Squamish Valley Golf Club general manager Scott Wengi is aware of the optics associated with opening for action during the COVID-19 crisis.
The club opened on April 17 for members and holders of the Twilight Pass only, and Wengi said the club is striving to operate responsibly to avoid becoming a controversy.
While many courses have opted not to open, golf courses are exempt from the 50-person limit as long as physical distancing of at least two metres and other precautions are met.
Vancouver Coastal Health deputy-medical health officer Mark Lysyshyn confirmed in an April 16 letter that courses are allowed to operate, safely.
“Obviously, golfing is not an essential service,” Wengi said. “We’ve got to be aware of some public perception that may be out there and we don’t want to give them a reason to point out something that we’re doing wrong.
“Our course is bordered by lots of walking trails and biking trails and there’s a lot of public that can see what is going on the course.”
Wengi stressed that with the pro shop and restaurant still closed, the club is losing money by operating, as it is not bringing any new money in from daily green fee participants.
“Until we can get to a more public model, it’s still very costly to be operating,” he said.
In terms of new rules for a new era, Wengi said each group receives a briefing upon arrival to remind golfers of rules, including a required distance of four metres between people at all times, even if those people live in the same household.
Other precautions include discouraging visitors to avoid touching items they didn’t bring themselves unless absolutely necessary.
“There’s no need to touch anything while you’re on the golf course here,” he said.
As well, golfers are not allowed to arrive more than 15 minutes before their tee times, while the gaps between tee times are now 15 minutes, up from eight to nine minutes.
While staff members have always cruised the course to ensure that golfers are following such rules as pace-of-play standards, Wengi said they’ve added distancing requirements to the list of things for staff to check.
“Everyone’s been up to the task and we really haven’t had any issues,” Wengi said, adding that restaurant workers such as the food and beverage manager and the chef are taking on player assistant shifts in the afternoons. “There really hasn’t been any need for those staff members to speak to anyone.”
Anyone violating the rules, however, will have their playing rights revoked. As well, when the next step of opening is underway — allowing members to bring guests — members will be held responsible if a guest fails to comply.
Wengi added that the course is in “great shape” after a month with no play. However, Wengi noted that with no revenue coming in, there were fewer greens crewmembers than usual.
Down at Furry Creek Golf and Country Club, play will resume on Friday, April 24, the club announced on April 21.
“The safety of our guests, our team and our community remain our top priority; this will be evident in the manner we operate,” the club said in its announcement.
The clubhouse and restaurant will remain closed, and tee times will occur in 20-minute intervals.
Players will be required to be at least six feet apart at all times, and will be limited to one person per cart.
As well, as with Squamish, ball washers have been removed, and golfers are asked not to touch the flags.