The R&A - Working for Golf

COVID-19: New Zealand Golf

An overview of activity from New Zealand Golf in dealing with the challenges of COVID-19. 

Playing of Golf
For the five weeks of Alert Level 4 (from government guidance), there was no golf played as all courses were shut. As has been well documented, we were engaged in a significant amount of advocacy work to securing the ability for essential golf course maintenance to be undertaken at Alert Level 4. Pleasingly, the right result was achieved and the sector welcomed the decision. We ended up with two weeks of no maintenance and three weeks of having essential maintenance permitted. This mitigated a great deal of concern and costs for the sector. All but a handful of courses were in a position to open again when we moved to Alert Level 3.

The move to Alert Level 3 generated a second wave of advocacy work which was much trickier than it seemed on the surface. The challenge of securing the ability for some sort of golf to be played at Alert Level 3 seemed assured early on, impossible in the middle, and then somewhat reluctantly agreed to by government in the end. We played a strong advocacy hand and used the media well to ensure a decision resulting in no golf would be a tough path for government.

The move to Alert Level 2 has not created significant challenges for golf and we will return to relative normality at this level. For golf, the only real challenge is likely holding events as gatherings of more than 100 people are not permitted. Continued hygiene, sanitisation and contact tracing practices will be in place for the foreseeable future but at least the physical playing of golf will be back to relative normality at Alert Level 2. 

Golf Clubs

Rightly, most clubs were focused on the immediate challenges of course maintenance at Alert Level 4 and reopening the course in a limited manner at Alert Level 3.  Attention is now shifting to the medium to longer term and this is where we will likely see bigger impacts. 

It is hard to predict with any accuracy what the impacts will be on golf clubs, but the primary areas of concern are sustaining membership levels and maintaining sufficient levels of revenue. Class 4 gaming grants (‘pokie’ machine grants) will likely return but there may be a long gap before money starts flowing again and it seems unlikely grants will return to previous levels (currently more than $5M for golf). 

Any commercial income at clubs will take some time to return and those that rely on the tourism dollar have a bleak outlook for the medium to long term. These facilities will need to adjust their offering to a largely domestic and Trans-Tasman market.

To assist clubs, we have been running online daily Zoom forums and we have rapidly developed nine key resources covering the critical aspects of golf club and facility operations regarding COVID-19; including turf maintenance, golf operations, business continuity, finances, workforce and membership retention and communications.

All are available at www.golf.co.nz/clubresources

We additionally deployed a contact tracing app for all clubs and golfers to use to comply with government contract registration requirements. So far, all clubs seem to have navigated the seven weeks of the lockdown levels and, provided we get back to relatively normal golf, we hope to see most survive.

Our Operations – Office and Staff

Our office was closed for the Alert Level 4 lockdown period and remained closed until the country moved to Alert Level 2. Fortunately, all staff (bar one) can work productively remotely. The reality is a great number of our team often work remotely so this has not been a stretch and our systems are all working as they should be. The team remains connected with full staff Zoom meetings twice a week.

In terms of workload, most of the team are able to progress a great deal while working remotely and workloads have been unaffected. Much of this is planning and preparation for the post lockdown period, however significant effort is also being expended to assist districts, clubs and other sector partners navigate the challenges of COVID-19.

For those whose workload is not as busy as normal, these staff members are now taking leave and will continue to do so at stages over the next three months. So far, we have retained all staff and we committed to keep everyone on 100% salary, for at least May and June.

Fortunately, since this information was provided, New Zealand has returned to pre-COVID 19 operations and all golf clubs are now open and fully operation. The issues do, however, continue to be monitored by New Zealand Golf.