HARWICH — With a 17 percent decline in memberships, the golf committee is expressing concerns about the constraints placed on Cranberry Valley Golf Course as it reopens to the public.
Last week committee members discussed expected revenue reductions given the closure of the course over the past few months. There were also concerns expressed about the state mandate to keep clubhouses closed, expand tee starting times to 15 minutes and whether the annual membership numbers will meet expectations.
“People I’m talking to say they’re not signing up,” golf committee member Martha Duffy said, because of tee times, the hours the course is open, the lack of services and the absence of public bathrooms.
In reopening golf courses two weeks ago, the state required 15 minute intervals for tee times, no access to clubhouses, thus no public bathroom, no restaurant service or pro shop access. Town officials decided to open the course initially from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
With the clubhouse closed, there is no public access to the restrooms inside, and Golf Director Roman Greer told the committee he was informed by the health department the two “outhouses” located along the course have been determined to be non-compliant.
“We need to have bathrooms opened, I’m very concerned about that issue,” Duffy said. “We’re going to lose a lot of members.”
“It’s wholly unreasonable for a woman to go to a golf course and play for four hours without a bathroom,” added committee member John Connolly.
Greer said he has approval to lease two temporary restrooms, one for the front nine holes and the other for the back nine.
The committee and Greer also discussed the need for adequate maintenance to the course. There was no overtime available so maintenance staff could cut the greens over the Memorial Day weekend, Greer said.
The committee agreed to write a letter to its liaison on the board of selectmen, Ed McManus, about issues they see as in need of addressing. Greer also said he would raise the issues in a session with Interim Town Administrator Joseph Powers.
“In the last week or so a lot of decisions, great decisions by the town, have been made addressing the concerns of the members on access and amenities,” Greer told The Chronicle. “I think we’re heading in a great direction. It will be a different golf season than we’ve ever had, but it will be a good golf season nonetheless.”
As for membership and the financial status of the course, Greer said $110,000 in greens fees was lost by the two-month closure, along with another $50,000 from cart rentals. But he also said the town’s essential spending policy has been followed and he has frozen his budget in relationship to staffing. That has helped to make up for some of the revenue reductions. The state COVID-19 provisions required that a security gate guard be hired for the course to enforce social distancing, which further impacts the budget.
In April almost no annual memberships were sold, Greer said, but that has turned around earlier this month after the decision by the state to allow golf courses to reopen and as more access opportunities are extended. Membership sales in May have been brisk. This time last year there were 952 memberships, and as of now there are 769 annual memberships, a 17 percent decrease. As more amenities, tee times and league events become available, memberships will climb, he said.
“We have the best leagues on the Cape and people like the social events, people are waiting for less risk and these activities to return,” Greer said.
There have been improvements, Greer said. In the past week, he has extended use of maintenance staff for three hours each day for mowing and setting up the course. The maintenance issues are important, especially this time of the year when the grass grows fast, Greer said. Shawn Fernandez, director of maintenance, is getting a lot done, he added.
“The course is in wonderful condition and we’re getting a lot of bang for the buck,” Greer said.
As of Saturday, the state is allowing the use of golf carts and Cranberry Valley's hours of operation have been extended to 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Greer said he hopes that will be expanded in a couple of weeks. The state provision for the 15-minute intervals between tee times remains; the course traditionally has eight minute intervals. As of last Saturday, greens fee players can access the course, but only if there are tee times remaining after members have made reservations. He said there have been no times available for green fee players to date.
“With extended hours we’ll be able to satisfy members and provide tee times,” Greer said. “Once tee time [intervals] go down there will be an increase in fee times. There will be more normalcy and we’ll be selling green fees to generate revenue.”
As for the clubhouse, Greer said the state has clearly said there is no access at this time.