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Course operators excited for opening day amid COVID-19

Written by Clark Stork
TS&M Woodlawn will open their 75th season May 15.

The lead-up to this year’s golf season has been full of questions for anyone within the industry, no more than the operators of courses across the globe.

Here in Saskatchewan the weather didn’t cooperate in most areas to allow courses to even open ahead of May long weekend even if the globe wasn’t navigating through a pandemic. However Mother Nature has settled in to her spring routine and the Government of Saskatchewan is allowing the province to golf. TS&M Woodlawn is usually one of the first clubs to open. General Manger Amanda Minchin said their club was preparing as normal not knowing what the standard would be.

“From being a high-energy early start to a sit-and-wait approach waiting for the next step,” she said. “We were planning for each scenario and then we get told we could open on the 15th and now we have a whole other set of scenarios to work through. It’s been unique and a learning curve so far and it will continue to be for the rest of the season.”

This season is a monumental one for the Estevan course. This is their 75th anniversary year. The club was also revamping an already successful junior program and restructuring their league play. The anniversary won’t be celebrated with the customary banquet, leagues need to follow the new guidelines and lessons are trimmed to one-on-one with social distancing. Despite the rule modifications and government mandated safety practices Minchin said there is still positives to be taken from the situation.

“Anytime you are forced to change your business and the way you do this and that we will have learned so much. We will have probably figured out more efficient ways to do things. We pride ourselves in creating a top product while being affordable. Let’s be responsible and be the best we can be,” she said.

Golf courses across Saskatchewan have the onus on them to allow play while being safe during COVID-19. Responsibility falls upon golfers as well. Players must adhere to the following conditions.

  • If you don’t feel well, stay home.
  • Book a tee time as no walk-on players will be permitted.
  • If you have questions before or after you arrive at the course, please ask, for your safety and everyone else.
  • Please read and follow the signs posted at the golf facility.
  • While on the golf course grounds, remember to practice social distancing (Two metres between people).
  • Driving ranges and practice greens can be open provided physical distancing is maintained.
  • Do not touch the flag/flagstick.
  • Washrooms are available at the clubhouse.
  • Limit of one person per power cart unless the occupants reside in the same household.
  • Player may change footwear in the parking lots.
  • Please read the linked document above for the other golf course guidelines.

Minchin said everyone needs to work together and her staff will do what they can to allow golf to be played in a safe manner.

“We’re human so we’re very adapt to habit, but people are being positive,” she explained. “People are just wondering what to do now, what do they do when they come down to the golf course? That’s what we are going to have to do a great job of, helping them through the process.”

Northern Meadows Golf Club Owner Ken Olan always plans to be open for play on Victoria Day weekend. Located near Goodsoil the club was still blowing snow when Premier Scott Moe made the announcement courses could open. Olan also owns a resort with cabins on the course and has the lone restaurant in the community. Mother’s Day is a huge day for the Olan family business, they weren’t able to be open for the event this year. The course also hosts several large tournaments each season. Olan said putting on mass gatherings is lots of work and the pandemic will allow them to look at the numbers of running events.

“Having this and some of the new rules maybe we’re going to come out of this with ideas on how to change things in the golf industry,” Olan said to Golf Saskatchewan the day of the opening news. “Everybody always wants to book a tournament or get a deal; golf tournaments take a lot of extra people to put those 100 through. It’s a lot different than 100 people off the street.”

Restaurants will be able to open with restrictions in Phase 3 of the “Re-Open Saskatchewan” plan. For now, Olan will offer curbside pickup of some food and alcohol. Proshops will be open for retail sales on May 19. Camping is allowed this weekend as part of Phase 1.

Olan echoed the words of Minchin in the responsibility with everyone involved.

“There is only one thing we can do, when we put out there that we’re open it will be for respectful golfers only,” he said. “They are going to have to be respectful not only for our rules but for the rules the government puts out there. No one wants to put anyone in danger, from our side to our visitors. No one wants to talk about any cases in Goodsoil or where they came from.”

“Let’s be cautious on how we proceed ahead with this. Getting it open and getting people out is important,” Olan added.

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