Last year local golf courses remained closed under provincial lockdown measures until May 18.
A warmer and dryer start to this spring is allowing courses a chance to make up for some of that lost time.
In Coldwater, Bonaire Golf has opened during the first week of April for 23 out of the past 54 years. This year they officially opened this past Saturday.
Bonaire Golf owner Randy Fielder says golfers and staff members alike are relieved to be back on the fairways despite the province-wide 28-day shutdown.
“Thirty of our employees have pay cheques; this has made a big difference to the people who are working here,” he said.
“We have a good bunch of golfers who have been locked in the house for months now, so people are happy to get out.”
Since opening over the weekend, Fielder says the course has been busy.
“Every spring the weather is different, every year brings various weather, and this year it’s been good so far, so it is busy,” he said.
“People are thankful that we could have an early spring opening, and they are enjoying the nice weather and our nice and dry course.”
Local golf courses will have to operate again this year under various COVID-19 restrictions. A new restriction for the 2021 season will mean people from separate households must wear a mask when they are in a golf cart together, which Fielder says is very helpful considering last year people from separate households were mandated to ride in separate carts.
This year, Bonaire has added a ball lifter so there is no contact when people take their ball out of the hole.
“Golf is a fun way to be outside, it’s an easy social distance sport, the place is cleaned and sanitized, and we are ready to welcome people to be here,” Fielder said.
Couchiching Golf & Country Club has begun working on getting their nine-hole midtown golf course prepared to open; their earliest possible start date would be April 17.
“We don't like to open until we’ve cut it at least twice. We need a bit of night-time heat,” said Edward Novosky, President of Couchiching Golf & Country Club.
Being on track for an earlier than usual opening day is exciting to Novosky and his staff. Typically, the course isn’t open until the first or second week of May.
“It’s always good to be open earlier. In our case we don’t like to open unless we have the conditions we want, so it’s still contingent on the weather, but once we get some warmth and some growth we can open,” he said.
Once the course officially opens, Novosky is anticipating a busy start to the season.
“Judging by the number of calls and emails we are getting, everybody is anxious to get out onto the course,” he said.
“We had a lot of new golfers who really enjoyed it last year, and we’ve already had a lot of green fee-ers who have now purchased memberships. The way it’s started, I anticipate it’s going to be every bit as good as last year.”
One difficulty and challenge the course will face this year, aside from operating under similar protocols and restrictions as last year, will be the uncertainty around their onsite restaurant.
“Bogeys is a very vibrant restaurant and if we are not able to open that. It’s going to hurt,” Novosky said.
“Our business is 50 percent golf and 50 percent restaurant, so without having that open it’s going to be hard on the revenue," he explained. "We are hopeful that once we get past the 28-day shutdown period that we will be able to at least open the patios.”
At Hawk Ridge Golf & Country Club staff are waiting for some warmer weather to assist with drying the course.
“It’s still a little wet underfoot (so) a set opening date is not there yet,” said Hawk Ridge Golf & Country Club managing director David White.
“We will see what this week brings us and then hopefully we can get our driving range open before we can open our courses.”
Usually, Hawk Ridge opens up during the first week of May, and while White can’t pinpoint a specific date for an opening, he anticipates it will be during the latter part of April.
“Our courses have wintered very well, and we are excited to get going,” White said.
White anticipates local golfers will be anxious to return to the links once they are officially open.
“I think people are looking for activity and golf is one important component. While talking to my fellow golf course operators south of here, business is booming, which is a good sign,” he said.
Like most other local courses, Hawk Ridge will be operating again this spring under the same protocols as they used last year with a few minor adjustments.
“We are going to open the same way we did last year; the protocols won’t change other than people of separate households must wear a mask,” White said.
“The safety of our guests and staff always comes first.”