GOLF: Nevada County golf courses implement social distancing rules as golfers return in bunches | TheUnion.com
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GOLF: Nevada County golf courses implement social distancing rules as golfers return in bunches

Whether it’s a desire to play a sport they enjoy, a need to get in some outdoor exercise or simply having some extra time on their hands, golfers are back on courses across Nevada County as California begins to ease its stay-at-home order.

“It’s been busier than I’ve ever seen here,” said Alta Sierra Country Club Head PGA Golf Professional Brian Glosser. “People are stuck at home and people want to get out. And, people are. They are getting out and enjoying our golf course.”

Alta Sierra Country Club was one of the few courses locally that has remained open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but others which have been closed for more than a month have started to reopen.

The Lake Wildwood Golf Course, which was closed from March 24 to May 1, reopened and was greeted by eager golfers looking to get tee it up.

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“Overall people have been so happy that we’re open,” said Jim Knight, Lake Wildwood’s Head PGA Golf Professional. “We were so busy Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Everybody wanted to come out and play golf.”

Busy local courses didn’t surprise longtime PGA Professional and golf columnist John Renslow.

“There’s a couple of different factors for that,” he said. “One, generally they would normally be working right now, so not only are an X-amount of businesses not in operation and people have more time, but also this is one of the outlets they have that they can do outdoors.”

Golf is among the few sports that can be played with no person-to-person contact and it offers very few opportunities for overlapping tool use, which makes it a viable option for many looking for safe competition and outdoor exercise during the pandemic.

“You have your own ball, your own bag and a golf course is over 120 acres of space,” Renslow said. “On any given hole you can spread out. You might get a little closer together when you come to the end of a hole.”

Course staff at local facilities said they have solutions for that as they have implemented social distancing policies and taken steps to ensure a safe experience for golfers.

SOCIAL DISTANCING ON THE COURSE

“Right when (the COVID-19 pandemic) started, we started talking about what we needed to do as a business to stay open,” said Glosser.

Local establishments like Alta Sierra Country Club and Nevada County Country Club as well as the courses at Lake Wildwood and Lake of the Pines are offering access to just the golf course and driving range, and have left their facility’s pro shops, bars and restaurants closed.

On the course, flag sticks are remaining planted with written warnings asking golfers not to touch or remove. The hole cups have been altered to allow for easier and safer ball retrieval. Golf ball washers and water fountains have been covered and sand trap rakes have also been removed from the equation.

Tee times are being separated more so than before and courses are asking golfers to call ahead and pay with a credit card over the phone if possible. Groups are being limited in size and golfers are being asked to stay six feet away from each other while on the course. More space is being allotted between golfers on the driving range as well.

Several courses have halted golf cart rentals for now, and those renting them have one-person-per-cart mandates, except for family members who share the same household. Glosser said the carts at Alta Sierra are being sanitized before and after each use.

At Lake Wildwood they are not currently renting carts, but that doesn’t seem to be a major issue for its members, according to Knight.

“Were fortunate that about 90% of our members have their own cart and we’re asking them to stay one-per-cart, unless they are a couple living with each other,” he said. “We’re really encouraging walking, and a lot of people are walking which is great.”

The Lake of the Pines Golf Course, which was closed for nearly a month, has also closed its pro shop to walk-ins and stopped cart rentals, but is allowing members to use private carts.

In addition to the previously mentioned social distancing protocols, Lake of the Pines has posted signage all over their course meant to educate golfers on how to “stop-the-spread,” said interim General Manager Sean Bothelio.

LOST REVENUE

Even though courses have been busy of late, those that were closed for an extended period of time are feeling a financial hit.

“Well it hurts, definitely,” said Kelly Runkel, PGA Professional and General Manager at Nevada County Country Club. “But one thing is we do have dues-paying members, so that definitely helped us.”

Runkel said Nevada County Country Club had been closed to the public for more than a month before reopening last week. He noted, some members still played the course during the past month, but there wasn’t any staff at the facility.

Knight estimated the Lake Wildwood course lost about $30,000 in revenue.

“It probably set us back $5,000 in tournament revenue and probably another $25,000 in green fee revenue,” he said. “It was a hit to our budget. The golf course maintenance continued to work the whole time. We did our aerification. They continued to have their crew come out and make sure the fairways and greens looked really good. So, we didn’t have any revenue coming in and still had the expenses going out. But, we knew it was the right thing to do.”

COURSE AVAILABILITY

Each course has taken its own approach when it comes to availability to the public.

Alta Sierra Country Club is open to the public any time during its hours of operation.

“I want everyone to know we run a safe place here and everything we’re doing is for the public to come on out, have fun and play golf,” Glosser said of Alta Sierra’s course. “We are in great shape and we’d love everyone to come out.”

Nevada County Country Club is allowing only members to play in the mornings, and is open to the public after noon.

Courses at Lake Wildwood and Lake of the Pines are open to members only and closed to the public for now.

Course representative said they will be paying close attention to the Nevada County Health Department guidelines as they go forward.

“We’re very happy we’re open and we want to make sure our community feels safe,” said Knight. “I really think golf can be a safe sport in this time if everybody follows the social distancing rules.”

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email wford@theunion.com or call 530-477-4232.


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