Local golf courses ready to open Saturday

St. Clair Township golf course

Randy Hull’s phone hasn’t stopped ringing since Thursday.

The owner of Black Creek Golf Course has been working furiously as he gets ready to open his Oil Springs course to the public. And it looks like golfers are ready, too.

“The phone has been ringing off the wall,” he says adding since the province announced people can hit the links again a day ago, people are now booking tee times into Thursday next week.

At Kingswell Glen – the new name for Heritage Heights in Petrolia – owners Jenna and Joe Gorzeman are also preparing to welcome golfers back to the historic club, as is St. Clair Parkway. Only members will be allowed on the links in Mooretown for the first two weeks.

For local golf course owners, getting ready in 2020 is more than just cutting the grass and putting out the flags. The province, which announced the opening of golf courses Thursday, sent out a list of new regulations to allow play to begin with a minimal risk of COVID-19.

Golfers will be given longer tee times – between 10 and 15 minutes depending on the club. Jenna Gorzeman says that give everyone lots of space on the golf course.

Foursomes will be allowed, but only one person will be in the carts – some clubs will allow 2 bags in the cart with one person driving and the other walking. Hull says foursomes who can show they all live in the same house can share a cart.

And there will be plenty of cleaning – each course The Independent talked to said the carts would be sanitized between each use.

The clubhouses won’t be open to sit down and have a drink after a round – some may be open for washroom use. Other local courses may offer takeout food. Gorzeman says they will have a beer cart on the course this weekend with a limited selection of grab and go food.

St. Clair – which is run by the township – also has additional rules for traffic flow and asks golfers to leave the pin in the hole to avoid unwanted contact.

Gorzeman says they want to maximize the opportunity they have and say the reopening is a celebration after eight weeks of lock down. But she adds in an industry where profit margins are thin, the new rules will mean even less revenue.

“Th truth be told this course is one that hasn’t had a very positive financial track record,” she says adding they were trying to figure out “how are we going to do this in the best of circumstances.”

Gorzemen says the tight restrictions are likely to ease and that may help. And she says if golf courses across the country start having large financial problems, their may be some help from the federal government.

For now, though, there is excitement as they get ready to host the first round Saturday.

Officials at the St. Clair Parkway Golf Course are hopeful cooped up golfers will follow the rules. “The last thing we want to see happen is to have to close the course after we have been given the green light to open,” the clubs management wrote in a Facebook post.