April 17, 2020
Reflecting as I write this, on the old Cheer's show lyric- “Seeing your way in the world today takes everything ya got!” I commiserate with all of you who are dealing with multiple, and sometimes conflicting, news every day as we wade through the ever-changing quagmire that is this pandemic. From home-schooling to working from home, to not working at all; mud-season in Vermont has never been so messy.
I, like all of you, am anxious to get the “green” light from the Governor's office that would allow the course to open. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet. On the one hand, it is great to know that stay-at-home measures are working in Vermont, but not great to know that our stay-at-home existence is expected to continue. Even so, while we have not gotten the go-ahead to open the course, it was mentioned that there would be a gradual return to work for some businesses. Of the five principles referenced by the governor in his strategy to open business thoughtfully, one was: “…to reopen outdoor recreation, restaurants and bars, and other entertainment responsibly.” Even though the golf industry was not announced as one of the first to be decided upon to move forward, I continue to believe that we will be one of those businesses that will be allowed to return sooner, rather than later.
When he does say to open, we are prepared! In our most recent meeting this past week, your board, course superintendent and pro reviewed our readiness in our approach for opening. As we describe in the attached letter that was sent to the governor, we are ready to welcome golfers safely back to the course when we are allowed. It will not be without challenges and changes though. Our membership at the time of our meeting was down by 35%. We know that much of this is due to the uncertainty of the year and perhaps the uncertainty in your financial circumstance. We understand. However, if you can renew your membership now, the club needs you. Due to our lag in numbers, we will find it necessary to once again borrow what we had paid back to Junior Golf and access our Line of Credit. We will also take full advantage of the CARES Act by pushing our mortgage payments later. Additionally, we plan to pursue the Act’s employee retention credit by deferral of social security liability and explore any other benefits to help with any net loss. Of course, our tournament and league schedules will be forced to be pushed back, and the Opening Party, Trivia Night and Paint-n-Sip social gatherings scheduled in May, have been postponed.
We will get through this time. We hold a common love of the game and an uncommon commitment to these, our 18 holes. When we speak of Newport CC we speak of her not as just a course, but as our home course. We are a club, not just a building. Being together again will feel like progress, but our real success in our club is in the work we do together to maintain and improve what we have. Whether it’s the garden committee enhancing our landscape, leagues in friendly competition, a stop in the Pro Shop, or just enjoying food and drink from Noonan’s, the support you show as a member, matters.
I’m buoyed by all the great comments on our Facebook page. From the “I can’t wait!” to the “I’m playing all I can whenever we open” it’s clear that everyone, despite the troubles of today, wants “to go where everybody knows your name!”
“Cheers!” Here’s to seeing you all, soon!
Your Newport Country Club Board of Directors
March 24, 2020
There’s a fundamental rule in golf to which we all adhere; you play it where it lies. That’s the situation we find ourselves in today, as we work to ready the course to open this year. Our position is not one we would have visualized at the close of our season last year, but it is the one we have in “play” at the onset of this year’s season.
At our last board meeting, your Newport CC board, golf pro, and course superintendent met by conference call to iron out our approach to the season in response to the Covid-19 pandemic facing us today. We believe that golf, unlike many other sports, is one that safely provides a great deal of healthy space for the individual golfer while allowing an opportunity to exercise outdoors. Once we do open, we anticipate a progression that brings us from some aspect of transition to a gradual lessening of restrictions. With that in mind, we are resolved to open the course in a timely fashion, as soon as the government mandate, the weather and conditions permit. In so doing, we will be placing additional safeguards in place to protect your health and safety through three elemental areas: Demarcate, Distance, and Disinfect. This 3-D approach will manifest itself as follows:
• Demarcate: Only the front vestibule area in the clubhouse will be open for general use. The area will enable access to the upstairs bathrooms and the Pro-Shop. While the kitchen will be open to provide food and beverages when phoned ahead, these items will only be available for pick-up for both golfers, and the community. Golfers may also call while on the course for pick-up of food or beverages at the turn or at the end of the round. Limited sales of packaged food, beer, wine and other beverages may be purchase in the Pro-Shop. The dining room and downstairs locker rooms and entrances will not be open. For those of you who have items left in the locker rooms that are needed, please contact the Pro-Shop to arrange a time for pick-up at (802) 334-2391.
• Distance: We will be implementing 15-minute intervals on tee times. We ask that golfers maintain a distance of at least 6-ft away from one another at all times. Payments made online will help to minimize the need for over-the-counter sales. Only one person to a golf cart will be permitted unless they are family members. With only one to a cart, that will put a strain on our current fleet of only 40 golf carts so we encourage all golfers who are able, to walk. Driving Range areas will be spaced adequately apart so there is at least a 6 ft distance from those practicing. All cups on regular and practice greens will be raised so there is no need to congregate close to a hole. The ball will be considered “holed” if it in any way hits the lip of the raised cup. The number of people allowed in the Pro-Shop at any one time will also be restricted. Throughout the course, limit congregations of golfers to 10 or less.
• Disinfect: Golfers will see a wide range of enhancements as our cleaning and disinfection practices increase to protect your health and safety and that of our staff. In the Pro-Shop, you may see the use of gloves, counter-top disinfectant sprays that not only kill but also inhibits regrowth of viruses and bacteria, Hepa/UV Air Filter systems and hand sanitizer. Throughout the clubhouse area there will be wall hand sanitizers. Disinfectant soap will be used in the restrooms. Daily cleaning schedules will include frequent disinfection of doors, handles, switches and any areas identified of frequent use. Carpets have been thoroughly cleaned and dried. Golf Carts will be sprayed down with disinfectant between use. On the driving range balls will be washed and disinfected and hand sanitizer will be available. Hand sanitizer will be available at Port-a-lets. No rakes will be in bunkers, no ball washers will be in use and no water coolers will be on the course. You may want to shake hands after a round of golf, but please don’t.
Additionally, beyond these extraordinary measures to protect the health of all golfers and our members, the Board acknowledges the financial burden some of our members may be under while restricted from working in response to state mandates. Therefore, the board unanimously voted to extend the Early-Bird membership fee deadline from April 15th to June 1st.
Currently, Men’s, Ladies and Couple’s League play and some tournaments, are anticipated to begin in mid-May. The logistics of starting league play or conducting a tournament is dependent on what will be allowed at that time. As we navigate through an ever-changing scenario in response to Covid-19, start dates for league and tournament play may change. In order to allow maximum participation, we anticipate that a two-week notice will be given before start. At that time, while the Early Bird fee is extended until June 1st, please keep in mind that to play Men’s League, the membership fee must be fully paid at the time of league start.
The practices outlined in this letter are subject to change. As I write this, the state of Vermont went from a shelter-in-place order to a stay-at-home order from March 25, 2020, to April 15, 2020. Even so, the practices outlined in this letter are highly likely to need to be in place at the time of our opening, so I encourage us all to be ready and understand not only what we might do to protect against this disease but also, what we must do even once the disease begins to abate.
We will continue to monitor developments and adjust where necessary. We will continue to keep you informed regarding the club’s opening, as information becomes clearer to us, but most importantly, please take care of yourselves so when we do open, we open together!
Your Newport Country Club Board of Directors