EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was published before a vote Monday night by the Pitt County Board of Commissioners issuing a stay-home order that limits all non-essential travel within unincorporated areas of the county. As of Tuesday morning, Greenville mayor P.J. Connelly had not taken action to enact a shelter in place order, but it remained a possibility.
A consensus thought from local golf leaders has been: “I’ve never seen anything like this."
Courses are helping each other with information-sharing and rooting for each other as they are canceling and postponing their events involving people gathering, but hoping to still offer personalized golf outings for people who do not have live sports to watch on TV and have had their routines and lives altered because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“You name it and we’re trying it and doing everything that we can so that we don’t have to close, because this literally is the only out a lot of people have right now,” Greenville Country Club head professional Rob Farmer said during a phone interview late last week.
No more community water coolers. Avoid touching the flagstick. Rakes have been taken out of bunkers. Carts are being sprayed with disinfectant. Golfers are encouraged to walk the course, or avoid having multiple people using one cart.
Greenville Country Club limits four people to a room. Clubs have shut down bars and limited food offerings to to-go orders.
Ironwood PGA general manager John LaMonica noted in his email to members that: "The effects of this pandemic are changing daily, if not hourly."
Managers are taking guidance from their managing companies, which for public course Bradford Creek is Billy Casper Golf and its headquarters in Reston, Va. Billy Casper also manages Cypress Landing in Chocowinity and Harbour Pointe in New Bern.
Brook Valley director of golf Riley Kinlaw said courses are all facing the same challenges and changes.
“I honestly feel like the golf community roots for one another all the time, not only in a time like this, but definitely more so (now),” Kinlaw said. “For our local golf community, I definitely think we need to stick together, and we do. Golf for us is our livelihood, so the success of the sport is dependent on our reach to the community. In my perfect world, every course in the area is successful.”
An interesting twist to the game is altering the cup on each hole.
The cup can be adjusted, like placing it upside down or pulling up the cup liner, to minimize contact between the ball and the cup or so players don’t have to reach their hand fully into the hole to grab their ball after putting.
Ironwood suspended its bag storage service and encouraged anyone with a privately owned cart to use it when playing golf.
Above all, Farmer said, is for players to stay away from each other.
“With everything we have read, we’re just trying to keep social distancing as best as we can,” he said. “We’re kind of trying to rally around each other and hope everyone gets through it. I don’t necessarily know the financial impact of some of the other clubs, but I know what we’ve lost already with postponed or canceled events. It may not be impossible to come back from, but difficult. This really is uncharted territory and we just don’t know, and that’s what makes it so scary.”