Two Strokes Down But Still In The Game

Designed by Albert Murray, the Massena golf course opened in 1926. The 18-hole course at the Massena Country Club features 6,602 yards of golf from the longest tees for a par of 71. Christopher Lenney/NNY Business

By: Bob Beckstead
Area golf clubs have had two strokes against them this year, but they’re still in the game.

      Golf courses had initially been allowed to remain open, until April 10 when the state pulled the plug. However, later in the month, state officials loosened the restrictions, allowing courses to open, but with stipulations like keeping clubhouses and pro shops closed and practicing social distancing. 

      The weather also played havoc, with rain, snow and chilly temperatures dominating much of the month. 

      The Massena Country Club opened on April 21, but only for walking the course. The clubhouse and pro shop remained closed. A restaurant, which operates independently, stayed open for pick up orders. 

“We’re right on schedule for the traditional opening. We usually get things going the end of April. Golf is a weather-generated business,” Board President Tim Peets said. 

    Besides keeping the clubhouse and pro shop closed, golfers must follow social distancing measures and they’re not permitted to touch the flags at each hole. 

    Mr. Peets said those factors may limit the number of players who hit the course this year, which is open from April to October. 

    “By not allowing carts on the course, that’s going to limit the people who play there. We have a lot of older members who use a cart. Maybe they’ll play one or two holes,” he said. 

    Not knowing when restrictions might be lifted and the uncertain weather status makes it difficult to predict how the season will go. Like other small businesses, they applied for assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program. That’s a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. 

    “We applied for the Paycheck Protection Program like a lot of other places in Small Town USA. We were hoping to get some of it. We didn’t get it because the money ran out,” Mr. Peets said. 

    He said they plan to apply again when funding is available. 

    They know some revenue that may have been generated through tournaments won’t be coming in this year. If there is no tournament, there’s no income like greens fees and cart rentals. 

    Tournament organizers also suffer. Mr. Peets said an integral part of tournaments is sponsorship, which would be coordinated right about now. 

    Organizations or businesses that have sponsored tournaments in the past, but now have closed doors until the pandemic is over, may not have funding available for sponsorship this year. 

    “Even though they can still play, sponsors are a big part of tournaments. It’s going to be tough to run these tournaments with little or no sponsorship,” he said. 

    The Highland Meadows Golf Course in Watertown announced on April 9 that, effective immediately, the golf course was closed to all play because of the executive order that designated golf courses as non-essential. 

    “They said we could open up the beginning of April, and then we were declared non-essential,” Manager Amber Black said. 

    The restriction was later eased and the course opened on April 20, near their normal operating date. It remains open until the end of October. 

    “It depends on the weather. It’s usually the middle of April. Today is the first day,” manager Amber Black said. “We’ve closed like the middle of October the last two years. It was cold, rainy and snowy.” 

    The course had one golfer so far on day one. 

    “It’s walking only. We don’t have very many that walk. Most people want to take a cart,” Ms. Black said. 

    Like the Massena Country Club, the Highland Meadows Golf Course’s facilities are closed, including their restaurant and bar. 

    “It’s kind of wait and see,” she said. 

    Ms. Black said they did not apply for any financial assistance, such as through the Paycheck Protection Program. 

    “We didn’t fill out the paperwork,” she said. 

    They face the same summer of doubt as other golf courses. The weather hasn’t been helpful and membership in golf courses around the area, including Highland Meadows, is down. 

    “We didn’t have as many last year,” Ms. Black said. 

    Tournaments bring in revenue, but the coronavirus has put a damper on many of those, she said. 

    “We have a lot of (memorial and scholarship) tournaments and benefits. I don’t know if we’re going to be able to have them,” she said. 

    “We had a memorial set up for May for people that live near the golf course. She canceled. We had a wedding for June and that’s been canceled. We were supposed to have General Brown football at the end of May to raise money to keep the General Brown football team going,” she said. 

    But that has also been canceled, as the spring – and possibly summer – of uncertainty continues.