Courses haven’t absorbed a divot or ball mark in five-plus weeks so they’re in pristine condition. Phones are ringing constantly at pro shops, a strong indication golfers are eager to return.
Seven Spokane city and county courses are ramping up preparations for Tuesday’s reopening after being empty since late March under Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-home order in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Inslee announced earlier this week that courses could open with numerous precautions in place for the safety of players and course employees.
“They’re just excited to be able to go play, with these rules or not they just want to go play,” Downriver pro Steve Conner said. “They’re tickled to be able to get out and I bet all the courses are jamming.”
The weather forecast is promising and tee sheets are filling up quickly.
“I’ve had a lot of calls and it’s good to hear peoples’ voices again and it’ll be good see some faces next week,” Indian Canyon pro Doug Phares said.
Indian Canyon has tried to open up twice, but the first attempt was foiled by snow and the second was erased by Inslee’s directive.
“We’re excited to show off the course after our irrigation project last year,” Phares said. “The transformation from then to now is incredible. It’s better than I’ve ever seen it.”
City and county officials collaborated to establish a uniform set of rules.
“Our goal is to make it a better experience and less confusing for golfers,” said Doug Chase, county golf director. “Some of these (rules) might be around for a while, some might be short term, but we’re learning as we go.”
The new protocols – Inslee’s instructions spanned nearly two pages – include twosomes becoming the standard instead of foursomes. Groups of four will be permitted if the players are from the same household.
Family times for foursomes likely will be in the afternoon, after 2:30, to promote pace of play for the majority of groups.
Power carts will be limited to one rider, unless a minor is playing. Chase was seeking clarification if married couples can ride in one cart.
Customers are asked to call courses to make tee times, in part because the online system is designed more for foursomes. It also allows payment over the phone instead of in person and it gives course employees a chance to explain the guidelines and compile contact information on players, the latter required by Inslee. Walk-up play isn’t permitted.
“Actually, we’ve had a little practice (with safety protocols) before we closed in March,” Liberty Lake pro Kit DeAndre said. “We were playing foursomes with social distancing and we had the sneeze guards up and (restaurant) tables piled up in the corner, so this isn’t a huge surprise.
“We want to follow the guidelines but, boy oh boy, we need a little more normalcy sooner than later.”
DeAndre said an extra employee or two might be necessary to satisfy the safety measures, which includes frequent cleaning of range balls, carts and high-touch areas.
“We’re going to have to be nimble with staffing,” he said. “We need some extra people marshaling and in the shop to concentrate on collection of green frees with it being primarily over the phone.”
Courses lost out on revenue during the shutdown and other sources of revenue – leagues and tournaments – are on hold.
“It’s a chunk of business because it’s pretty much something you can count on throughout the year,” Conner said. “We’ve moved our tournaments to the August, September time frames and we’re hoping things will be cleared up before that.”
“We’re not quite into May,” DeAndre said. “If we can just get a little bit of movement on the governor’s guidelines, I think we can salvage the season.”
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