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February 2021

Hammock Beach Golf Resort & Spa


Emphasizing the Great Outdoors, Welcoming Change

By Sally J. Sportsman

Golf always has been considered a healthy activity, a feast for the mind, body and spirit – with fresh air, sunshine and exercise as the secret sauce. Now more than ever, golf is a welcome respite, as evidenced by increased play during the pandemic. Hammock Beach Golf Resort & Spa, in Palm Coast, Florida, is shining a spotlight on the value of golf and other outdoor activities as a key to recovery, both for visitors and for the resort itself.

“We have been extremely busy,” says Brad Hauer, PGA, general manager of Hammock Beach. “Since June we have been meeting our budgets in rounds played because people recognize golf as a safe way to recreate.”

The two golf courses at the resort, a Jack Nicklaus and a Tom Watson design, never shut down during Covid-19, although a portion of the lodging did close temporarily. Local, state and national guidelines are followed as safety protocols on the golf course and throughout the property. In addition to golf, health-and-wellness activities at Hammock Beach include swimming pools, a marina, kids crew, tennis, beach access, a fitness center, a putting course, bicycling and a full-service spa. Resort occupancy throughout the summer months was 90%, with the average length of stay, three to five days, unchanged. Families and buddy golf trips remain the primary guest groups, including occasional visits by Chicks with Sticks, social groups of female golfers. That isn’t to say, however, that the impact from the pandemic wasn’t severe.

“Our resort business took a hard hit last spring, with 90% of business lost,” Hauer says, “but our membership held strong and our resort business started coming back in early June. Lessons are down 20%, but our pros are still teaching, and rounds are strong.

“Overall, I notice that people are happier. They are relieved to be out playing beautiful golf courses.”
Kerry Mitruska, director of sales and marketing at Hammock Beach, notes that the resort has adapted to the restrictions and requirements of the pandemic, as have other hotel and hospitality venues. While there was close to a 50% reduction in business at the resort in 2020 compared to 2019, leisure and group business is picking up noticeably. Social distancing, sanitization and mask practices are in place with corporate and church groups, family reunions and golf business trips at Hammock Beach. Several new initiatives have been implemented, including a virtual learning center for students. This quiet space to study has been well received by resort guests and families, many of whom live relatively nearby.

“We have a robust digital database,” Mitruska says. “People now want to drive instead of fly, so the three-to-four-hour drive market serves us well.

“We are lucky. Our leisure occupancy over the summer and during fall weekends stayed at 90%.”
The resort’s marketing strategies have changed as a result of the pandemic. With a decrease in revenue, every department took a look at expense reduction. Consequently, the marketing budget was reduced by 30% “We found that we can function with the reduced budget,” Mitruska says. “We plan to keep it in place through 2021.”

Another change is that advertising content now focuses more on the generous outdoor spaces at the resort and the multitude of healthy activities available to guests. Overall strategic planning looks different, too.

“We do a lot of virtual business planning now, but soon our team will be back on the road selling the resort at trade shows and with meeting planners.”

Carlton Grant, managing director of Hammock Beach and senior executive on property, observes that many of the resort’s business strategies are evolving as a result of the pandemic.

“The biggest impact in food and beverage operations has been in banquets and catering,” Grant says. “We are starting to see gatherings come back, but weddings now have 20 to 30 people instead of 200, with a more intimate environment and personalized banquet service.”

Buffets have been replaced by plated appetizers and covered dinners. On the service side, the emphasis is on sanitizing, gloves and distancing between staff and customers.

“I think some of these changes might stick,” says Grant.

Food and beverage costs and pricing have risen slightly, according to Grant, due to a pandemic-related crisis in protein streams; those are stabilizing now. For example, diners continue to enjoy locally caught grouper, mahi, snapper and shrimp at the resort’s Atlantic Grill restaurant.

Business executives are telling Grant they expect to resume travel in mid-2021. In the following two years, Grant anticipates that guest numbers and revenue figures will return to normal. The focus on outdoor wellness activities at Hammock Beach will be a contributing factor.

“We are a fortunate property,” Grant says, “as our golf and wellness coverage converge. We have huge outdoor spaces, including almost one mile of coast, and we are not an overly developed property.

“You can play catch with a football on an event lawn, and you can run, jog or do yoga on the beach. We predict that in 2021 we will continue to have a strong family and leisure pattern.”

There are several event lawns on property, ranging in area from 10,000 to 70,000 square feet. These open-air spaces are in use now more than ever for weddings, conferences and staging areas. “The grass lawns are beautiful spaces where guests feel safe and secure,” says Grant. “We are likely to continue this usage trend in the future.”

Golf will be a strong revenue stream in 2021, in conjunction with increased outdoor recreational activities, according to Grant, who has been at Hammock Beach since 2014, when he helped open the property.

“It’s been an incredible journey, and we see a bright future,” he says.


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March 2021 Issue


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