Coronavirus: 7 ways golf courses are adapting during pandemic

Steve Jurick expected golf courses to be busy across the Miami Valley on Monday from the time the frost lifted in the morning until 5:30 or 6 p.m. in the evening.

While tee times have been spaced wider to allow for social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, golfers are taking advantage of the state’s decision to allow courses to stay open — at least as long as the weather’s good, as it was Monday.

“There are clearly more people playing golf, said Jurick, executive director of the Miami Valley Golf Association, “because it’s one of the few opportunities where you can have some normalcy.”

Most golf courses across the Miami Valley have stayed open in recent weeks while doing their best to comply with Gov. Mike DeWine’s guidelines and keep golfers safe from COVID-19. Meadowbrook at Clayton announced on its website it will reopen May 1, and Jurick said he believes the three Dayton public golf courses — Kittyhawk, Community and Madden — will reopen the same day.

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Courses have adapted to the crisis in a number of ways, and golfers themselves are learning new ways of navigating the courses, too.

“We’re trying to spearhead those folks into doing the right thing once they get there,” Jurick said, ” and that’s always a negotiation, essentially, but I think we’ve got it down.”

Here’s what courses are doing:

1. Cleaning contact points: Disinfecting door frames and door handles as much as possible or leaving doors open so people don't have to touch them is one way of limiting the chance of spreading COVID-19.

“You don’t want to have them have to open a door,” Jurick said, “but if for whatever reason, you don’t have that opportunity, you’re going to constantly have to clean those door frames. All that kind of stuff is part of it. The golf cart has to be cleaned between each individual use.”

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It’s not that carts weren’t cleaned before, Jurick said, but they weren’t cleaned at this level.

“There’s a cleaning agent that’s that’s applied to the golf carts to get them ready for the next use,” he said. “A lot of folks are putting shower caps on the steering wheels to say, ‘Hey, this is sanitized.’”

2. Limiting interactions: Courses are trying to take as many tee times and payments online as possible.

Windy Knoll Golf Course in Springfield, for example, encourages golfers to call to reserve a tee time or use its online booking form. It’s spacing tee times 15 minutes apart.

“Pre-paying your round by credit card is highly encouraged,” the course’s website reads. ” If you can’t prepay, it is important to have the exact fee ready to lesson the exchange of material between staff and golfers. The Proshop will be closed to ALL visitors, so a staff member will greet golfers outside on the porch.”

Cassel Hills in Vandalia asks golfers to not check in until 20 minutes before their tee times to limit gatherings.

3. Walking the course: There are clearly more golfers playing without a cart, Jurick said, and courses are encouraging them to do so. If they do take a cart, only one person per cart is allowed at many courses. Miami Shores Golf Course in Troy is among the courses making an exception for immediate family members.

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Walden Ponds Golf Club in Hamilton allows each cart to go out once per day.

Heatherwoode Golf Club in Springboro is only allowing walkers until further notice, according to a message on its website.

4. Closing putting greens and driving ranges: Numerous courses, including Heatherwoode, Walden Ponds and Reid Park, have closed their driving ranges and practice greens.

5. Closed facilities: Some courses have closed clubhouses, pro shops and even restrooms. At Locust Hills Golf Club in Springfield, the clubhouse is restricted to restroom use only. All buildings are closed at Walden Ponds, and there are three different portable restrooms available on the course.

6. New rules of play: These are three examples, from Reid Park's website, of what courses are asking golfers to do while playing.

• “Maintain prescribed social distance with your playing partners at all times.”

• “Do NOT touch/remove the flagstick. You may putt into the hole. The cups have been inverted to allow your ball to enter the cup. You will need only to reach into the top of the hole to retrieve your ball.”

• “There are no bunker rakes. You may improve your lie in the bunker before you play. When finished hitting your shot, please make an attempt to smooth footprints with your feet as you exit the bunker.”

Cassel Hills has put a PVC pipe in the holes. Golfers putt to the pipe and leave the flagstick in the hole. At Pipestone Golf Course in Miamisburg, golfers putt to a raised cup. The ball bounces off but does not go in the hole.

7. Different hours: Cassel Hills has separate hours for golfers who may be more vulnerable to the COVID-19. It reserves tee times during the first hour of play on weekdays and 2-3 p.m. on weekends for "senior golfers and those golfers with a medical condition that makes them more vulnerable."

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