Episode #24: You Ask We Answer: How Is COVID-19 Impacting Fall Golf Vacations in Myrtle Beach? 07/29/2020
Meredith: Welcome to episode number twenty-four of the Gimme Golf podcast, powered by myrtlebeachgolftrips.com. I'm your host, Meredith Kirk. Make sure to rate and subscribe to our podcast, tell us how we are doing. Today on the show we are answering questions that are on your mind. Many questions coming in asking about how COVID-19 will impact your fall golf vacation to Myrtle Beach. We are going to answer those questions. To help, I'm joined by gold writer, Chris King, and president of Founders Group, Steve Mays. The Founders Group owns and operates 21 grand strand designs. Steve is also a member of the Myrtle Beach area chamber of commerce. Hopefully, we will provide some answers you are looking for.
Hey, we are here at the Grand Dunes golf resort club. I'm here with Steve Mays and Chris King. The course is pretty busy today, so you may hear some golfers in the background. On this episode, we're going to answer questions about our current COVID-19 protocols, and what fall golf is looking like in Myrtle Beach. Steve and Chris, thanks for coming on the show today.
Steve: Thanks for having us.
Chris: It's great to be here again.
Meredith: Well, it's always great to have you on. Steve, so we're going to start with you. Talk to us a little bit about how fall golf is shaping up here in Myrtle Beach.
Steve: It's hard to believe that fall is right around the corner, we're heading into August here, and right now fall golf season is healthy. We're looking forward to a pretty busy fall. Obviously there's a lot of uncertainty in the world right now, but we have a lot of golfers coming in, in September and October, and into November, and we're just doing everything we can to prepare our facilities for them to come.
Meredith: Well, it looks like golf is very busy, because I'm at a number of our Founders collection courses, and every time I pull into the parking lots they're always full. So, I think golf has been a great way for people to get out and get some fresh air, a great activity during this unfortunate pandemic.
Steve: And I think gold has really seen a surge through the summer throughout the country, and a lot of people are out playing golf. So, we're excited about that, it's been one of the few positives that have come out of this situation, is that from the golf industry perspective, people are out playing golf, because it is one of the things that you can, without question, do and be healthy and safe when you're out playing golf. So, it's been fun to see the golf courses full, and see the golf community come together as we're working through this pandemic.
Meredith: Yeah, absolutely. And I also know that golf equipment is on the rise a little bit now, because more people are getting into the game. They're curious about how to play golf, wanting to sign up for golf lessons, and looking at golf equipment. So, I've been kind of surprised by that, which has actually been a great thing, because we're always wanting to grow the game of golf and introduce new players, and I never thought that it would be COVID-19 that would bring more golfers into the game, but we'll take those golfers. Chris, do you have anything to add?
Chris: Well, like Steve said, I think there is a lot to look forward to this fall. I think we here in Myrtle Beach, we're very aggressive at the front end of this thing, from a golf course perspective, in taking in hand sanitation protocols to create a safe environment for people to come play in, and I think in general here in Myrtle Beach, I think we all get this living here, people that we know from outside the area, I ask how things are going, and I think right now, as we head into the first of August, things are starting ... Nobody's going to declare a victory, but the number of positive cases here have dropped dramatically. I think they're down 50% over the last two weeks, so I think our trend lines here are good, from a general perspective, and I think people, as you guys have both talked about, people very comfortable on a golf course and I think this will be a great place for them to be this fall.
Meredith: Yeah. Well, that's good news. That looks like things are going in the right direction here. Now, several of our viewers have written us questions about their upcoming fall vacations. A lot of questions from a lot of different parts of the world, so we do want to go ahead and answer some of those questions. I'm going to start with Lou from Richmond, Virginia. He says, "Been coming in the fall every year to Myrtle Beach with several regulars. Since we are traveling together, can we ride together in a golf cart? And do you think we will need to wear masks to go into the club house in October?"
Steve: Well, obviously we're not going to be able to predict the future on all of that. But definitely at this point, we are allowing people who are same household, and people who are driving together one the golf courses to ride together on the golf carts. Currently there is a mask mandate, really throughout our area, both in the county and the municipalities, that if you're indoors and you're at a restaurant that you are required to wear a mask when you're walking through. Obviously when you're eating and dining you do not need to wear a mask, but those are things that have really helped us slow down the spread, and so that's something that we've done, that the cities and the counties have done over the past couple of months is implement those. Will they be in place in October? It's hard to tell. But right now that mask mandate is in place for when you're in our clubhouses and restaurants.
Chris: And I think general speaking it would probably be safe to assume that it isn't, and even if it's not it's not the worst idea in the world to wear it regardless.
Meredith: Right. All right. Barry from Edison, New Jersey. "First time traveling to Myrtle Beach, end of September with seven buddies. If we've already prepaid for our tee times, can we go right to the range and tee when we arrive? And also, are we still able to have a beer after the round in the club house?"
Steve: Certainly if you are on a package golfer, you've already prepaid for your rounds, you can check in, and most golf courses you can check in at the bag drop and really get right out to the range. You may have to go in and pay for golf balls, depending on how the individual golf courses work, but essentially you can, we have a park and play program with the Founders Group International golf courses where you come in and you pretty much go right out to the golf course once your tee time's available. So, all that's available. As far as a beer, certainly. Our club houses are open, and we expect them to be open, and right now we do have the mask mandate, but certainly we are at reduced capacities from a restaurant perspective, but we don't anticipate having any issues with coming into our club houses and grabbing a beer with your buddies, and we also have some great decks and outdoor spaces, that if you don't feel comfortable coming into restaurants, you can definitely hit those areas as well.
Chris: Look, I think I'd rather be sitting out here on the decks at Grand Dunes, having a cold one, watching people try to play 18.
Meredith: Absolutely. Yeah, this is a great view, and when I've been at multiple different courses, and I do see groups inside having a beer, and they are spaced out. So, it's a very comfortable environment to still enjoy that beer with social distancing, and again having the opportunity to sit outdoors, I'm with you on that one. Especially at many of our courses here. So, let's go to the net question. William from Rocky Mountain, North Carolina, "My group is coming down mid September for a long weekend. I feel I know all the golf course updates. My questions are about the hotels. Are the hotels serving breakfast, and are their pools still open?" Which I'll happen to know the answer to that one.
Chris: Look, I think a lot of that's going to be based, it's a property by property decision. I think most hotels have pools open, some of them will be serving complimentary breakfasts. I think you'll find some people who'll be delivering those breakfasts even maybe to your room each morning. So, that's something that you'll want to check with the guy that books your package here at mrytlebeachgolftrips.com, or mbn.com, and they'll be able to let you know that. But as people who are Myrtle Beach golfers who are familiar with the way things operate down here, I mean we have hundreds of accommodations providers, and things will vary a little bit from property to property.
Meredith: Okay. And you mentioned mbn.com and myrtlebeachgolftrips.com, also you can go onto those sites and get more information about the park and play. That's correct, Nate, right? Yeah. So, that's been a very successful new program that Founders Golf has implemented, a lot of success. I have a lot of students and friends that are out here at the courses and they are going that route, and they are very comfortable just arriving in the parking lot, getting out, checking in, they don't even have to go in the club house, if they choose not to. So, I love that option, I want to mention those websites. All right, so let's go to Linda from Trenton, New Jersey, "Our ladies group has been coming down for several years in October. Will most restaurants open up for business, and how about the shopping?"
Steve: Well, right now most restaurants are open up in our area. They have limited capacity, but there are still plenty of seats to be had, with all the restaurants we have in our area. That's one of the great things about our area, is the great abundance of fantastic restaurants we have. So, there shouldn't be any issues there. If you don't feel comfortable going into restaurants, most of the restaurants here are offering curbside service as well, and there's also a lot of outdoor dining in the area. So, restaurants and those things will not be an issue for travelers coming in, and aren't an issue now. And as far as shopping, shopping's open again. We're under the mask mandate at this point, we don't know where we'll be in September and October, but that's all open, and open for business.
Meredith: And I want to mention the food selections that we do have at our courses, because during COVID-19 many of our courses had to-go dining, which was very successful. Another positive thing that has occurred from this pandemic on the food scene is just that the pick up and the menu is incredible, and you recently have made some changes in those menus to make them even better. Do you want to talk a little bit about that?
Steve: Yeah, certainly. We have started rolling out a new menu at most of restaurants and our golf courses, so it's really a much more expanded menu, it's a step up for us from a menu level than your typical golf course would see, so we're excited about that, we've had great success with it. We're still doing a lot of curbside options at our facilities, and they've been a great success, and we just have such a fantastic food and beverage team, and they've really stepped up as we've gone over the past few months, and innovation. This crisis has made sure that we were innovating at the golf course level, and one of that's our menus and our curbside dining, and I think you'll see that throughout Myrtle Beach too, is just the innovative ways that restaurants are able to serve their customers now.
Chris: And to echo what Steve is saying, I couldn't more highly recommend the fried green tomatoes and shrimp that's being served at a lot of the FGI club houses. It's a wonderful dish, and those guys have really done a great job revamping the menu there.
Meredith: Yeah, I love southern comfort food, that is the best. So, when you get to the golf course you can grab a menu, and then when you're done playing you could select a couple of those entrees, have them packed up, ready to go, you could go back to your hotel and then just enjoy the beautiful view of the ocean, right? With a nice meal from the golf course, who would have thought?
Meredith: All right. So, Steve from Hagerstown, Maryland, "What off course attractions and establishments do you think will be closed for our trip? We are scheduled to arrive on Friday, November 6th." Isn't that the election?
Steve: A couple days after. We'll have a new world, or whatever it'll be, it'll be a changed world I'm sure.
Meredith: I'm sure.
Steve: So, again, it's difficult to predict where we'll be in November. Right now, most family attractions are open, with the exception of theaters. Really in our area, in our state, the major attractions that aren't open right now are theaters. Whether that's the Carolina Opry, Alabama Theater, or comedy clubs. Things like that are not open. Besides that, most attractions are open right now. Hopefully by November, we'll be in a shape where all of our attractions are open, but I would say, and Chris you may have some insight on this too, but the majority, I'd say 75% of attractions in our area and state are open right now.
Chris: Yeah. Look, I would agree. I think the only things that could potentially impact someone's golf trip are maybe a group of guys that would want to go to a comedy club, theaters. My group doesn't go to a theater, but maybe it's something you do, and in that case hopefully they'll be open. But right now, I think those are the only things that there would be any real uncertainty about.
Meredith: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And also, I want to touch on the previous question that Linda asked about shopping. I can give an answer to that; all the stores are open. Unfortunately the challenging part is you can't always try the clothes on. It's about 50% right now, the stores, 50% of them will allow you to try on clothes, and then they have their own protocol on when they place those clothes back on the rack. Some of them are waiting three days. It's really interesting, everybody's doing their own thing. So, that is challenging when you're going shopping and you're at your favorite store, and you might not be able to try on your outfit. So, that's just a risk you'll have to take, but my husband is enjoying it right now because my budget is way down this year on shopping.
Speaker 4: [inaudible 00:13:22]
Meredith: Stitch, yeah, Stich Fix. No, he made me cancel that one, so. All right. Josh from York, Pennsylvania, "What kind of course conditions should we expect mid October?"
Steve: Well, I don't think anything would change with that. October's my favorite time, my favorite time of year here in our area, and our golf courses are always in fantastic shape for the fall season, so that won't change this year.
Chris: No. And hey look, I always tell people, when someone asks about when you want to come down, average high temperatures of 83 in September and 75 in October, courses are in great condition. I mean, there really isn't a better time of year to come here than in the fall months.
Meredith: Right, and then the kids are back in school, and many kids will be going back to school here in September, so it's that nice quiet golf season, our second season, which everybody loves. Particularly, it's a great time for the guys trip, or the girls trip, or the couples trip. That's what I say, always come in the fall if you want a break from our family environment that we offer here in the summer at Myrtle Beach, right?
Steve: That's right,
Chris: We may all need to add a little more this year too.
Steve: Yeah, a little family break this year.
Meredith: Yeah, I think we should all have a stay-cay vacation ourselves and enjoy that time. John from Johnson City, Tennessee, "Our group likes to play 27 to 36 holes per day, and normally we schedule it ahead of time to make sure we have it locked in. Do you think we can wait to schedule it same day to be able to get a replay rate? Also, I guess my question is, how busy do you think it will be for our October trip?"
Steve: So, a couple of things there with ... It really depends what's your priority. From as far as playing 36 holes, you can always definitely prebook those rounds, and to make sure that you're playing at the exact course you want to play. If it's replaying at that golf course that day, and the exact time that you want to play, I'd recommend going ahead and doing that, because right now October is a pretty busy month for us, the way it looks as far as our pre bookings go. If that's not as vital to you, and you just want to play nine holes, and whether you play at Grand Dunes, if you play there in the morning, you want to play in the afternoon, or if you care to go to one of other golf courses, there's probably always tee times available, it just depends what your priority will be. Do you have to play at 1:30, or 1 o'clock at this particular golf course on a replay? You may want to book advance. But if not, you can still find tee times around.
Chris: Yeah, and in addition to compliment what Steve is saying, I think that some of your calculus in making that decision should depend on what size your group is as well.
Chris: If you're a group of four, it's a little easier to wait and do that, if you've got a group of 12, 16, 20, 24, hey, I would go ahead and book now, because it is increasingly difficult maybe to get four or six tee times strung together. I use myself as an example, I'm booking a trip and I've had some challenges finding consecutive tee times, because we all like to go off at the same time, finish at the same time. Somebody's got to get heckled there on the final hole, based on the way they've approached the green. So, again, if you've got a larger group, my recommendation would be to go ahead and plan ahead, whether that's for 18 or 36.
Meredith: Right. And they can always go to myrtlebeachgolftrips.com and talk to one of our wonderful golf directors. Golf directors that actually play golf themselves. That's why I love it, because you can ask them anything, and they can pretty much give you any information about any of our Founders collection courses, and the majority of courses here at Myrtle Beach, so that's always good to know. Do you guys have anything else that you'd like to add and let our listeners know about COVID? I know we're getting ready to do an updated video about the protocols that we have offered at all of our courses. We have done that in the past, and that information is on our websites. We'll probably release that in a couple of weeks for our fall golfers coming down, just to know what to expect. But anything you'd like to add?
Steve: I think you made a good point there, with golf directors. Make sure, whether you've booked online, you can call our 800 number with Myrtle Beach Golf Trips, or mbn.com, or if you're booking directly with the sales agents, just keep in touch with them. Because things, as we all have known for the past four months, it's a fluid situation. So, just to make sure that you're staying up to date with them, and as you said, they know everything about every golf course at the beach. They know most of the restaurants at the beach, they know all the rules and regulations through our area. So, they are a great resource for you to use, and as you look forward to your fall trip coming up.
Chris: And I would say, I would just reinforce the answer to a question I've received quite a bit from friends and family, "Hey, how is it down there? Can we come down?" And my answer to that is a pretty simple one; right now our cases are very much heading in the right direction, and if you've got a fall golf trip planned, and you come down here and you behave responsibly while you're here, and by behave responsibly I don't mean lock yourself in a room, I mean practice reasonable social distancing. You come down, I think we all agree that the golf course is a safe place to be. You know what? You can go eat out, you can order in, do what you want to do. I mean, don't stay in a bar till 11 o'clock at night or 2 AM, as the case may be. And you can come down here and have a wonderful golf trip this fall, and I don't think that you should have any inordinate concern about leaving here with the virus.
Meredith: Yeah. I really don't think there's any major hesitations given the sport and all of our precautions. So, it's a great time to really get out here and continue on with fall golf.
Steve: That's exactly right, and this is going to be a good fall, and we're looking forward to it, and hopefully the Myrtle Beach area and a golf trip can provide a great break for all of the stress and pressure we've been under over the past few months.
Meredith: Yeah, that sounds really good. We all need a break. So, come on down to Myrtle Beach. Again, you can contact any of our golf directors at myrtlebeachgolftrips.com with any questions you may have, and you can touch base on or websites with more up to date information on all of our protocols, so that you feel safe, and so that you have a great time when you come here to Myrtle Beach. So, thanks for tuning in today, and thank you, as always, to Steve and Chris for coming on the show. You guys always have so much great information, so I appreciate you being here today.
Steve: Thanks Meredith.
Chris: Thanks a lot.
Meredith: All right, you guys have a great day.
Many questions coming in asking how COVID-19 will impact your fall golf vacation in Myrtle Beach. To answer those questions Myrtle Beach Golf Ambassador Meredith Kirk is joined by Golf Writer Chris King and President of Founders Group and Myrtle Beach-Area Chamber of Commerce board member Steve Mays. The Founders Group owns and operates 21 Grand Strand Designs.
Show Notes (Time in podcast of question answered)
Lou from Richmond Virginia: (4:21)
Question: Been coming in the fall every year to Myrtle Beach with several regulars.
-Since we are travelling together can we ride together in a golf cart?
-Do you think we will need to wear masks to go in the clubhouse in October?
Barry from Edison New Jersey: (5:36)
Qustion: First time travelling to Myrtle Beach end of September with 7 buddies
-If we’ve already pre-paid for our tee-times can we go right the range/tee when we arrive?
-Are we still able to have a beer after the round in the clubhouses?
William from Rocky Mount North Carolina: (7:14)
Question: My group is coming down mid-September for a long weekend. Feel I know all the golf course updates. My questions are about the hotels:
-Are the hotels serving breakfast and are their pools still open?
Linda from Trenton New Jersey: (8:42)
Question: Our group of ladies have been coming down for several years in October. Will most restaurants open for business and how about shopping?
Steve from Hagerstown Maryland: (11:22)
Question: What off-course attractions/establishments do you think will be closed for our trip? We are scheduled to arrive on Friday November 6th.
Josh from York Pennsylvania: (13:30)
Question: What kind of course conditions should we expect mid-October?
John from Johnson City Tennessee: (14:35)
Question: Our group likes to play 27-36 holes per day. Normally we scheduled it ahead of time to make sure we have it locked in. Do you think we can wait to schedule it same day to be able to get a replay rate? Guess my question is, how busy do you think it will be for our October trip?
Record Date of Episode: 7/29/20
Founders Collection Courses Include: Aberdeen Country Club, Burning Ridge Golf Club, Colonial Charters, Founders Club, Grande Dunes Resort Club, King’s North, Litchfield Country Club, Long Bay Club, Myrtle Beach National South & West Courses, Myrtlewood PineHills & Palmetto Courses, Pawleys Plantation Golf Club, Pine Lakes Country Club, River Club, River Hills Golf Club, Tradition Club, TPC Myrtle Beach, Wild Wing, Willbrook Plantation and World Tour Golf Links
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