New COVID-19 rules greet central Alberta golfers

The tee sheet may not be as busy as it once was, but in a way, that might be a blessing in disguise.

Wednesday marked the opening of two local courses, as River Bend Golf and Recreation Area, along with Red Deer Golf and Country Club, saw golfers hit the links for the first time this spring.

The start of the season was delayed by provincial regulations surrounding COVID-19.

Courses have had to adopt plenty of new rules, from longer space between tee times, one player to a cart unless they’re from the same household, no benches, no ball washers or touchpoints, and arriving no earlier than 15 minutes before their scheduled tee time.

With all the protocols, golfers still flocked to the tee boxes.

“It was very busy. Our tee times were 12 minutes apart, versus (typically) eight or nine minutes. Not as many people as we would normally get out, but with social distancing the priority, that’s just fine,” said Rob MacPherson, GM of River Bend Golf and Recreation Area.

“Everybody seems to be well-versed in the protocols. As well as when they get here, they get a whole lineup of what’s expected.”

MacPherson said that’s just what people need to expect for the next little while, and if they don’t adapt, golf likely won’t be around very long this summer.

“If we screw up, or any golf operators in the province start taking liberties… it would be devastating for any or all of us, if one or all of us got shut down due to not playing to the rules,” he said.

At Red Deer Golf and Country Club, Mike Kenney, in his first season as GM, said they filled 99.2 per cent of the tee times Wednesday and noted how in tune members were to the rules before arriving.

“It went really well. Members are all pretty aware of what the rules are… everybody was very respectful from what I could see. I was out for most of the day. Zero issues. It was really quite good,” Kenney said.

MacPherson added the driving range at River Bend, which opened Monday, has been a bit of a challenge.

They’ve gone from 50 spots, down to 15. They’ve had to establish a booking protocol as well, with no walkups for the range. While that’s left a few people unsatisfied, it’s better than the alternative, said MacPherson.

“It’s definitely a challenge… it’s 15 at a time and they have to book a spot,” he said.

“It’s causing a problem for a few people, but hey, you’re going to take one for the team. We’re not bending our rules to suit a few people.”

Other courses in the area also opened this week, with Lacombe Golf and Country Club and Balmoral Golf Course letting players out on Monday, while Wolf Creek Golf Resort in Ponoka had golfers out last Saturday.

Meadowlands Golf Club in Sylvan Lake also opened on Wednesday, while Innisfail Golf Club opens Friday.

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