Reminders were issued to maintain social distancing amid the COVID-19 crisis, but at Brewster’s Kananaskis Ranch Golf Course, which was the first local course to open last Friday (May 8), its first weekend of enforced government restrictions and regulations was a success, said director of golf Walt McIlhone.
He added a major factor for continued progress will be remaining vocal about the changed social landscape.
“A big part of it is going to be us educating the public on procedures and then ways to keep them safe around here,” McIlhone said.
“We’re excited moving forward and I think that message is working where we’re able to provide a safe place for people to get back outside and feel almost a little bit normal again too.”
Implemented regulations at Alberta golf courses include guests being asked to arrive 15 minutes before tee times, restrictions of one guest per golf cart unless living in the same home, and four stations where marshals or staff remind guests to keep social distancing. The local club will maintain its four-person per group policy.
On course, rakes, ball washers and garbage bins were removed – guests are asked to keep any garbage in the cart, and benches were covered and washrooms were closed. Only the washroom near the clubhouse at Brewster's Kananaskis Ranch is open, for which staff follow strict sanitizing and cleaning schedule of it. When golf carts are returned, staff begin a full sanitization of it.
Along with a two-hour orientation with staff prior to opening to go over provincial restrictions and regulations, McIlhone said staff are wearing gloves and facemasks while working.
Despite adapting to a new way of doing things, McIlhone's optimistic about how things have gone with guests following new rules during its opening day, which had 60 golfers eagerly get out on its fairways at the gateway to the Rockies – in some cases while rain and hail was falling.
“It’s something that’s definitely manageable on our part,” McIlhone said. “It’s going to take a lot of effort from the guests and it’s a change, right? Which is always difficult as it’s the first weekend and the first time getting used to it, but I think it is [manageable].”
Canmore’s Luke Elvy, vice president of media for aboutGOLF and PGA commentator, said while the social side of golf is a lively part of the game’s charm, right now people are so desperate to be outside and recreate that the restrictions won’t hinder its experience.
“Given that there’s very few activities that there is to do right now in this social distancing world we live in … golf just offers that ability to do it,” Elvy said.
“I understood why they didn’t allow golf to be instantly played once we were forced to all shut down, but to me it was absolutely the sport that could handle this because of the way it is. You can literally play a round of golf and not come in contact with another person within six feet quite comfortably.
“To me, golf season is a no-brainer right now and I truly encourage anyone if they’ve never played golf to go and give it a try. This is the best time in my opinion for golf to continue to prove it is an inclusive sport and it is for everyone if they’re willing to give it a go.”
Banff’s Oli McKay played nine holes in Cochrane Tuesday (May 12) and echoed that restrictions or not, it’s great to have normalcy return.
“I think realistically everyone is just so happy to get back out on the links and to have something to do that we’re just respectful of it,” McKay said.
On Friday (May 15), the Canmore Golf and Curling Club and Silvertip golf courses are set to open. tewart Creek Golf Course in Canmore has not announced its opening date. On May 22, Stewart Creek Golf Course in Canmore will open. On May 29, Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course will open its doors and on June 1, Kananaskis Country Golf Course opens.