As golf courses across the state prepare to reopen to the public tomorrow under Safer at Home guidelines, ten Milwaukee-area club operators have launched a new membership program that could help boost business while revenue is limited.
Through what's known as the Badgerland Golfer Membership Program, members pay a monthly fee of $55 (plus a $75 initiation fee) to play up to four 18-hole rounds at each participating club, adding up to 40 rounds of golf per month.
Participating clubs currently include Western Lakes Golf Club, Muskego Lakes Country Club, Evergreen Country Club, The Golf Club at Camelot, Horicon Hills Golf Club, West Bend Lakes Golf Club, Eagle Springs Golf Resort, Songbird Hills Golf Club, Brookfield Hills Golf Course and St. John’s Northwestern Golf Course.
Additional courses across Wisconsin will be added throughout the season, allowing the program to expand membership, which is expected to sell out by early May. Applications to join officially opened yesterday through the program's website, said Jason Hoelz, general manager at Western Lakes Golf Club in Pewaukee.
He said that for members, the variety of play is a huge draw as well as scheduling flexibility-- if one course is booked or closed for an event, they can play at another. Members can cancel at anytime without penalty.
For operators like him, the program is a way to increase customer traffic and introduce new golfers to the course.
Plans for Badgerland Golfer have been in the works since this winter, prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hoelz said the opportunity to boost business has taken on a new meaning as the coronavirus limits operations at many business, including golf courses.
"Coming back from COVID-19 going to require us to bring new people to the club because we are a very event based golf course and a lot of these events have been rescheduled until later in the summer," Hoelz said. "We're going to have quite a bit of capacity for the beginning part of the summer, when we'll want to bring new people out."
While Gov. Tony Evers' extended Safer at Home orderallows courses to open for play, clubhouses and pro shops must remain closed, which means cash flow from food and beverage service and merchandise sales has stopped. And without weddings, corporate outings and other large events on the calendar for the next couple of months, clubs are losing revenue.
"Golf courses have a lot more than just the golf revenue that has yet to come back," said Hoelz. "Obviously weddings and banquets are big part of golf courses."
Hoelz expects the Badgerland Golfer program to offset some of that loss, but the more people courses can draw now, the better.
That won't be a problem this weekend, at least for Western Lakes Golf Club, where Tee sheets are filled up despite the weather forecast, he said.
"People are anxious to get out and about and do something in a socially safe way," said Hoelz.