Golf courses will have new COVID-19 protocols to follow next week.
Starting May 10, tee times will be limited to members of the same household or if they live alone, two close contacts for the next three weeks.
The new policy lumps golf in with all other outdoor activities.
In a statement Thursday, the National Allied Golf Associations (NAGA) Alberta said they were informed by the province that golf was originally on the list of industries that would be ordered to close with the new restrictions.
“With the recent announcements based on surging case numbers, we are fortunate to have been provided with an opportunity to remain open for the enjoyment by Albertans however this needs to be done responsibly,” said NAGA president Erica Beck in a statement.
“We were informed that golf was on the list of industries to be closed, however, the industry’s commitment to being responsible and ensuring protocols were put into place to maintain the safety and well-being of golfers were the key deciding factors in the industry being permitted to remain open.
“We strongly urge all golf courses to continue to remain vigilant as the safety of staff and guests remains our utmost priority.”
At an unrelated press conference Friday, Premier Jason Kenney said he would have the public health team look at the changes and see if there was some way to allow groups of four to golf, if appropriately socially distanced.
“Outdoor recreation is actually something that we encourage. We are trying to of course limit social contact and interaction between people. Those are the goals that lead to that policy,” Kenney said.
He suggested that Alberta Golf come up with a proposal where golfers can stay socially distanced during a round.
“The greatest risk when it comes to golf would be folks assembling for a post-game adult refreshment and socializing indoors. That is not permissible now,” he said.
In an email to members, River Bend Golf and Recreation Area said the change will cause a “major inconvenience.” MacPherson said they even had to consider if it was worthwhile to stay open while the changes are in place.
“This is going to cause us and you some major inconvenience as available times are going to be in even shorter supply if the course is full of singles and twosomes,” River Bend General manager Rob MacPherson said in an email.
“To offer more available times we will be teeing off front and back nines all day as two separate golf courses and your game will be done after nine holes.”
All existing tee times for next week between Monday and Wednesday at River Bend have been wiped out and starting Saturday night at 6 p.m., golfers can book for May 10 through May 16.
They are also asking golfers to self-limit tee times over the next three weeks to get as many people out as possible.
“We are a City of Red Deer facility and we are not going to bend the protocols of Alberta Health Services,” MacPherson said.
“We get everyone’s frustration but we still get to golf.”
Mike Kenney, GM at the Red Deer Golf and Country Club said they’ll be following the new guidelines, although it’s difficult to understand why golf courses are limited to four people in a group when regular outdoor gatherings have a limit of five people.
“The biggest frustration that we’re all having is there’s never any statistics,” he said.
“If 50 per cent of all cases come from golf courses, OK, we need to do something. As far as I know, there’s zero cases coming from golf courses, so why is golf being affected? It’s hard to understand.”