The Lacombe Golf and Country Club recently got the go-ahead from Alberta public health officials to tee off their 2020 season.
The opening comes after weeks of uncertainty for the industry due to the COVID-19 crisis, but Weston Gillett, head golf professional at the Lacombe Golf and Country Club, said the announcement from Jason Kenney during his relaunch press conference was expected after they head from the National Allied Golf Association.
“We weren’t expecting to get the go-ahead for that Saturday, so we were pleasantly surprised. We were thinking it would be more along the lines of May 15 like Saskatchewan,” he said.
Gillett said the club already had procedures in place due to studying other jurisdictions like BC, who chose not to close their golf courses. The only issue to open on May 4 was getting staff i time.
“We thought we had two weeks to do that and we only had two days. It was a big surprise and a good surprise, but it was very hectic with the short amount of time,” he said.
The club was slow their opening day due to rain but tee times are all filled for the rest of the week. The club has chosen to extend the intervals between tee times from eight minutes to 12 minutes, which Gillett said improved the experience for the golfer.
“People have been happy because it speeds up pace of play and it makes it seem like you are secluded on the golf course rather than having people pushing,” he said.
As far as protections on the course go, the club has removed anything you can touch on the course including ball washers, benches, sanding bottles and courtesy carts for farther way tee boxes
“Our flagsticks have to be left in the hole and what we did is with the plastic cup in the hole — we flipped it upside-down which allows the ball in the hole only about an inch and half,” he said.
Gillett said the industry as a whole has responded to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and said golfers appear to be happy to get out of the house and onto the course. The only challenge now for the course is making up for the loss of tee times and the fact the clubhouse and proshop need to remain closed until at least May 14.
“It will affect it quite a bit. We sell quite a bit of those consumables like balls, tees and gloves, but this is the way we have to get through things until May 14 if all goes well. That is when we will hit phase one which will allow people into the buildings,” he said.