Golf and COVID-19: 'Everything has changed'
By Hunter Cresswell
Golf season started May 20, but the way Gatineau Hills golfers play the game has changed.
On the morning of May 20, Larrimac Golf Club president Peter St.Germain, member Jim Wright, and former president Geoffrey O’Brian pulled into the golf club’s parking lot in separate cars, just minutes before their 9:45 a.m. tee time — their first round of golf at Larrimac so far this season, which was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The trio arrived so soon before their tee off because the club, and many others in this area, have new regulations to follow in order to operate safely during the ongoing pandemic. They didn’t shake hands, and when this reporter asked them to pose for a photo on the first tee, they held their drivers in outstretched arms toward one another to make sure they were about two metres apart.
All this was done under the gaze of a mask-clad clubhouse manager Phillip Gray, who made sure that the first day ran smoothly — that people were following the rules and people weren’t gathering in the parking lot too long before or after their round of golf.
“We’re taking it fairly cautious here,” Gray said during an earlier phone interview. “Because golf is one of the few ball sports that are allowed, there has been a lot of interest in golf.”
He said the first week was booked heavily and Larrimac wasn’t the only Gatineau Hills course expecting crowds on opening day.
“We’re busy,” Golf Mont Cascades general manager Kevin Osborne said.
While each golf course has their own set of rules in place, which have been customized to individual operations, a lot of the same changes apply at each different course. This can include no club rentals, no walk-ons, no arriving more than 15 minutes ahead of tee time, increased time between groups playing, no play throughs, no driving ranges, no rakes in sand traps, closed clubhouses, no ball washers, no touching the flags in the holes, only people who live together are allowed to be in a golf cart that doesn’t have a piece of plexiglass down the centre between the driver and passenger, and more.
“What they can do,” Osborne said, “is play golf.”
At his course, Osborne said the plastic shields in golf carts would be installed by May 22.
“These protocols will be strictly, strictly enforced,” he added.
“Everything has changed,” Kingsway Golf Club executive chef Jean-Luc Decœur said.
Some courses, such as Kingsway, have a hands-free method for picking balls out of the holes.
“There’s a little mechanism, a device, you lift with your putter and you don’t have to touch anything,” Decœur said.
The Low Down reached out to other local golf courses to check in with them; some didn’t respond by the publication deadline, but Golf Dunnderosa co-owner Pierre Wistaff did, explaining that they’re only a mini-golf course now.
“The entire course has been redone,” he said.
Along with the renovation, health and safety measures have been put in place, including tape at six foot intervals in line leading up to the plexiglass window where people get disinfected balls and putters to play with.
“It’ll be pretty easy to monitor,” he said, about making sure that customers are maintaining two-metres of physical distance, since employees can see most of the course from the front desk.