At golf courses throughout Central Oregon, phones are ringing, carts are getting wiped down, and golfers are eschewing the traditional handshake after the 18th hole.
Mid-March is always a transition time for area courses as the snow melts, the seasons change and many facilities start to open. But now they must also deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
While many courses remain closed due to snow, most in the region are moving forward with their operations while maintaining guidelines for cleaning and social distancing.
“Right now golf is actually one of the perfect sports, just because it already is a safe distance from others, and there’s sunshine and open air,” said Alex Candland, assistant manager at River’s Edge Golf Course in Bend. “Everything helps with preventing catching the virus. We’re wiping down our carts so we can facilitate healthy standard practices.”
The course, which is open year-round weather permitting, was setting up to reopen soon since being closed after the most recent snowfall.
“We still have snow on our course so we can’t play just yet,” Candland said. “We’re waiting for the snow to melt. But we’re open for business as normal through this virus. We’ve already had a handful of people out on the driving range and putting and chipping areas. So I’m assuming as soon as this snow melts we’ll be golden.”
Candland added that River’s Edge has closed its cafe per the state mandate but it will still offer grab-and-go snacks and drinks for golfers. The course will continue to offer carts to players and Candland said it is thoroughly cleaning the carts.
This winter, which for the most part was unseasonably mild, was a busy one at River’s Edge. Candland said she hopes that trend continues as employees put the golfers at ease and encourage them to stay a safe distance from each other.
“Other than that we want everyone to feel free to enjoy the game of golf still,” she said.
Crooked River Ranch head professional Pat Huffer said Wednesday “the phone’s ringing like crazy” as the course prepared to reopen on Thursday after the recent snow melted. (Crooked River Ranch is also open year-round, weather permitting.)
“People are wanting to come out and play,” Huffer said. “So we’re looking pretty good for the weekend.”
But he would not deny that dealing with the coronavirus pandemic has been a challenge. Huffer said he and other employees have spent a significant amount of time researching the recommended guidelines in how to proceed with course operations safely.
Golfers at Crooked River Ranch will sign a liability waiver before playing, Huffer said, as the course does everything possible to keep facilities clean and safe. There will be no shotgun starts, and the course will allow for single riders in carts, as long as it has enough carts to do so.
“We have cautions and protocols in place, but people are sure welcome to come out and play,” Huffer said. “I think initially it’s going to be a little bit slow. The travelers are probably not coming to the area, since the restaurants and bars are shut down. Hopefully we’ll pick up as we go along. We’ve had some groups cancel.”
Huffer echoed Candland’s belief that golf is a good option during the pandemic, offering the opportunity to get outside and maintain social distancing.
“It seems to be a lot safer than going to the grocery store,” Huffer said.
Some notes on a few other Central Oregon golf courses (not an all-inclusive list):
- At Eagle Crest Resort in Redmond, the Ridge and Challenge golf courses reopened on Thursday after the recent snowfall, according to David Patterson, Eagle Crest second assistant golf professional. The Resort course is scheduled to open April 4. “We’re doing daily and nightly sanitizing of the carts,” Patterson said.
- Meadow Lakes Golf Course in Prineville remains open for play. “Golf is a sport that can be played under state guidelines for social distancing, therefore Meadow Lakes remains open at this time,” noted the Meadow Lakes website. “Our staff is frequently sanitizing touch points in the clubhouse, golf carts and on the golf course and we are providing hand sanitizer at the golf shop counter for both employees and customers. We encourage golfers to leave the flagstick in the hole, sanitize their hands as much as possible, and refrain from touching their face during the round. Leagues and tournaments have been postponed until further notice.”
- Juniper Golf Course in Redmond is open for play, according to James Billings, head professional at the course. “As of right now, we are hoping to have the golf course open and compliant with all the social-distancing policies required by the state,” Billings said. “But that is a very fluid situation.”
- At Brasada Ranch in Powell Butte, the Brasada Canyons course remains open, according to brasada.com. Walking is encouraged but carts are available and encouraged for single-use only.
- At Bend Golf Club, the clubhouse closed Wednesday through at least April 1, according to Emily Anderson, head professional at the club. The golf course plans to open once the snow melts, but with several precautionary operational changes, including outside check-in, rakes removed from bunkers and no club-owned carts, among other changes.
- Sunriver Resort has closed through May 15, and its four golf courses will remain closed through then as well, according to the resort’s website, although the courses — which include The Woodlands, Meadows, Crosswater and Caldera Links — typically do not open until sometime in May anyway due to snow.