Greenwood has long been a popular pitstop each year for patrons making their way to the Masters golf tournament, a little more than an hour away in Augusta, Georgia.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected that this year.
The 2020 Masters was delayed until November, with no patrons allowed for safety reasons. A limited number of patrons are being welcomed back for this week’s tournament, but the Augusta National Golf Club has not released exact attendance figures.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have anyone booking for that,” said Shanna Lance with Hampton Inn. “Normally, they do book groups with us. We have plenty of rooms this week.”
The economic impact from the Masters on the Greenwood area is about $1 million annually, according to Kelly McWhorter, executive director of Discover Greenwood.
“That’s not just because we’re a stop for lodging, but I think some of the patrons enjoy being out of the traffic in Augusta and stopping here for dinner, to fuel up or whatever they may need,” McWhorter said. “As for 2021, it’s indeed a different year, and I don’t anticipate us to have quite the occupancy we’ve had in the past. But I do think we’re going to see a little bit because they didn’t eliminate all the patrons. They are just being careful about how many they are allowing.”
McWhorter said she hopes Masters patrons who are familiar with Greenwood and have stayed here before will return.
“There will still be the traffic that comes through,” she said. “Maybe they’ll gas up their car or grab dinner. I think Greenwood speaks well to being sort of a good stopping point no matter where they are going, if they are not traveling on the interstate — and many times they are not.”
McWhorter said she thinks some patrons choose to travel this route rather than the interstate because interstates “can get a little crazy.”
“We’re kind of hidden, but I think enough people know about us to say, ‘Hey, yeah, let’s visit Greenwood.’ I feel like we provide a good experience for any visitor,” McWhorter said. “It’s a little more laid back.”
Claire Griffith, general manager of Inn on the Square, said occupancy is doing very well this week and this weekend, but not because of the Masters. Inn on the Square tracks why people are visiting the area.
“We are completely sold out through the weekend; however, it has nothing to do with the Masters,” Griffith said. “Lots of folks are here for Lander athletics. That brings a lot of parents into town, plus there is business travel. We also have a wedding this weekend and lots or repeat visitors. Lots of people are relocating or buying property on the lake.”
Searia Partlow of Fairfield Inn & Suites said the hotel has rooms available for the weekend.
“It’s actually still going strong this week,” Partlow said of occupancy. “It’s a variety of some of our locals, then there are some that came down for the Masters.”