Drive to stay in business: Golf operators hope to open during COVID-19 pandemic
WINNIPEG -- Manitoba golf courses usually open around the end of April, but the industry could become another casualty of COVID 19, with the pandemic threatening to delay the season.
“Public and resort clubs rely on a lot of cash flow coming in at this time of year, which obviously (is not) happening,” said Harry Brotchie, the president of Lakeland Golf Management, which runs golf courses across Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
With the province ordering all non-essential businesses to close, it’s not clear whether golf clubs will be able to operate during spring and summer.
“They’re deemed a non-essential service. We’re hoping the number of cases will flatten out soon and some of the restrictions will be lifted, but only when the health authorities deem it to be appropriate,” said Brotchie.
Brotchie, who served two terms as president of PGA Canada, says job losses have already begun.
“Unfortunately a lot of (staff members) aren’t being called back. It’s very hard on our industry and every industry right now.”
Jeff Scott, the manager of Southwood Golf and Country club, is hoping the government gives the golf industry the green light.
“With protocols in place, we’ll be able to provide a safe and enjoyable experience for people who have been cooped up over the winter.”
Scott said if Southwood is allowed to operate, the game will look vastly different this season. The club house will be closed, members will be asked to physically distance, cleaning will be increased and there will be a limit of one person per cart.
Scott said golf has a unique advantage, being one of the few sports where players can keep their distance.
“There are plenty of opportunities to stay the minimum six feet apart and still enjoy the outdoors.”
While most provinces have shut down golf courses, several are still operating in British Columbia and there is a petition to keep them open in Alberta.
On Thursday, Premier Brian Pallister said he would like to see golf courses up and running, but said “public safety is our first concern.”
“Whether it’s golf courses or any other business enterprise we’re going to have protocol that is clear and understood. We’re going have to be able to demonstrate the people who use these facilities or services are going to be safe, also the people who work there."