By Kevin Kaye—
As we enter Phase II in Westchester of reopening certain businesses, many owners and managers are just now learning what our golf range in White Plains, New York, has been doing for over two months. Deemed a non-essential business by NYS ESD, Game On Golf Center has been open, closed and open again under very strict health and safety requirements imposed on all golf facilities. After the clear directive from local, county and state officials, including the office of the New York State Attorney General, to adopt and implement a robust set of safety measures, we set out to become the poster child for Governor Cuomo’s reimagined economy touted in his regular public addresses.
So what does it take to successfully navigate these many modifications to your business in the age of COVID-19? A positive attitude and a whole lot of attention to detail are two; but first and foremost, it comes down to accepting the essential challenge of keeping staff and customers safe. For us this meant proactively executing, constantly refining and then exceeding government requirements.
Golfers are spaced 20 feet apart occupying every other bay and are required to wear face masks in all common areas and at the tee.
By embracing the above approach, we were able to successfully ease the fears and apprehension of public officials, and the range was able to continue operating as a much needed recreation outlet and source of comfort for the community during a very difficult time. It has been a hard fought battle to live up to the expectations of our community, but our struggles have yielded only positive results. Working from home was not an option for us, and as a customer-centric business, we’ve learned a lot about expectations in the new post-pandemic environment. Prior to opening, other businesses have been calling us to better understand how we handled all of this. We’ve pulled together a short list of insights and baseline tenets to share so that we can share this more widely.
Guidance and requirements for Phase II of the New York Forward plan includes allowing outdoor dining and the reopening of retail stores, salons, offices and other establishments. Here are a few the strategies we followed:
- Be agile and pivot as needed: During an ever changing environment, thoughtful flexibility is crucial. Implement, observe, gather feedback, then refine and make improvements.
- Multi-channel communications with patrons and customers: Transparency and communication via numerous channels are essential to the success of a business reopening. Leverage emails, newsletters, social posts, print and digital ads, and phone calls to convey key information, changes in hours, adjustments to on-site behaviors, and new expectations.
- Exceeding minimum safety standards: Providing the bare minimum is just not good enough to achieve the necessary level of comfort. Set the bar higher, be creative and go further than expected.
- Understand and be responsive to customer concerns: Connect and engage with patrons at every opportunity. Request feedback, send surveys and be attentive to customer needs.
- Invest in the tools and resources needed for success: Empower staff to deliver exceptional customer service. Start by creating a culture of trust and confidence with your staff. Safety and service first… all else will follow.
- Positive conviction: Be practical and stand behind your solutions, yet be open to new ideas. Every challenge is an opportunity to make improvements in your business and plan for the future.
In early March, as the threat of the virus became more real, we quickly focused our attention on health and safety by voluntarily implementing social distancing and enhancing existing sanitizing protocols before they became mandatory. This decision proved to be critical as virus fears escalated rapidly. Customers have not only been appreciative of what we are doing to keep them safe, but even elated that we could remain open at a time when the community needed us most.
To watch a three-minute video about the measures this team has implemented to assure safety at their Westchester business, please click here.
Range rules and protocols are clearly stated at the entrance and reiterated throughout the facility, on the website, and via social media. Appropriate face covering is mandatory at all times.
About Game On Golf Center
The golf range property originally opened in 1948 as Westchester Golf Range, then purchased in 2017 and renamed Game On Golf Center. New ownership has invested in many improvements to the more than 70 year old facility — expanded programming, grounds, technology — all to establish Game On as a valuable community asset and world-class golf recreation center. Offering regular open mats, as well as grass tees and short game area, the facility’s latest addition includes 10 all-weather covered heated bays fitted with Toptracer technology, the same ball tracking system used on televised PGA Tour Events. Game On Golf Center is the only Westchester Toptracer range.
Game On also offers a variety of instruction options through an experienced group of both PGA Golf Pros and certified instructors leading weekly clinics, private and semi-private lessons and leagues for all ages and skill levels. In addition, Game On Golf Center is open year round and hosts seasonally appropriate corporate functions, private parties and fundraising events.
The pro shop at Game On Golf Center provides expert club repair, re-gripping services and a variety of popular items like pre-packaged balls, gloves and other golf accessories, as well as snacks, drinks and hot beverages.
Temporary abbreviated operating hours are weekdays from 9:00a until dusk and weekends from 8:00a until dusk. Additional amenities include night time lighting, automated ball dispensers, high quality ball mats, short game and grass tee area, and new easy-to-read distance markers.
Game On Golf Center also offers summer youth camps and is proud to be the Westchester home to The First Tee of Metropolitan New York. The First Tee is a youth development organization impacting the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf, with a focus on serving minority and underprivileged youth.
Tarrytown resident Kevin Kaye is the former owner of On Track Sports Center. He is active in youth sports in Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow.