November 27th, 2020

Time to tee off (safely)

By RYAN MCCRACKEN on May 2, 2020.

NEWS PHOTO RYAN MCCRACKEN - Medicine Hat Golf and Country Club is one of four local golf courses opening this weekend under the provincial government's relaunch plan. MHGCC plans to tee off Sunday at 9 a.m.

Golfers can finally get out on the local links, with four courses in Medicine Hat opening this weekend under the provincial government’s relaunch plan.

Although it comes with a number of strict guidelines, Medicine Hat Golf and Country Club general manger Cam Jacques says there will be very few changes to the golf itself when they open to members and public on Sunday at 9 a.m.

“The key thing is we’re just trying to eliminate as many touch points as possible, that’s our mandate,” said Jacques. “Since we’re not going to be raking the bunkers – there’s no rakes there because it’s a touch point – if your ball rolls into the bunker and it’s in a big hole or a foot print because it hasn’t been properly raked by the person before, we’re letting people use a preferred lie. So you can pick up your ball, put it in a nice lie, hit your golf ball out of there and then just use your feet to smooth it. Otherwise, the golf except for that will be regular golf. There will be regular tees, regular greens, the golf course is in really good condition.”

Rakes won’t be the only thing missing from courses. In an effort to cut down on contact points, garbage cans, ball washers, and benches will be removed or out of use, while tee times will be spaced out further, carts will be restricted to one per household and flags cannot be touched.

“The flag stays in the whole time,” said Jacques. “The ball goes into the hole and there’s a little hook about six inches up from the bottom of the flag. You just use your putter to pull it up and the bottom of the cup just rises up and your ball just comes out of the cup. Voila.” 

Connaught Golf Club will also open up on Sunday, while Desert Blume and Paradise Valley are moving forward with Saturday launches.

“The plan is definitely to open,” said Desert Blume general manager Trevor Ellerman, adding the club will only be open to members. “We have a list of recommended ideas from the Alberta Golf Association, so we’re going to follow that to start with. It starts with tee times – the intervals will be more spread out … at least a 15-minute interval, which then puts us at about 12 people per hour who can play.”

Cottonwood Coulee will wait until Monday. General manager Mac Baker says they’re holding off to ensure all provincial guidelines are met.

“We have some guidelines from our own association that we’re planning on following, but the government said (Thursday) in a tweet that part of their guidelines would be available Friday afternoon,” said Baker, adding tee times are already filling up. “We’ve had a lot of people calling and booking tee times. We’re open to the public. For the first week, we’re allowing our members to book three days in advance and the public can book one day in advance.”

Redcliff’s Riverview Golf Club has decided on a Wednesday start, noting in a Facebook post Thursday night that they had expected a mid-May date to coincide with what Saskatchewan had announced.

As for driving ranges, Cottonwood Coulee’s will remain closed, while Desert Blume hopes to have its range open for warm-up and MHGCC will operate its range at half capacity. 

“Only every second stall will be open,” said Jacques. “We have 10 stalls regularly but they’re only about six feet apart, so we’ll just have five stalls open. That way they’ll be 12 feet apart.”

Jacques added staff will be out supervising to ensure proper social distancing guidelines are met. Golfers also must remain in their vehicles until at least 15 minutes prior to their tee time, then they can finally get out and enjoy some socializing under the sun. 

“I think golfers are just so excited,” said Jacques. “I’m sure I’ve had 55 calls since (Thursday) at 5 p.m., since the announcement. People are just so excited to be able to go outside, play golf, see some of their friends and just get outside and go for a walk in the park.”

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