FAQs: Golf Course Re-Openings
We have been getting questions about the opening date today (May 16th) and wanted to share the main FAQs. Please understand that this is guidance only, and if in doubt, each facility should refer back to the government guidelines.
Q: How do I interpret the government guidelines that have been issued?
These guidelines are framed up as “Guidance on Health and Safety for the Golf Course Sector during COVID-19” in the government document. As such, these are guidelines and best practices and while there is room for some interpretation, the underlying principles of practicing social distancing (staying 2 metres away from others), proper hand hygiene, keeping surfaces and objects clean, and preventing contact with potentially infected people are what are critical for all facilities to focus on. The rest of the government document is laid out as Best Practices and options for your protection, and should be followed wherever possible. These government documents are linked here:
· Workplace Safety & Prevention Services: Guidance on Health and Safety for the Golf Course Sector during COVID-19 | released by Ontario Government May 14, 2020.
· COVID-19 Sector-Specific Health and Safety Guidance Documents
· Ontario Government's A Framework for Reopening Our Province
In addition, We Are Golf has also issued a similar set of protocols. While the government document should be considered the default document, the We are Golf Document is supplemental and provides some good guidance as well.
· Ontario’s We Are Golf Best Practices
· Ontario’s We Are Golf – Player Guide
In the end, every facility is slightly different, and the goal for everyone should be to put health and safety first in everything that you do and make choices that ensure your golfers and your staff can operate in a safe environment. Better safe than sorry is probably the way to approach any challenging decisions you face.
Q: What are the recommended Flagstick/Cup rules?
The guidance is to ensure that processes are in place to eliminate the need for players to contact the pin or cup. Given this, the flagstick should stay in place at all times, and additional measures should be put in place to ensure that players do not need to contact the pin or cup.
As reference, the government guidance is as follows: “To eliminate transmission via surfaces such as flag poles and cups, leave the flag in place and elevate the cup at each hole so that the ball does not drop into the hole. Play is concluded when the ball makes contact with the cup. 1”
While this calls out raising the cup, the footnote references the Saskatchewan document which says “Flags must remain in place and measures must be taken to prevent the ball from dropping in the hole, eliminating the need for players to contact the pin or cup. This may include such measures as levelling the cup, elevating the cup or installing a touch-free ball removal mechanism”.
Q: What are the recommended Cart rules?
The government guidance calls out that courses should “Limit golf cart use to one cart per golfer’. This is smart guidance and virtually all clubs that we have spoken with are mandating this.
** NOTE: We have reached out to the Ontario government today for clarification, but as of right now we are unable to confirm if the only exception to this is if 2 golfers from the same household (with photo ID proof) arrive together, they then may ride in the same cart; which is the case in most other provinces.
Q: What are the recommended Tee Time rules?
The government guidance states that you should ‘Stagger tee times to avoid congestion’. This leaves the decision for intervals in the hands of the golf course operator. It is suggested to increase your tee time intervals vs. your normal spacing to ensure the rules of social distancing are easily followed, or to include “starter tee times” throughout the day to relieve pressure on the first tee. The key here is to not allow golfers to congregate on the first tee, or anywhere else on the course. The other recommended guideline here is limit how early a golfer may arrive before their tee time.
Q: Can the Range and Practice Facilities Open?
Yes, they can. On both the range and practice facilities, procedures must be in place to avoid congestion and to ensure that all players and staff can remain at least 2 metres away from one another.
For reference, here is the guidance from Ontario’s We Are Golf Best Practices for putting greens:
“Close putting green or place alignment sticks, or stakes on the putting green as targets, and/or turn the cups upside down and leave in the hole. Remove all flags and institute a “bring your own practice balls policy.” Limit the use of the putting green if open to 4 people maximum, this may need to be reduced depending on size of the area or can be increased as well”
For additional reference, here are the Clublink SOP rules:
PRACTICE FACILITIES (Member Clubs)
Practice facilities (driving range, putting green and short game areas) are open to golfers with booked tee times 20 minutes prior to their tee time.
- Driving range stations will be spread out at least 4 meters apart with distinct separation between stations.
- All non-essential items such as bag stands or den caddies shall be removed.
- Golf balls shall be stacked in pyramids to minimize touch points.
- All range-balls shall be cleaned, with water and soap, after every pick-up prior to making them available for golfers.
Putting Green/Short Game:
- Golfers must use their own golf balls.
- Pins shall be modified with a nail or spike. No holes shall be cut in putting green.
- All bunker rakes shall be removed.
Q: Can club storage be offered?
While there is no specific recommendation from the government around club storage, we believe the best practice here is to NOT allow for club storage at this time. This increases potential touch points dramatically, and should be avoided.
Q: Can club rentals be offered?
While there is no specific recommendation from the government around club rentals, we believe the best practice here is to NOT allow for club rentals at this time. This increases potential touch points dramatically, and should be avoided.
Q: Am I allowed to offer ‘Beverage Cart’ service
Again, while there is no specific recommendation from the government around beverage cart, any sit down food and beverage service is prohibited. If beverage cart service is provided, this service must be provided to avoid unnecessary gathering, and the facility must ensure that the staff member is safe, willing and continuing to adhere to social distancing practices.
As noted above, here is the government document specifically geared to restaurant and food service: Restaurants.