Golf has been a long-enduring game, the modern version having first been played in Scotland sometime in the 15th century and evolving ever since. A great outdoor sport, golf for many people is a relaxing way to spend time in the fresh air and get exercise. When the COVID-19 outbreak hit Canada, many golf courses had to shut down with much of the rest of the economy for a short while, but due to it being an outdoor activity with lots of space, golf courses were quickly given permission to reopen with certain restrictions in place.
In Alberta, the Government of Alberta’s Ministry of Health through the Alberta Health Services department deployed COVID-19 guidance documents for various types of businesses to follow in order to legally and safely reopen during the pandemic. The “Guidance for Golf Courses and Driving Range Operators” included a variety of guidelines to follow, covering regulations from social distancing to sanitation and personal hygiene. With the release of the guidance document, and further updates to it in June 2020, golf courses were able to recover from the closures that happened in March.
Speaking on the safety in general of golf courses and driving ranges in the Edmonton region, Kent Coulter, president of the Edmonton Golf Association (EGA) gives us reassurances on the safety of golf as an outdoor activity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Golf and golf courses in general were given the go ahead to open in spring 2020. They were expected to open and operate under certain safety protocols. As things progressed, some initial restrictions were lifted. This allowed further play and some tournaments to be organized. These had to be local as inter-provincial travel was being discouraged. Alberta golf courses did a great job operating under such restricting safety protocols for the summer of 2020.”
In order to get a good look at how safe things are at golf courses themselves, we spoke with Liz Poburan, from Putting Horse Ranch Inc., located near Spruce Grove Alberta north west of Edmonton, who tells us about how golf courses are a safe outdoor activity to enjoy with family outside of the home.
“Participants on a golf course are able to play safely without being too close to each other and it is inviting for families to have fun together at our family friendly golf courses. With the onset of COVID-19, we endeavored to make sure all areas remained easily accessible and safe for public use, such as limiting numbers out to play together and avoiding the touching of the flags.”
She continues. “People feel good here and also, if not from the same household and it is deemed possible for this under AHS restrictions, it is easy for them to remaining two meters apart from other players and still enjoy the game. Handshakes have been replaced with smiles and waves after games.”
The reopening of the golf course and driving ranges in Alberta needed the cooperation of golf courses and driving ranger operators in order to make it safe for not only patrons, but also the employees at the courses. Poburan reveals the measures that were put in place at Putting Horse Ranch in order to ensure safety.
“We have contactless flags with higher golf hole inserts. Hand sanitizer is on site and safe cleaning is provided in all public areas such as washrooms and patio seating outdoors. Putting Horse Ranch observes and implements restrictions without making patrons uneasy; we use signage and thank everyone for helping us to keep everyone safe by following all AHS guidelines at all our services. We have a golf cart that we rent out for the three holes, but that course is also easy to walk. We use sanitizer between people using it.”
In regard to visitors coming to enjoy the horse side of the ranch, Poburan states, “We wear masks at the horse areas, and it is a requirement if you ride a horse here.”
About the measures, Poburan concludes with, “As with many golf courses, when on the golf course last season, people could easily stay apart. We will continue to adhere to any and all AHS guidelines regarding COVID-19 safety practices and always have to keep everyone safe.”
Golf courses and driving ranges were able to adjust to the measures required due to the COVID-19 pandemic quite successfully. Coulter informs us that golf courses in general coped very well during the 2020 season. “Golf courses as a whole were very busy in 2020. Once they were able to open, they were one of the few activities that Albertans were able to safely participate in. This kept their tee sheet very full and busy. They had to take on extra costs due to additional safety measures, but were able to safely serve Albertans.”
Although intra-province travel has been restricted, or at least has been discouraged, which has put a hold on Canada-wide golf tournaments for the time being, there are many golf course events scheduled for the upcoming year for most courses. At the EGA, it is expected to be a busy time for the foreseeable future.
Coulter confirms, “We expect to have a full slate of events for 2021. This will include tournament and interclub play for women, men and juniors. In fact, being the centennial for our organization we will look to celebrate golf for Edmontonians as best as we safely can. We work closely with the Alberta Golf Association to have tournament protocols that can be followed and are safe for participants and volunteers. This includes distancing, eliminating common touch points, and what we will need to follow for provincial protocols, etc.”
The Putting Horse Ranch offers a selection of all putting courses to give you a place to practice and hone your putting skills, as well as offering horseback riding and camping sites. Poburan invites anybody interested to get a pass and come out for the season once the spring weather comes along.
“We currently have a very interactive website and are promoting the 2021 golf seasons passes for unlimited golf on both of our family friendly courses. Payment is easily done online, and we mail out the member cards following payment online.”
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a lot of plans falling through for many planned activities throughout 2020. Finding alternatives were important to people because being stuck at home for months at a time can cause mental health issues, or just general boredom. So, when golf courses were reopened with new safety measures in place, people jumped on the opportunity for some fresh air and outdoor exercise in a safe environment. This trend has continued and will continue into the new season with golf courses expected to be very busy all year round. So, if you are interested in golf consider contacting your local golf course and booking a tee time for yourself or your family and friends and maybe even signing up for some of the upcoming events. Your mind and body will thank you.