Emerging from a long winter and a COVID-19 cloud of uncertainty, northern B.C. golfers are getting back into the swing of things.
The course opened for the season today at Prince George Golf and Curling Club and despite the cool and cloudy weather tee times are filling up rapidly for the rest of the weekend.
But it’s certainly not business as usual. The city’s oldest golf club is operating under the guidelines put in place by the provincial health officer and that means golfers have to be careful to maintain social distancing protocols designed to keep the spread of the virus in check.
“There’s certainly a lot of interest in golf, that’s for sure,” said PGGCC general manager Don McDermid. “Golf is one of those unique situations where people have the opportunity for social distancing and it’s not that big of a concern on the actual golf course. People are very careful, I see them playing and they’re far apart, and we have a marshall checking. We’ll just err on the side of caution, we’re being very careful.”
The COVID-19 guidelines in place at PGGCC are based on what other golf clubs around the province have been following for several weeks and are posted on the club’s website.
Tee times are being spread out over longer intervals (10 minutes between each group) and are being accepted only by phone and payment is encouraged by credit card to limit interactions with golfers and pro shop staff. The restaurant and clubhouse are closed and only limited concession service is available.
The putting green and driving range are closed. Rental clubs are not available and golf cart use is restricted to one golfer per cart. Flag sticks are not to be touched and cup fillers are in place to keep the ball from falling to the bottom of the holes. Rakes for sand traps and ball washers have been removed. Golfers are not to show up at the course any earlier than 15 minutes before arranged tee times and are not allowed to linger after finishing their round.
Anybody experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or who has traveled within 14 days is not allowed to come to the golf course.
Around the city, Pine Valley Golf Course was the first course to open, as it usually is, and golfers have been playing there since Wednesday.
Aspen Grove, near the airport, still requires another two weeks for the course to dry out and is expected to open May 5 or 6.
Aberdeen Glen gets more snow than courses in the bowl area of the city and has set a May 8 opening date but the driving range opened today and was doing a brisk business, with golfers maintaining one open stall of separation on the range.
“The provincial government has obviously given us the go-ahead to resume play, which is something much needed in Prince George, it provides a lot of mental health for people who have been cooped up for the last little while,” said Ian Wrynn, director of golf operations.
“We have such a big property here it really comes down to enforcing our social distance in and around the clubhouse and driving range and once we can get golfers out into the golf course it makes it a lot easier. It was a long winter and people are looking for that way of getting outside and doing something constructive.”
Aberdeen has yet to use its sweepers on the still-drying fairways and will need a couple more weeks to clear away the final remnants of winter. The early-March snowfalls will push back opening date about two weeks later than normal.
The Links of Maggie-May Golf Course northeast of the city is still waiting for some snow to melt and is also dealing with the closure of Shelley Road in both directions due to flooding on the stretch between Refuse Road and Eagleview Road. Course co-owner Margaret McConaghy said the course is not prepared to hire the additional staff required to enforce COVID-19 regulations and some of those restrictions will have to be lifted before it can open for its 22nd season.
“You have to have somebody monitoring and you need quite a few extra staff,” McConaghy said. “Because of the weather and the road situation and because of the flu and the restrictions, it’s best to stay calm and not invite anybody new to the area.”