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Golfers anxious to get out and swing the clubs are going to find some new rules, at least in the early part of the upcoming season.
Sean Joyce, director of golf at the Mill River Golf Course and former executive director of the P.E.I. Golf Association, said all courses from one end of the province to the other are preparing for a co-ordinated approach.
“When we receive permission to do so; when it is safe to do so ... we are working toward a certain set of safety standards that we’re all going to try and implement when the time is right,’’ Joyce said.
“One advantage we have here is that it’s not hard to rally the troops.’’
Joyce said none of the courses in the province will open until Dr. Heather Morrison, the chief public health officer, gives the green light. And, when the go is given, the rules will be different to comply with physical distancing and other health guidelines around the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain).
For example, tee times will have to be reserved online or by phone to avoid causing any traffic in the pro shops. Courses will also encourage online payment.
“We’re also removing basically anything that you can touch on a golf course for the first while. That would include ball washers; we want to remove rakes in the bunkers. We’re going to have to give a little bit as golfers. We have to understand we’re going to have to give a little bit in order to open.’’
Discussions between courses continue, but other rules being discussed include limiting electric carts to one person per group, staggering tee times so there is a minimum 15-minute interval between one group and the next and not allowing golfers to hang around the clubhouse before or after their rounds.
Joyce said putting is another issue they’re talking about. While situations may differ from one operation to another, courses want to avoid having golfers handle the pin when they go to putt or having a golfer reach into the hole to retrieve a ball. Courses are looking at everything from raised cups, setting up a lever system in which the ball can be retrieved using a golf club or simply drawing a three-foot-diameter circle around an area of the green and once the ball is inside the designated area the golfer just picks up the ball. The latter is sort of the so-called mulligan option.
Some of the temporary measures golf courses are talking about implementing to comply with COVID-19 health guidelines include:
- Ball washers will be removed
- Bunker rakes will be removed
- One person per electric cart, per group
- Fifteen-minute intervals teeing off first hole
- Booking tee times online or by phone, payment online
Jeff Affleck, the general manager of the Belvedere Golf Course in Charlottetown, agrees with Joyce, adding that his course is in the best shape it’s been in in about 20 years and will be ready to open when Morrison gives the word.
“The whole objective is to keep the staff and golfers safe,’’ Affleck said.
Connor Lea, general manager of the Avondale Golf Course, said they’re fielding a lot of calls and answering a lot of emails.
“I think many people are eager to get out golfing,’’ Lea said.
“I believe if certain precautions and rules are put in place, we can play golf safely. When we get that go-ahead, saying we are allowed to open, we will be ready.’’
Morrison told The Guardian that golf "is a good example of outdoor activities'' that can be looked at for possibly being able to proceed with the proper safety measures implemented.
However, she does not have a specific time for giving the green light for the golf season to begin. Morrison anticipates working with the golf industry to assess a plan to maintain physical distancing and minimizing potential health issues related to COVID-19.
A risk assessment would be done on the plan to open up courses for golfing.