There’s a parking lot full of cars at The Oaks course. Golf pro Gary Miller is parked behind the register in the pro shop at The Oaks. It’s not Masters week yet, but it’s coming sooner than Winter for Game of Thrones.
By the time you read this – hopefully on Sunday when it comes out – Masters week will officially be a day away. Practice rounds begin Monday, April 6 and that’s the beginning of the busiest week of the year at any golf course on or near I-20 – a straight shot to Augusta.
This will be Miller’s first year dealing with Masters week at The Oaks, but it’s something he’s experienced before while working at Reynolds Plantation which is closer to Augusta than The Oaks is.
“It kicks off the golf season for us,” David Schultz, The Oaks owner, said. “People have been playing, but when they start showing those Masters commercials on TV. It kicks ‘em into high gear. With our proximity to I-20 we are a stopping point for people that spend the day in Augusta and they drive back and spend the night here (in Covington) because hotels are at a premium in Augusta this time of year.”
This is a time where people from all over the world come to Georgia to take a trip to Augusta and see their favorite golfers at one of the best courses in the nation. Schultz says he started receiving calls from people attempting to reserve their tee times for this upcoming week in November.
“A lot of these people stay in hotels in Covington and Conyers. Our hotels during that time period are normally at a 100 percent occupancy,” Schultz said. “They’ll stay here and they’ll drive over.”
“When they walk on those grounds,” Miller said. “You see this golf course and summer time it’s really nice and then you get out there you walk out and there’s not a weed to be found or anything along those lines.”
Miller says the first-timers are going to love it at the Masters and he added that TV doesn’t do the course justice. This happens year-after-year, people are always coming to Georgia the first full week of April for the Masters and Miller says the first timers always have stories to tell because the course is so captivating.
Like many other courses off I-20, The Oaks serves as a buffer course/stopping point for visitors, especially those that end up staying in Covington and/or Conyers.
During Masters week business booms all over Georgia. Golf courses, hotels, restaurants and gas stations within about a two-hour proximity to Augusta will make a significant amount more money during Masters week than they would a normal week.
“On any given week if you were to call me on Monday, we’d probably have somewhere between 300/400 tee times on the sheet for that week. But this week when we had our staff meeting on Wednesday we already had 400-plus signed up and ready to go. My phone dings every time we get a tee time reservation for that week (Masters week) and it’s been dinging all day,” Schultz said.
Schultz says a normal week at The Oaks is about 300 to 400 rounds per week. The worst they’ve ever had during the Masters is about 500 to 600. However, during the prestigious week, Schultz says they’ve had as many as 1,200 rounds played in a one week span. He added that they also usually do two or three times as much in revenue.
“If we do a good job marketing. If the weather cooperates, it’s a huge impact on the bottom line because this time of year we have a lot to do to the golf course to get ready for play,” Schultz said. “Money seems to be going out faster than it’s coming in.”
The money they’ll make at The Oaks this upcoming week will likely compensate for the money they use to get the course ready to begin golf season. This is Schultz’s 23rd year running packages during Masters week, and The Oaks is just 25 years old.
In the pro shop at the course during Masters Week they keep a map up and ask customers to put a pin in the city they’re coming from and if they’re from overseas the staff at The Oaks will print off that county on a piece of paper, cut it out and stick it on the board. Just last year, Schultz says they had 28 different countries represented as well as 38 states.
Schultz, calls last year a down year and says they had around 763 people play golf. The number of people who come and play depends on the weather and who’s playing in the tournament.
“Obviously, it depends on what the field’s like,” Schultz said. “If Tiger decides not to play this week it’ll be a negative impact on the amount of revenue spent. He’s the one guy that moves the needle. He’s just a special, special individual.”
Schultz says he loves to see everybody come out and wants people to experience The Masters as well as a few rounds at The Oaks course.
“In the state of Georgia, golf is a huge industry. It’s a huge industry nationally. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry nationally, but in the state of Georgia we’ve got a rich golf heritage. With Bobby Jones being from [here]. Some of the best amateurs in the world have come from Georgia,” Schultz said. “It’s a golfer’s paradise.”