By Medicine Hat News on April 1, 2020.
Medicine Hat’s Paradise Valley Golf Course is used to being among the first places in Alberta where you can tee off every spring.
The circumstances are a lot different, but Paradise did indeed open Sunday.
Despite concerns and restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, golfers were welcomed as long as they followed a long list of rules.
“We’re just trying to make people happy and stay in business,” said course co-owner Dawn Postnikoff. “We have to try and do the best we can to keep people safe, keep staff safe.”
From signs reminding patrons to practice social distancing to booking tee times 20 minutes apart, covered holes and a drive-thru style window at the pro shop, Paradise Valley is doing all it can to stay safe while still allowing people to get out and swing the clubs.
The actual list of rules is evolving daily.
“We took recommendations from Golf Canada and Golf Alberta, as well as Alberta Health Services. We basically just studied,” said general manager Kim Bronson, who set up a window Monday to eliminate anyone coming into the pro shop. “We even have a fellow standing outside, just making sure people know what to do.”
Ignatius Philpott was among those on the course on a chilly Monday afternoon, and said he was more afraid the course wouldn’t be open. After all, the Alberta government currently has restrictions in place noting “Albertans are prohibited from attending all public recreation facilities and private entertainment facilitiesâ€¦”
“Actually I was (worried), we talked a little while ago if they were opening or not, if they weren’t what the hell I was going to do this summer,” said Philpott, adding he was more than happy with the precautions the course has in place. “Maybe they’re taking it a little too far but better safe than sorry.”
Paradise Valley had to weigh the need for revenue with potential ramifications during the crisis, among them fines and public perception. A national group including Golf Canada released a statement Thursday asking courses to “take every health and safety precaution,” but stopping short of saying they should be closed.
Many courses in British Columbia have remained open through the crisis. The only other course in Alberta believed to have opened is another par-3, Lethbridge’s Land O Lakes. It opened on Friday with a similar set of rules including a one-month ban for anyone not following them.
Medicine Hat-and-area courses which would usually be planning opening dates have similar stances on the matter. Desert Blume co-owner and general manager Trevor Ellerman said his course is close to ready, but he’d rather not have to make a choice.
“My pure feeling is the government needs to do the right thing and shut everything down, make it so there’s no question, no one’s second-guessing anything… you’re not allowed to open,” he said. “We might as well wait and see but at the end of the day, if we’re allowed to open, it’s probably in our best interests to try and open.”
Redcliff’s Riverview Golf Course has a similar take.
“We do have a contingency plan in place in the event that we do open,” said GM Todd Read. “I think it’s going to be very difficult to manage people and keep them from congregating.”
Over at Connaught, club pro Brian Oliphant knows it’s a tough call, but his course wouldn’t be ready to open for another couple weeks anyhow. Still, he’s making plans for multiple scenarios.
“They shut down businesses every day, so we’re making contingencies for both ways,” said Oliphant.
Neither Cottonwood Coulee nor Medicine Hat Golf and Country Club responded to calls Monday seeking comment. Other managers suggested both of those courses are in a similar wait-and-see mode.
Paradise Valley just hopes its measures go far enough to alleviate concerns by health care professionals and allow them to stay open.