Local golf courses witnessed a wonderful season after the Alberta government raised several COVID-19 restrictions this summer, prompting the sport to become one of the few activities people could enjoy outside, socially distanced.
Kevin Easthope, general manager at Sandpiper golf course in Sturgeon County, explained although there were some challenges with new COVID-19 guidelines at the start, they were very minor.
“We were challenged with spacing of tee times a little bit more than we had in the past because of COVID and just the rules, but overall, golf has gone very well,” said Easthope.
Easthope said though it was difficult to tell, there were obviously some new golfers on the course. Avid golfers were also happy to be playing again this summer.
“Even the people that play normally just played that much more,” said Easthope.
While the economy has faced its fair share of drawbacks due to COVID-19, outdoor sports like golf have seen an increase in popularity. The National Golf Course Owners Association of Canada (NGCOA) released data in early September highlighting that, in the month of July, Alberta saw a 21.7-per-cent increase in rounds played in comparison to 2019.
Dallas Cantera, the general manager at the Cardiff Golf & Country Club in Morinville, confirmed the 2020 has been a great season for golf all around.
“I guess the golf industry itself has probably seen a record year as far as rounds played,” said Cantera. “Obviously the golf season kind of looked a little bit different as far as what we can and can’t do due to COVID regulations, but for the most part, our course was extremely busy – probably the busiest I've seen in numerous years here.”
St. Albert resident and golfer Bill Willette told the Gazette he has played near 60 rounds of golf since courses got the go-ahead in early May. He explains, on the Sandpiper golf course field, that he’s still been able to have lots of fun playing this season.
“We keep our distance and we’re able to do that naturally in golf,” said Willette. “This year’s of course set up pretty nicely – they’ve got lots of extra golf carts so you don’t have to share a cart anymore, so we can keep a distance and can still play the game we love.”
As cold weather begins to creep in, the closure of golf courses will be bittersweet, not only for an industry that’s seen record numbers this year, but also for the players who flocked to courses in order to savour a taste of normalcy during what was an otherwise strange, quarantined summer.
“Overall, the golf course was extremely busy, and everyone felt comfortable here – and, I mean, it’s the closest thing people can do that was kind of back to normal,” said Cantera.
Golf courses in surrounding St. Albert areas are looking to wrap up this season near the end of October, weather permitting.