At this time of year, most golfers would normally be pulling their clubs out of storage, cleaning them off and heading to the local driving range in excited anticipation of the opening of the golf season.
|The Camelot Golf Club is hoping to be included among the list of businesses that will be able to reopen sometime in May. STAFF PHOTO
Not so this year. Thanks to the COVID -19 pandemic, driving ranges and golf courses have been closed across Canada after being deemed a non-essential service in nine of the 10 provinces.
The lone exception is in British Columbia where the provincial government has left the decision-making up to the regional health units. What has ensued is the creation of a set of protocols that were developed in consultation with the golf course owners and the Professional Golfers Association of B.C.
The precautions that are being taken include:
- all club houses and restaurants remain closed;
- tee times are booked and paid for online;
- golfers must check in at a kiosk outside the main clubhouse;
- all ball-washers and rakes have been removed from the courses and flag sticks must remain in the hole;
- some courses have prohibited the use of carts so golfers can maintain social distancing and others have placed form inserts in the holes so that the golfers don’t have to try and fish their ball out of the hole after dropping a putt.
Traditional forms of celebration such as high-fiving after making a particularly difficult shot is frowned upon, as is the tradition of shaking hands at the end of the round.
Local golf courses say they plan to implement many of the same protocols if they ever get the chance. The Ontario government has so far been silent on the issue of opening golf courses to the public despite the best lobbying efforts of the Canadian Professional Golfers’ Association and the National Golf Course Owners Association.
Camelot Golf and Country Club CEO Greg Richardson echoes the sentiment of most golf course owners and golfers in general when asked why golf courses should be high on the list of businesses that should be allowed to reopen.
“Golfing is one of the easiest pasttimes during which you can maintain social distancing,” says Richardson. “It’s also a great way to relax and it’s a great way to be physically active.”
TMSI Sports Management president Darin McCorristan says they are ready to open their three Ottawa-area golf courses as soon as the province gives the word.
“Our courses are all in excellent condi-tion and we’re ready to implement all the measures to keep everyone safe,” says McCorristan whose company owns the eQuinelle Golf Course in Kemptville and Amberwood Golf & Country Club in Stittsville. They also own the Vieux Moulins Golf Club in Gatineau.
TMSI and Camelot have both kept on skeleton crews to maintain their courses, but they’ve had to lay off dozens of full-time employees and are holding back on hiring any seasonal workers.
Even if the golf courses are allowed to open, they still stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in tournament revenue and hall rentals. Most of the tournaments that were planned for June have already been canceled, while others planned for July will likely follow suit.
If there is a ray of hope for local golfers, it’s the example being set in B.C. and the recent news that the Sask. provincial government has listed golf courses in the first step of a five-phase plan to reopen the province beginning on May 15.