While the season never really got started, there were some worrying times for Central Alberta golf courses last month.
Golf was declared a non-essential service by the province in April and most courses weren’t sure when they would be allowed to open.
That all changed Thursday when the province announced golf could begin as early as May 1, as part of the first phase of Alberta’s relaunch strategy.
“It was really exciting. Just wasn’t really prepared because all of the talk from the government up to this point had been no time soon. Then boom, they drop it on us,” said Rob MacPherson, GM of River Bend Golf and Recreation Area.
“We’re scrambling, the good news is we’ve been out as a staff preparing the golf course to get it somewhat presentable so we are ready when we get the word.”
MacPherson said they’re still awaiting the official stamp of approval from Alberta Health Services, but expected that Friday and then plans for the course to tentatively be open on May 6. He said their driving range, a popular spot in Red Deer, will open on May 4.
“We have to get it right the first time because this is a busy place and it’s not going to be a free-for-all. People (can’t) just come down and use the driving range or putting green like they’re used to,” he said.
“It’s a whole new normal and we’ve got to adhere to the guidelines because if we don’t, we can’t afford to be shut down again. No golf course can afford that.”
Lacombe Golf and Country Club plans to open on May 4 and will be accepting tee times as of May 2 at 9 a.m and Innisfail Golf Club is set to open on May 8.
Wolf Creek Golf Resort in Ponoka is typically one of the earliest courses to open in the area, but this year had snow on the ground in early April. They’ve been steadily getting things ready to go and the course is quickly coming around.
Ryan Vold, Director of Golf at Work Creek said as soon as they get the go-ahead from the province on specific instructions about what needs to happen in order to book tee-times, they’ll be ready to do so.
“We’re scrambling right now, seeing if we can get ourselves open as quick as possible. Came a little faster than we expected. It is some good news, that’s for sure,” said Vold.
“We could have probably been open last week in a normal situation. On a soft opening. It’s starting to come together. It’s still early.”
Alberta’s golf industry has been pushing the province to allow courses to reopen with a petition that had more than 50,000 signatures. With that pressure came Thursday’s announcement that golf would be part of the first phase of reopening.
No clubhouses or pro shops will be allowed to open and golfers will have to book tee times over the phone or online.
Bunker rakes, ball washers and other potential touch points will be removed, players will be instructed not to remove the flagstick and golf carts will be single rider, unless both players are from the same household. Carts are also supposed to be sanitized after each use. Tee times will also be shifted further apart to ensure proper social distancing and golfers are encouraged to arrive no earlier than 15 minutes before their tee time.
“The government has thrown us a bone here and see what we do with it. For customers, hopefully, we can drill into them to take the guidelines and live by them and maybe try and take it one step further and we’ll be open all summer,” added MacPherson.
“It’s going to be an education… people have cabin fever. They want to get out and they want something to do. We will be busy, but we’re going to have to be a controlled busy.”