For a number of Sault residents, the opening of golf season is one of the most anticipated signs of spring.
This year, tee times are on hold due to COVID-19.
Golf is a business and like many others in the leisure and recreation sector, it’s deemed non-essential by the government.
Golf’s reach goes beyond satisfying the passion of dedicated duffers.
There’s a significant seasonal, economic impact which includes grounds crews, on-course servers, pro shops and restaurants, not to mention the money raised by numerous charity events held throughout the year.
The National Allied Golf Association, says the industry employs 300,000 Canadians.
While golfers will have to wait, Jeff Hamilton, head professional at Sault Ste. Marie Golf Club, said it was fortunate the industry was able to convince the government that course maintenance is essential to the business.
He said a skeleton crew of about three will be cutting the greens, fairways and rough.
There may be some spraying and watering will be done as needed, but no new major projects will be undertaken during the COVID-19 shutdown. Those few workers on the course will follow safety protocols.
If courses are not maintained, they would be ruined, especially the greens. It wouldn’t take long for courses to turn into cow pastures.
In a recent TSN article, The United States Golf Association is quoted as saying that greens must be mowed a minimum of every three days and tees and fairways once a week.
T.J. Boissoneau, general manager of Silver Creek Golf Course, said his course was looking at a May long weekend opening. Last season they opened the first weekend in May.
Some have suggested that under the right circumstances golf is the type of outdoor pastime that could fit social distancing concerns.
“You can walk the course, no cart so no touching the steering wheel,” said Boissoneau. Walking also allows you to keep a good distance from your partner. Boissoneau attended a golf show in January and they displayed golf hole cups where you didn’t have to touch the flag.
“Golf is the perfect game,” said Hamilton, but added that it would be up to the government and health experts to decide what’s best and when it’s safe to tee it up.
Another issue golf managers may have to deal with are people jumping on the course and sneaking in a round.
Recently, about 25 golfers in London Ontario tried to flout the rules at the Thames Valley Golf Course. Police were called and the golfers were sent away with a warning. It could have cost them $750 each.
Those who love the game may find it hard to be patient.
But, for his part, Hamilton says that as soon as the government gives clearance, his course will be ready and in good shape.