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A Safe Way To Play

Featured Photo from A Safe Way To Play

Golf is one of the only sports that is relatively unaffected by the coronavirus crisis, so the City of Oviedo’s purchase of the Twin Rivers Golf Club is paying more dividends than ever

The coronavirus pandemic shut down most of the sports world for months. Even now, our favorite sports – played in the bubble – look nothing like they did before.

But one shining exception can be found in Oviedo, and it has turned out to be one of the city’s best investments: the Twin Rivers Golf Club. The City of Oviedo saved the club by purchasing its land and operations in 2017, and now more than ever, local residents have been able to enjoy this recreational resource when so many others are out of bounds.

Like all businesses, Twin Rivers has made adjustments because of the coronavirus. You won’t find communal water coolers on the course anymore, and credit card handling in the clubhouse is being done with much more care. But by its very nature, golf is a game made for the age of social distancing.

“In general, I think the pandemic has been a positive for golf,” says Nick Dunleavy, business development manager for Twin Rivers, which is a semi-private club, meaning memberships are available but it is also open to the public. “The numbers are good locally as well as nationally.”

While other sports have taken steps to resume, they are hardly back to normal – no crowds, no cheering, and no cheesy organ music – but a day on the links pretty much maintains its pre-virus aura.

“Perhaps the pandemic has helped players discover golf again and will hopefully introduce new ones to the game, as well,” Nick says.

To further protect players, the club has been paying special attention to common areas, frequently disinfecting surfaces such as doors and countertops. At the height of the pandemic, the club was limiting players to one per golf cart, though that rule has since been relaxed. Otherwise, Twin Rivers is one place where its members and visitors can feel like it’s old times again.
“Golf can provide a welcome break from being cooped up in our homes,” Nick says.

The resurgence of golf couldn’t have come at a better time. The game had been in decline nationwide, and when the City of Oviedo stepped up and bought Twin Rivers for $5.5 million in January of 2017, it was on the brink of closure.

The purchase would prove beneficial for both parties, as well as for homeowners in the area. The previous owner held development rights on part of the property, Nick explains, and when golf business was at its lowest, the owner had other plans for the course. The homeowners who’d invested in houses along the beautiful fairways and greens were terrified that their vistas were about to be replaced by more housing.

At the same time, the city had a vested interest in keeping the course’s land untouched. The lakes and rivers that run through the course serve as vital water storage areas and prevent nearby flooding. Land surrounding the golf course is shielded from development, too, due to its proximity to the environmentally sensitive Econlockhatchee and Little Econ Rivers, which give the club its name.

“I believe the City and the City Council had enough long-term foresight to see that a beautiful green space that holds so much wildlife and provides high-quality leisure activity would be a big asset for the residents of Oviedo,” Nick says.

There’s one other benefit to a city-owned golf course, according to Nick. If run properly, it’s the only type of city park that can be financially self-sustaining.

Since its investment, the city has rebuilt the club’s sand bunkers and made numerous improvements to the course’s irrigation system and maintenance amenities.

These improvements have been noticed by players. A recent online review says it all: “New ownership by the City of Oviedo has breathed new life into an exceptionally well-thought-out course.”

And now, when so many of our favorite games are hard to play, the people of Oviedo can get their money’s worth out of an important natural and recreational resource.

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