Golf Canada CEO Laurence Applebaum is advising players to stay home, but some local golf courses are saying the opposite.
"I think it's really a normal thought to see golf as a great activity with regards to some of the social-distancing guidelines that were given, but I would give further thought to the fact that it's a lot more interactive than you may think at the outset," Applebaum said on the weekend. "Everyone has to do their duty to not come into contact with others."
A lot can change between now and when the snow melts, but despite what Applebaum said, there are Manitoba golf course officials who don't think COVID-19 should put a halt to the golf season.
"For most of us, golf is our passion and is an escape from the stresses of everyday life; stresses that no doubt are at a new level in the wake of fears brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Nothing can make many of us feel more at ease than a round of golf with friends or family," said Breezy Bend Country Club general manager Cory Johnson in the club's newsletter on Saturday.
"Here at Breezy Bend, we feel that with the right precautions and perhaps a few small pre and post-round modifications, golf is just the right ticket to combat the fears of the coronavirus."
Breezy Bend's newsletter included a list of modifications such as leaving flagsticks in the hole, abandoning the customary handshake on the 18th green, suggesting players walk or ride in carts alone, and not exchanging scorecards, tees, balls and ball markers with other players.
Representatives from Southwood and Kingswood said they're currently planning for golfers to hit the links at their courses in the near future.
"Normally we open in April. Usually, we pride ourselves on being the first to open and last to close. Every year, I guess despite even a pandemic, it's dependent on Mother Nature," said Kingswood owner Christie Houston.
"Being on a golf course is just naturally socially isolating. But you just never know how long this is gonna last."
Houston said golf is a great way for families to enjoy an activity together. She was asked what measures the course will take to reduce the risk for her staff and customers.
"Things have changed so quickly, literally day by day. So at that time, whatever the recommendations are, whatever the mandate is, we'll obviously follow whatever we're being instructed to do," said Houston.
"I have a feeling in our pro shop, hand sanitizers, the little mini ones, are gonna be big sellers this year. But other than that, it's probably a little too soon for us to tell exactly what it'll look like. But if everyone complies with what they're doing, hopefully, this crisis will get solved sooner rather than later."
Southwood's chief operating officer Jeff Scott said they'll be taking extra precautions and will implement "dozens and dozens of new protocols" to ensure the health and safety of their members. Some of those precautions are similar to the ones Breezy Bend listed, but Scott also mentioned they've removed drinking water stations, taken out rakes from the bunkers, as well as modified their holes to make them half an inch deep so players don't have to reach down and touch anything other than their ball.
Scott said one thing Manitoba has going for it is the fact that golf season is still a month or so away.
"I'm looking out the window right now and half the golf course is still under snow. So, we'll continue to monitor it, but we also have to make plans if we do open," Scott said.
"Our staff and our members have to be considered. Right now, we'll do our best to adhere to any rules that are implemented or legislations implemented either federally or provincially. But right now, we think we're gonna give our members an opportunity to come out and enjoy a round of golf by practising some of the things we'll implement and also to make sure that our staff is taken care of and we can get them a paycheque and keep them safe as well."
Golf Manitoba executive director Jared Ladobruk said all golf courses will need to observe whatever guidelines the government issues and might not have a say on whether or not golfers will be permitted to play.
"The golf season will get here when it gets here," Ladobruk said. "We want to make sure when it gets here we're going about it in a safe way. That's letting people enjoy the game, but at the same time, no one's being put at an unnecessary risk."
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.
Updated on Monday, March 23, 2020 at 9:55 PM CDT: Adds photos