If people want to play golf these days, most golf courses in Weber, Davis and Box Elder counties are still open even as the COVID-19 pandemic forces local health departments to issue stay-at-home orders to its residents.
But if people do golf, they’ll find it’s a vastly different experience.
Hubbard Golf Course, located on Hill Air Force Base, is closed until further notice. Sun Hills in Layton is set to reopen Friday after being closed for about a week, according to head pro Mike Bicker.
State and local health departments have mandated that golf courses enforce the concept of social distancing — having people stay 6 feet apart from each other — as a requirement to stay open.
Open courses have many of the same restrictions and protocols in place, including but not limited to:
• No rakes in bunkers, no ball washers on the course and no equipment rentals.
• Setting up holes so golfers can get their ball out of the hole without touching the flagstick.
• Only letting one person ride in each golf cart unless people from the same household or family are playing together.
• Sanitizing golf carts before and after each use, along with sanitizing any surface that can be touched.
• Closing the pro shop and conducting business through a window outside, or strictly limiting the number of guests in the pro shop.
• Encouraging golfers to pre-book tee times and pre-pay online or over the phone to limit in-person interaction.
• Spacing out tee times further apart; for example, going from eight-minute intervals to 12-minute intervals.
• Closing the driving range and practice putting green areas, or strictly limiting the number of people using them.
• Only doing takeout and curbside food orders from the snack bar.
• Canceled and/or postponed leagues, tournaments, association play and events that could cause people to congregate.
• Standardized green fees across the board.
As Skyway Golf Course’s (Tremonton) head professional Devin Kidman put it, “Basically anything that can be touched is eliminated.”
The flagstick is the touch point where golf courses have become creative.
Many courses, including Eagle Lake Golf Course in Roy, have placed cut-up pool noodles in the hole so golf balls can be picked up without having to touch the flag.
Schneiter’s Bluff in West Point has installed something it calls a “touchless flagpole,” which has a metal bar that golfers can stick their putters under, pull up and voilà, the ball pops out.
Some courses and clubs have specific protocols and restrictions in place to go along with the blanket protocols.
Valley View Golf Course and Davis Park Golf Course in Davis County, which both closed their doors for almost a week in late March, are only taking tee times online and not over the phone.
Eden’s Wolf Creek Resort is keeping all its doors propped open to limit the number of times people have to touch door handles.
Roy’s Eagle Lake normally leaves its driving range open into the night, but is now only keeping it open during daylight hours.
Eagle Lake head pro Eric Bumstead said the course has seen pretty good business lately despite state and county advisories to stay at home as much as possible.
“We’re up a lot, it’s kind of funny. Swan Lakes closed last fall and a lot of their customers have come out here,” he said.
The driving range at El Monte Golf Course in Ogden is open, but the driving range at Wolf Creek Resort is closed.
El Monte and Mount Ogden, the two courses operated by Ogden City, still have practice greens open and are being as proactive as possible about sanitizing surfaces.
“We’re trying to make people feel as safe as they can,” head pro Todd Brenkman said.
The Weber-Morgan Health Department issued an updated health order Thursday which doesn’t appear to specifically affect golf course operations, at the moment.
With how fast the situation changes around the coronavirus, no one’s sure how long courses will stay open.
Salt Lake City’s golf courses were closed for multiple weeks but reopened Thursday under most of the strict guidelines currently in place in the northern corridor.
“All of our golfers are extremely appreciative that we’re staying open,” Valley View head pro Dustin Volk said.
Volk joked that the course looks like a crime scene with the amount of caution tape that’s been put up to indicate which areas of the course and clubhouse are closed.
The Davis County Health Department issued a stricter stay-at-home order Wednesday that still allows courses to remain open, but essentially closed all driving ranges and practice greens at courses in the county, since those are areas where people can congregate.
DCHD director Brian Hatch told the Standard-Examiner that the measures golf courses have already implemented — spacing out tee times and such — have made for less people on the course, and he said having a small number of people on a golf course is probably no different than people walking around a neighborhood.
“All of them have slightly different iterations of social distancing; however, they’ve been able to come up with a strategy that seems to be amenable to social distancing,” Hatch said.
Courses in Davis County where driving ranges are confirmed as closed are Glen Eagle, Valley View, Davis Park, Schneiter’s Bluff, Crane Field, Sun Hills and Eaglewood (North Salt Lake).
Country clubs, by virtue of being open to members only, already have less total people to account for, but they’re still implementing strict guidelines.
Ogden Golf & Country Club assistant professional Nyomy Obcemea said members normally show up and play without a tee time or play however much they feel like.
The club is implementing strict tee times, as well as not putting tees, scorecards, pencils or sand bottles in golf carts. It’s also putting sanitizer bottles “everywhere you can possibly think of,” she said.
Obcemea said the club has asked golfers not to show up until 20 minutes before tee time. That number is 15 minutes at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington.
Oakridge only lets golfers use the driving range and practice green if they’re within 15 minutes of their tee time, according to club general manager Mark Jensen.
Normally, Oakridge allows its members to bring guests to the club. Those guests are limited to family members now.
Oakridge is still scheduled to host the Korn Ferry Tour’s Utah Championship this summer from June 22-28 on national television, but Jensen said it’s up in the air right now, considering the number of cancellations and postponements on the PGA Tour.