Area golf courses find ways to deal with virus
It’s been nearly two months since golf courses were allowed to re-open across Pennsylvania after a temporary shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On May 1, golfers were allowed back on the local links, and from the outset they were faced with a multitude of precautionary restrictions and social-distancing recommendations.
In addition to limiting the amount of people that could gather in groups, some of the more noticeable on-course changes included leaving flagsticks in at all times, removing bunker rakes and limiting carts to one person only.
A few weeks ago, when Blair County moved to the green phase of COVID-19 restrictions, many local courses were able to relax their adherence to many of the original, golf-related guidelines.
A few clubs, however, still have them in place.
“At our last board meeting, we decided to continue with the original recommendations, just to be on the safe side,” Sinking Valley head pro Troy Monahan said. “We have a lot of older golfers and wanted to stick with the early guidelines for now. We’ll be taking another look at everything in a couple of weeks.”
Park Hills Golf Club is another course that is extending the original, “no touch” guidelines for the time being. The restrictions don’t seem to be keeping golfers away from the course, though.
“Our rounds played are up by 2,200 over the same time last year – even considering we lost a whole month’s worth of play,” Park Hills pro Chad Krawczyk said. “We’ve increased our membership list this year to nearly 400, and golfers seem excited for the chance to get out and play since we’ve reopened.”
As local clubs have gotten back to some sense of normalcy, tournament schedules have been only been moderately affected.
Unfortunately, two of the largest events in the area have been canceled — the Central Counties Best-Ball tournament (scheduled for the Clearfield-Curwensville CC in May) and the Central Counties Individual Championship (at Park Hills in early June).
On a brighter note, the organization’s boys and girls championship, senior event and pro-am are still set to take place later this summer.
Only a month or two ago, the status of many area two-ball events was still in question. However, over the past couple of weeks the schedule has become clear.
Down River Golf Club had early plans to re-schedule its event to August, but the relaxing of many golf-related restrictions allowed the course to regroup and switch back to their traditional weekend that ended on Father’s Day.
The Mount Union American Legion Country Club wasn’t as fortunate. Its two-ball event, typically held during the last weekend in June, has been rescheduled for August 8-9.
Beginning in July, the schedule will return to normal with Sinking Valley’s Classic set for July 11-12, followed by Park Hills (July 17-19), Iron Masters (July 25-26) and Summit Country Club (August 1-2).
One minor change concerns Sinking Valley’s tournament, which will be conducted over two days (instead of three), another response to the recent COVID-19 concerns.
Though many Pennsylvania golfers have experienced the relaxation of several, early no-touch guidelines, there is still plenty of work being done to keep players safe.
“Our crew does a lot work behind the scenes to sanitize everything our guests will touch,” Summit head pro Randy Repko said. “From flagsticks, to rakes, to golf carts. Everything is cleaned and sanitized in a regular basis.”
Repko was also happy to report that Summit’s membership count and play by non-members was up since golf reopened in May.
“I think people are happy to get outside and enjoy themselves,” Repko said.
It’s a sentiment echoed at Scotch Valley Country Club.
“We lost just one or two outings early on, and a few others rescheduled for later in the year,” Scotch Valley’s director of golf Steve Gearhart said. “Overall, play has definitely picked up since we’ve re-opened, and you see smiles on a lot of people around here.”