On March 24th, Tulare County required us to close regardless of all the protocols we instituted to keep everyone safe. The debate on whether or not golf courses should be essential is open to conversation. We are biased at the golf course, but our answer is YES!
That Monday started like most of the days in March. A little busier than our average and perfect golf weather. Everything we would hope for on a golf course, and a brilliant week in the future.
One phone call changed the whole outlook of the remaining days of March and the future of the golf course. Tulare County insisted that we shut down immediately, and threatened penalties and fines. The claim that we were non-compliant is up for debate like so many things during this pandemic, but we complied by shutting down all future business.
March 25th brought several decisions that required quick thinking. We employ almost 50 employees between our Shop, Cart Barn, Maintenance, and 9 Iron staff. As a family-owned business, we attempted to find a way to keep all employees working. Unfortunately, there was not a way to do this without endangering the whole company. We had to put the oxygen mask on the business before we could reach out to the employees.
The only reasonable direction was to lay off all hourly employees and allow them to apply for their benefits immediately. The management staff communicated with employees and kept them updated on changes, but as most of you know, we could not open until April 27th. That was more than a month after our closure.
I am proud to announce, without exception, our employees have gladly returned to work as we notified them. We brought all hands on deck for the reopening. Bringing in almost double our staff as we expected a rush. We opened nearly a week ahead of the Governor’s proclamation that golf is essential. All the same faces, and maybe a couple of new ones, will continue to greet you with a smile at the Pro Shop and 9 Iron Bar & Grill.
While they were away, three members of management attempted to maintain 160 acres that would usually take ten people. For Brett Miller, the GM and Alex Barberena, the Superintendent, it was business as usual. Brett is the former Superintendent and quickly got back into the old routines of mowing, irrigation repair, and spraying chemicals.
Alex became saddled with training the new guy. Robert Nava is the Pro Shop Manager and Custom Club expert at the course but has minimal experience in grounds maintenance. After several days of mowing and learning other aspects of maintenance, Robert helped Alex, and Brett developed a plan to get as much work done as possible with the skeleton crew. A select number of volunteers also assisted during the month-long shutdown.
During the closure, we took advantage of the open course and took care of two large projects. Golfers know that aeration is a necessary evil that temporarily scars the greens, for the future benefit of healthier grass.
Not only did we aerate, but we also brought a company in to “drill and fill,” an extreme form of aeration. The crew uses a very large machine to drill holes in the green and then fill with clean sand. Both processes help the roots on the bentgrass “breathe” and grow healthier.