Canterbury golf clubs are coming under tremendous pressure from members and the golfing public to open their courses next Tuesday when Alert Level 3 kicks in. Club management have been inudated with calls and enquiries as to if and when they will open and people trying to get a tee time.
However what most of the golfing community are not aware of, are the restrictions or "guidelines" that come with opening. Some of these are:
- A COVID-19 safety plan must be in place, including risk controls for any staff that may be on site (see note below).
- All players must be registered to enable contract tracing if required.
- Golf courses must be able to control access to the facility and advanced tee booking procedures must be in place (online, phone, text etc). This is to ensure there is no opportunity for players to congregate.
- Golfers must arrive ready to play and leave the facility immediately after play.
- Play is only possible for those playing alone or playing with others from within their bubble. Do not arrange to meet anyone else to play.
- At risk players (such as those over 70) may need to take extra measures to protect themselves.
- All clubhouse, pro shop, changing room, toilets and any other facility at the golf course must be closed to players and visitors (only available to be accessed and used by essential staff on site).
- If retail, merchandise or takeaway food and beverages are to be provided, purchase and delivery must be completely contactless and observe 2 metre distancing. Players cannot enter premises.
- Scorecards cannot be physically issued prior to play nor returned after play. No scores will be accepted by the NZG handicapping system at Alert Level 3.
- An appropriate interval between tee times must be observed to ensure distancing between groups is maintained. A 6 minute interval between solo players is recommended. An interval of 10 minutes between groups that have two of more players is recommended.
- Players must maintain a minimum distance of at least two metres between themselves and other players on course who are not in their bubble.
- Shotgun or multiple tee starts should be avoided in order to stop the congregation of players.
- Driving ranges and other practice or warm up facilities must be set up to ensure minimum 2 metre distancing between players. If driving ranges are used, appropriate ball and surface sterilising must take place.
- Equipment cannot be shared. If golf carts are to be used, they can only be used by people inside the same bubble. Golf carts and trundlers must be completely cleaned and sterilised after each use.
- All pins must be removed from practice putting greens.
- All pins / flagsticks are to be removed from the course and we suggest the hole is cut in the centre of the green. The cup should be slightly raised or placed upside down.
- All bunker rakes must be removed from the course.
- All drinking fountains, ball washers, shared sunscreen stations and on course toilets must be closed.
- Any staff who are on site should be provided with any appropriate personal protection equipment to ensure they can remain healthy and safe. No physical interaction between any essential staff and players can occur.
These guidleines place a tremendous burden on the club to provide sufficient staff to ensure these safety measures are being met by the public. At a minimum this would include a starter, staff at the gate to ensure that entry is only given to those who have booked, and staff in the carpark to ensure social distancing and that players do not congregate. Add to this a Manager who must do the pre-required safety plan and set up a contact tracing procedure and associated paperwork, and the option of having the Pro Shop open with contactless sales. A roaming course patrol to ensure social distancing is being adhered too is also likely to be necessary.
While clubs want to do everything to service their members (in particular) and provide golf, realistically this may just not be possible.
The hardest message that clubs have to communicate is that THIS IS NOT NORMAL GOLF. Many golfers will see that the course is open and will assume that they can just rock up and play as normal. There will be many golfers that will know nothing about the restrictions in place and just arrive at the golf course expecting to be able to get on the course and play with their mates. Given the expected demand this will be difficult for clubs to deal with.
At Alert Level 3 this is not normal golf. It really is just a chance to get some exercise in a different environment while hitting a ball with a stick. No toilet facilities available whatsoever may be "a bridge to far" for many golfers. On course "de-watering", particularly by male patrons is not a good look and a health hazard. Many clubs will go to 9 hole golf to help with this issue.
Canterbury Golf will be starting an information page on their website that will provide a "one-stop shop" for the status of your local golf club.
If you local club decides to open, make sure you book ahead and adhere to the guidelines put in place. If they don't, be understanding. Realise that they have considered this decision from every angle and are doing what they think is best for the club, members, and most importantly essential staff involved. Hopefully when we move to Alert Level 2 in a couple of weeks we will be able to move closer to "normal golf" as we know it.