The Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Course is busy these days, but with walkers, not golfers.
The course was in good shape and set to open March 25, with owner-operator John Wiens expecting a great start to the season.
He was ready for it, after two years of disappointing spring weather, but this year, “the way the spring was unfolding, we were excited to get going and to have the club house open.”
Of course that hasn’t happened, but members have been “overwhelmingly supportive,” Wiens says.
Fortunately, the club “has put some money aside for a rainy summer, never expecting it would be a virus summer” it would be needed for, he says.
The club is also taking advantage of a couple of federal subsidy programs, and is able to have management employees back at work, including course superintendent Mike Magwood.
“We’re allowed to do maintenance on the golf course and keep it healthy,” says Wiens. “The course looks great.”
Although they’ve occasionally had to deal with people on the course hitting balls, which isn’t permitted, “there have been a tremendous number of walkers and dog-walkers on the course. We don’t mind having the community out there walking,” he says. “I could have put No Trespassing signs on the course, but walking is important, and walking from home, and the walkers are being very respectful.”
Some members regularly walk the nine holes, to get in shape for when the course opens, he says, and he and staff are also preparing for that day.
“We’re waiting patiently, and we’re talking about how we can open up, with physical distancing,” he says. “We’re going over the protocol, and we’re all for it.”
When the Province moves toward opening up non-essential businesses, golf courses are expected to be among the first to be allowed to open.
Cleaning would be regular and important, although rakes and ball-washers wouldn’t be available, says Wiens. Couples who live together would be the only golfers allowed to share a cart, and tee times would be 20 minutes apart instead of 10, with all golfers required to respect physical distancing.
He doesn’t expect to open the club house at first, he says, but once the course is open, they’re considering offering take-out.
“As soon as we’re allowed to open, with protocols in place, we’re ready to go.”
Harry Huizer, club member and avid golfer, plans to be ready to go as well. He’s itching to get out on the course, and in the meantime, he’s out in his back yard every day, with five or six golf clubs, practising his swing, and chipping balls.
“I’ll be so ready when golfing starts, I’ll be way ahead,” he says optimistically. “I feel like my game is going to be pretty good.”
Swinging a club, he says, helps the body loosen up, and as he swings, “I can visualize how great I can be. I’m working on things I’ve learned over the years, and hopefully I’m improving.”
But then golfers tend to be an optimistic bunch, he says.
“When the season begins, I always have great hope. But then golf is a game full of hope.”