compared to the same period in 2019, according to GolfDatatech. Golf entered a good place as spring turned to summer, especially when you consider thousands of sports venues, restaurants and movie theaters are still not operating at capacity.
The stories match the numbers. For the fifth straight year, we opened our December issue to reader-submitted content. We begin pondering Turfheads Take Over in August, yet we scrap detailed advance planning because we don’t know where the issue might head until receiving submissions in late October and early November. One of these years we’ll have our creative and adaptable art director Jim Blayney concoct a December cover with the headline: Turfheads Take Over: The most random magazine you’ll ever read!!!
We received articles about self-awakening (Tyler Bloom), assistant superintendent life (Richard Brown), asset management (Nelson Caron), retirement (Sandy Clark), mentorship (Brent Downs), returning to the industry (Charlie Fultz), authentic experiences (Tim Gerrish), branding (Randy Hoffacker), gratitude (Jason Hollen), managing aging turf (Scott Krout), personal innovation (Gina Rizzi), course enhancement guidance (Kelly Shumate) and hands-on learning (Ashley Wilkinson). The randomness, in this case, contrasted what we were expecting.
I’ll be the first to admit, I thought we’d be seeing a few dour stories in our inboxes about smaller staffs, less personal interaction and pressure to use the golf course as a means to overcome lost clubhouse revenue. But the next 40 pages provide more optimism and inspiration than pessimism.
Bloom started a new business in the middle of the pandemic and Clark retired earlier than expected. Neither is ending this year fearful about their 2021 prospects. Bloom will engage with new clients; Clark will travel to enjoy experiences he often skipped during a 50-year turf career.
The pandemic actually created an opportunity for Fultz to reenter an industry he loves. Downs found the time to safely visit a pair of friends who helped shape his career. Wilkinson and the turf team at Horry Georgetown Technical College saw their dream of an outdoor classroom capable of hosting closest-to-the-pin contests become a reality.
The Arizona grass Krout and his team maintain became a year older in 2020 and courses of all ages continued pursuing the infrastructure and architectural enhancements Shumate relishes studying. Owners, boards and general managers enthralled by indoor spaces finally realized that the course represents the central asset at a golf facility, a fact-based argument Caron has been making for years.
Business remains robust thanks to the central asset and its determined protectors. Rounds played nationally surpassed 2019 totals in May, June, July, August, September and October. When the numbers are crunched, November and December will likely enter that list. We’ve all heard a superintendent or two recently grumble about the course receiving too much business in 2020. Don’t think less rest for the course beats the alternative? Spend a few minutes in an empty ballpark, restaurant or hotel.
A few days, weeks and months of demand exceeding supply creates hassles. A few days, weeks and months without customers creates heartache.
Compared to other industries, golf will exit 2020 in good shape.