By Alan Blondin, Myrtle Beach Online

31 March 2020

State and local governments that govern the areas containing golf courses in the Myrtle Beach market have made a conscious effort to keep the courses open.

As of Tuesday night, orders and ordinances restricting behavior designed to limit the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus have only minimally impacted the courses.

Though N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper issued a “stay at home” order on Friday, he excluded golf and has allowed the state’s golf courses to remain open. S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster has yet to order their closure despite the closing of many non-essential businesses through an order Tuesday.

McMaster’s order that lasts 15 days calls for the prohibition of “sports that involve interaction with another person in close proximity and within less than 6 feet of another person.”

Restrictive ordinances enacted late last week by several Horry and Georgetown county municipalities closed hotels and other attractions, but left golf courses alone.

A Myrtle Beach ordinance at first called for the closing of the four courses in city limits, but it was amended Friday to rescind that demand and allow play by local residents only.

Golf is touted by the industry to be a healthy outdoor activity that can be done safely while adhering to social distancing requests, and area leaders have agreed.

So all approximate 75 golf courses in the Myrtle Beach market stretching from Georgetown to Bolivia, N.C., can be open, and are with the exception of 11 that have been closed by their owners.

That has given residents an opportunity to get out of their homes, and continued the employment of thousands of people.

Golf courses employ on average 15 to 25 workers, according to Myrtle Beach Area Golf Course Owners Association executive director Tracy Conner, while some high-end courses employ many more.

Course operators will be able to mitigate some of the losses incurred by the forced cancellation of tourist play – including a plethora of golf packages in the crucial spring golf season – with local rounds.

But the loss of rounds and greater loss of revenue because of a general decrease in pricing will still be a challenge to overcome financially.

“The local play is doing a great job subsidizing the open tee times that we have,” said Matt Biddington, head professional for the three-course Legends Golf Resort. “We have had to lay off several employees and we’re doing everything we can to keep the operation going.”

Century Golf Partners owns and operates Legends along with Heritage Club in Pawleys Island and Oyster Bay Golf Links in Calabash, N.C., through its course management company Arnold Palmer Golf Management.

The public-access courses that have closed on the Grand Strand include Founders Group International layouts International World Tour Golf Links, Burning Ridge Golf, Wild Wing Plantation, Willbrook Plantation, River Club, Aberdeen Country Club, Colonial Charters Golf Club and Founders Club at Pawleys Island, as well as the Hackler Course at Coastal Carolina, Members Club at Grande Dunes and Arcadian Shores Golf Club.

Legends and other golf courses have implemented sanitation and safety practices, as encouraged by National Golf Course Owners Association guidelines, in an attempt to keep golfers and employees safe.

They include allowing walking, promoting one rider per cart, sanitizing golf carts after use, adding hand sanitation dispensers, serving food and drinks to-go, monitoring social distancing, eliminating bunker rakes, leaving clubhouse doors open, promoting leaving the flagstick in the hole and making holes shallow so players don’t have to touch the flag to retrieve their ball.

“I know we’re doing everything we can to be socially responsible, . . . so many things that are all little but could possibly go a long way in helping curtail everything we’ve got going on,” Biddington said.

The full impact of the coronavirus on Strand courses is difficult to estimate since no one knows how bad the pandemic will get in the area and when it will end.

“I haven’t had any reported incidents or any kind of concerns among staff or members,” Biddington said. “I know we plan to continue operating as best we can. We have no intention of closing any of our golf courses until we’re forced to.

“We’re just trying to do everything we can to keep the people we have employed, employed, and give the golfers we have coming to us continuously a place to golf.”

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