A Legendary Golf Course Finds its Ace in the Hole

The Bethpage Pro Shop steps up to handle growing demand.

Summary — Long Island’s Bethpage State Park Golf Course enjoyed a surge in business when people sought outdoor recreation during pandemic restrictions. Learn how the golf course dealt with the unexpected boom and deployed smart strategies to keep customers and employees happy.

Time to read: 5 minutes

Outdoor activities saw a huge surge in popularity during the 2020 pandemic, meaning businesses like golf courses had to employ new strategies to meet demand.

The benefits of being outdoors have always been appreciated, but the pandemic dialed that up even further. The run on outdoor toys like bikes, skates and boats grew frenzied, while backyard decks and patios expanded to serve as everything from home offices to party venues. Golf is riding its own popularity boom, with equipment sales and rounds of golf breaking records. Rounds were up an estimated 25% this fall and equipment sales were up over 40%!*

On Long Island, the Bethpage State Park Golf Course, long a Mecca among U.S. public courses, has happily welcomed the additional boost. Consistently hosting more than 200,000 rounds per year already, Bethpage has had to step up its operational capacity and efficiency even further to accommodate the surge.

The Challenge of Demand

Naturally, all aspects of the business have felt the pressure of increased demand, from maintaining the courses to operating the driving range and the golf cart rentals. “It’s a blessing to be sure,” says manager Paul O’Donahue. “But it’s also a challenge, with impacts on everything from operations and procedures to inventory and staffing. We’ve had to adjust a fair bit this past year, and it still doesn’t feel completely settled. The State Park is investing in Junior golf programs using the adjacent polo fields, as well, so we expect change will remain a constant.”

Snapshot: Industries that Grew in 2020

Based on thousands of jobs reported December 2019, December 2020

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021

Happy Employees, Happy Customers

Not surprisingly, golfers have come to expect a high level of quality from Bethpage — and Bethpage continues to deliver. Just a short drive from New York City on Long Island, the legendary course is one of the top public courses in the country, hosting events like the PGA Championship (2019), the Ryder Cup (2024), and the U.S. Open (2002 and 2009). The top-draw Black course consistently ranks highly in lists of the 100 greatest public courses in the U.S. And the Green, Yellow, Red and Blue courses offer challenges and charms of their own. It’s an impressive operation that serves a demanding and expanding clientele.

A short drive from NYC, Bethpage experienced a roughly 25% increase in rounds in 2020, and a 40% growth in equipment.

“Our customers expect the kind of experience consistent with the reputation and quality of the rest of the Bethpage State Park Golf Course,” Paul explains. “We have to keep service levels high across the cart rentals, driving range and pro shop. And there are a lot of customers who are either new to the sport or are stepping up their investment in their equipment, so they need good guidance. All of that requires hiring and holding onto more employees who get it, and do it without having costs or management work load explode.”

One personnel requirement that impacts both cost and retention is workers’ compensation insurance. It also can be an area of frustration for managers who have to deal with changing payroll numbers and handling arcane claim, risk management, audit and return-to-work procedures. Handled well, workers’ comp can be relatively hassle-free, a way to mitigate staffing difficulties and costs, and a service that helps businesses retain experienced employees. That’s why Paul O’Donahue was lucky to have made the acquaintance of Paul Ilg, principal at Ilg Agency, who connected Bethpage with EMPLOYERS® for its workers’ comp needs.

An Agent’s View

“I knew the Bethpage Pro Shop operation would be a great fit for EMPLOYERS,” Paul Ilg says. “EMPLOYERS’ policy management portal makes it easy for agents to accurately and quickly quote. EMPLOYERS was able to save the Bethpage shop [nearly 30 percent] versus their previous insurance provider. But it’s the ease of policy management through the EACCESS® portal, from changing endorsements to tracking claims and managing self audits, that makes it an easy decision. With EMPLOYERS, I can handle any changes for them instantly, without waiting a couple of days. And everyone I interact with at EMPLOYERS has been a pleasure to deal with.”

Ahead of the Game

Paul O’Donahue is enthused by how well the entire golf course has handled the increased demand and hopes that it sustains even after the pandemic is behind us. Golf is a healthy and social activity, and the beauty of Bethpage State Park should be shared and enjoyed more broadly. But even if that doesn’t happen, he’s confident they will be able to adjust again. “We have proven that we have the capacity, the staff and the partners to stay ahead of this game.”

Interested in learning more about workers’ compensation insurance? EMPLOYERS has a variety of small business insurance explainer resources to get you started, or get connected with a local agent for more details on how we could help your business. If you’re already a part of the EMPLOYERS family, log in to EACCESS, where current policyholders and agents go for account details, quoting, payments and other helpful information.