COVID19 Lockdown Could Be The “Death Knell” for Many NZ Golf Clubs

Golf Course Maintenance Lockdown

New Zealand Golf continues to advise clubs that no maintenance of golf facilities should be undertaken during the Level 4 shutdown period.

Nine days ago all golf courses, practice facilities, clubhouses, pro shops, bar, function and catering facilities were closed as the government tries to save lives during the Coronavirus pandemic but clubs were hoping that the authorities would adjust the rules of isolation to allow at least one person the chance to continue maintenance on golf courses during the four-week shutdown.

On Wednesday, New Zealand Golf said they are continuing to work with Sport NZ and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to gain an exemption for critical turf maintenance at golf courses.

A decision on this matter has not been made as yet however a resolution is expected in the coming days.

A Resolution May Be Too Late

For some New Zealand Golf Clubs, the resolution may be already too late.

“This is the death knell for many clubs,” said the General Manager of Palmerston North Golf Club Norm Rapson.

“Once this [maintenance] is permitted after lockdown there will be at least two more weeks of work to be done.

“How is it that Eden Park gets an exception on National Significance when 300 golf clubs will provide far better feel good to a much wider audience.

“Disease will be rife and it may be too late to spray,” said Rapson.

Gordon Lang, President at the Rarangi Golf Club in Blenheim said the club is very concerned about their ability to recover the greens once the emergency is passed but said there may be little point in having greens anyway as members leave the club.

Golf Operations Manager at Millbrook Resort Robbie Lacon said he understands the reasons why golf course maintenance is not deemed to be essential work and why they are limited as to what they can do maintenance wise.

“I am hopeful that NZ Golf and Sport NZ can overrule this decision from government and will allow even the basics of turf maintenance to be conducted,” Lacon said.

“After all, economic recovery will be the aim of the game when this is over, but it will be very hard to achieve if we do not have a product to sell.”

“I would like to stress the importance of staying off the golf course and its facilities throughout this lockdown.

“As I am sure it is similar with many other golf courses, people are still attempting to use our golf course facilities. Whether it be the driving range, putting greens or the golf course itself. This is unacceptable behaviour and will only result in an extension to the lockdown period.”

Light At The End of the Lockdown Tunnel

But for other clubs across the country, the lockdown is providing a short respite and preparations are already underway for the post lockdown boom.

For the President of Onekaka Links Chris Castle nothing has changed. The club is on private land and Castle and his partner are the only two full-playing members.

“I am well qualified to maintain the courses,” Castle explained.

“We are playing almost every day. The rest of our members are Country Members and obviously not able to travel here. Ditto the visitors who had booked to play here this autumn.

“Which leaves me plenty of time to undertake the ideal autumn course renovation programme, aided by regular rain events this year, in some years not possible due to late summer/autumn droughts.”

Onekaka Links, Golden Bay maintenance
Onekaka Links, Golden Bay (Supplied)

Similarly, Waverley Golf Club is slightly different to most clubs, that has an animal maintenance crew who will continue to work during the lockdown.

“We own sheep, who are currently in lamb, so need someone to monitor these,” said Secretary/Treasurer Jacqui Hooper.

“It has come down to one of the members to monitor the sheep as we are not allowed our greenkeeper on sight (this is something the greenkeeper would normally do every year).

“Our greenkeeper also lives 40 minutes away and has to travel from the Wanganui district to the Taranaki district, which he is not allowed to do under the COVID19 lockdown.

“We do not have fences around the greens, so can confirm the sheep will now be eating the greens. Our fairway/rough is made up of rat tail – which sheep do not eat, so when we are able to open again the first few weeks will be bringing the course back up to standard and it will take a while for our greens to repair themselves.”

For Tahunga Golf Club Secretary Tammy Steele the club has prepared well for the lockdown and for a quick resumption hopefully.

“We have removed all tee-markers and pins on the course, and there are no scorecards available to use,” Steel explained.

“But we are extremely lucky that we are an hour out of Gisborne and most of our players are self-isolating on their farms so it is business as usual.

“But we will be very keen to start the season as soon as we are allowed.”

Riverside Beach Golf Club Captain Karen Barbour said their club’s one full-time greenkeeper is supported by a large number of volunteer retirees.

“Hopefully once the restrictions have been lifted we will swing straight into corrective mode and get the course functioning once again without too much remedial work required,” Barbour said.

“Our region has just come out of drought conditions and the 200ml of rain received recently, although a relief has caused its own problems.

“If we were able to have the greenkeeper undergo maintenance work it would mean that we could get back to full working order with less financial impact much quicker.

“I know that once conditions are lifted, holiday rentals and part-time residents will flock back to the coast and we need to be ready for that and to take advantage of the financial impact that will have.”

Millbrook’s Robbie Lacon suggests clubs should start working now on how to rebuild the club after the lockdown.

“I would encourage all golf management personnel to use this time to look into how they are going to rebuild after this lockdown is over,” Lacon said.

“Marketing campaigns targeted at local/domestic travel, innovative membership categories etc. It won’t be a case of business as usual.”


If your club has a story to tell or you want to explain what you are doing over this lockdown period feel free to let us know by emailing at editor@nzgolfmagazine.co.nz

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