Shelly Stouffer of Fairwinds hammers the ball off the tee during last August’s ladies amateur tournament at Mount Brenton Golf Course. Golfers will soon be back on the greens and fairways of Mount Brenton Golf Course. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Shelly Stouffer of Fairwinds hammers the ball off the tee during last August’s ladies amateur tournament at Mount Brenton Golf Course. Golfers will soon be back on the greens and fairways of Mount Brenton Golf Course. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Socially distant golf remains an option for Vancouver Islanders

Golf courses opening up again amid COVID-19 safety measures

It’s certainly golf weather out there, and, despite COVID-19-related concerns halting a lot of public recreation, the sport remains an option on Vancouver Island.

While the provincial health officer never issued a directive to close golf courses due to COVID-19, most operators on the Island did anyway after BC Golf chief executive officer Kris Jonasson sent a letter to Dr. Bonnie Henry requesting the closure of all B.C. courses in late March.

Like walking and hiking, golf has so far been allowed to continue because it can be played under existing social distancing protocols. Many course officials have now made some necessary safety changes to feel comfortable about resuming play again. The Mount Brenton Golf Course in Chemainus, which closed on March 24, is one.

Related: Mount Brenton Golf Club closed until further notice.

“We are going to open the golf course effective this Friday (April 17) for members and the following Monday, April 20 to members and guests,” said president Art Kendall.

He added there has been considerable consultation with provincial health care officials and local politicians like North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring before arriving at the decision.

“There seems to be support for the golf industry if they observe safety protocols,” noted Kendall.

Nearby courses in Duncan — Cowichan Golf and Country Club and Duncan Meadows Golf Course — have already opened up within the past few days, After a two-week closure, Pheasant Glen Golf Resort in Qualicum Beach has also re-opened play for members and guests, while Arrowsmith Golf and Country Club has remained open.

Arrowsmith general manager Pat Jiggins said they are taking all the necessary precautions and continue to follow all British Columbia Health directives from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. “We are continually cleaning and everyone on the property obeys physical distancing,” said Jiggins. “We have been in contact with Island Health and are abiding by all regulations.”

In order to strictly maintain the physical distancing protocols, Jiggins said they have put extra space between each tee time. As well, Jiggins said there are no event or group bookings of any type happening right now.

“So, no, there is not a group of 20 seniors booked for this week,” said Jiggins. “Our restaurant and driving range are closed with a maximum of two allowed in the clubhouse at any one time, basically to use the washrooms.”

Strict measures have been imposed “to make sure people don’t pool up in groups,” Kendall indicated.

The feeling is small groups of two to four people should be able to maintain social distance.

“If they come and head out on the course and when they finish they head out and leave, it’s no different than walking on the Trans-Canada Trail or whatever,” Kendall reasoned. “It’s a good way to get out and get some distance and it’s a good activity in your life.”

The practice area and putting green will remain closed. The game will play a bit differently in the interim, with raised cups rather than anyone having to pick up their ball.

“It just hits it,” said Kendall. “Your ball bounces off of it and you pick up your ball. Do not touch the flag stick. It’s permanently in.”

Golf carts are limited to one person, unless it’s a couple from the same household sharing a cart.

Golf has been in a grey area from the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak about whether courses needed to be shut down or not, but Mount Brenton executive members opted to be safe rather than sorry.

“Most of us decided to jump in and take the conservative route until we had the information that led us elsewhere,” Kendall pointed out.

Most are now satisfied there won’t be a problem if everyone abides by the new guidelines for play. If not, courses could be shut down again promptly.

“You’ll be guided by your own behaviours,” warned Kendall.

AMONG THE GUIDELINES FOR SOCIALLY DISTANT GOLF

• No drop-ins, only those booked in advance will be able to play;

• Allowing only one rider on power carts;

• No club rentals;

• Only allowing golfers to arrive at the course 20 minutes before their tee time;

• Turning cups upside down and lifting one inch above ground so that golfers don’t remove flagsticks or reach into the cup to retrieve their ball;

• Removing bunker rakes and ball washing stations around the course;

• Practise physical distancing by staying a minimum of eight feet away from other people at all times;

• Leave the pin in while putting;

• Do not shake hands or high five to celebrate;

• Anyone that does not comply with these protocols will be instructed to leave the property immediately and will not be allowed back until this pandemic has officially passed and government social distancing restrictions lifted.

— with files from Black Press Media

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