Several Garfield County golf courses are making the call to proceed with their planned season openings, but with precautions in place to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Golf courses were not specifically listed among “non-essential” businesses that were required to close under the most recent public health orders from the state of Colorado.
And, given the allowance for people to recreate outdoors as long as they practice social-distancing protocols, golf courses that have already opened for the season have proven popular destinations.
“It was kind of a gray area, is how I would describe it,” acknowledged Zac Sutherland, operations section chief for the Garfield County COVID-19 command staff.
Initially, when Gov. Jared Polis issued the state’s stay-at-home order on March 25, an AP report indicated golf courses, along with outdoor basketball courts and tennis courts, would fall under the mandatory closures.
But the order itself didn’t specifically mention those facilities, leaving it up to local jurisdictions to make that determination.
Some municipalities have since closed playgrounds, along with public basketball courts, tennis courts and other outdoor sports facilities. Others, including the city of Denver, have closed golf courses.
Since most golf courses are private entities, operators have been working with local public health officials to enact safety protocols if they decide to remain open.
“What we were left to do is come up with a way to say golf courses can open, but they need to maintain those safe distance guidelines and take other precautions (to protect public health),” Sutherland said. “Golf courses, just the way they are laid out, lends itself to being able to operate safely.”
A guiding document for all golf courses to follow is expected out this week, he said.
In the meantime, Rifle Creek Golf Course has led the way among area courses in announcing that it would stay open. The decision came after taking a couple of days to evaluate the situation and put some of those measures in place, according to a statement posted on the golf course’s website.
“We have decided to stay open and will be taking the utmost precautions within our operations to provide the safest environment possible for people who still wish to play golf,” according to the statement. “We encourage our customers to do their part to keep everyone safe by following the mandated social distancing requirements.”
Among the precautions:
- The pro shop and dining room will be closed
- Congregating on the deck is not allowed
- Walking access only, no golf carts or pull carts
- Restrooms in the clubhouse are available, and are routinely cleaned and sanitized
- On-course restrooms and water drinking stations are closed
- Flagsticks must be left in the cup (cups are raised to avoid contact)
- All bunker rakes have been removed
- Driving range remains closed.
The Glenwood Springs Golf Club is tailoring its guidelines after Rifle, in hopes of opening on Wednesday, General Manager Jerry Butler said on Monday.
The course last week put out a call to its patrons to help provide bleach and other cleaning materials to make sure they can sterilize the clubhouse premises. Much of what Rifle is doing will also be the standard mode of operation at Glenwood, with a few modifications that were still being worked out on Monday.
“Hopefully, all will be good and we can resume normal operations soon,” Butler said in an email.
River Valley Ranch in Carbondale has closed after being open for limited play last week, and is asking people to stay off the course until further notice.
“While some golf courses have remained open, we are temporarily closing as we believe it is our civic duty to do so during this time,” RVR operators announced in a Facebook message over the weekend. “Please help us by not entering course property. This includes the driving range, cart paths and fairways.”
Ironbridge Golf Course south of Glenwood Springs plans to open for member play only on Wednesday, and is currently planning to open for public play by April 11, when the governor’s stay-at-home order is currently scheduled to end.
“We also have been tracking the best practices for golf courses, and will be employing those,” Ironbridge Assistant General Manager Cal Kendrick said on Monday.
The pro shop are closed, and tee time check will be done over the phone or through a window, he said.
“We are carrying out the social distancing requirements, including a single person to a cart, no touching flag sticks and no raking of bunkers,” Kendrick said.
As many courses are doing, the cups are pulled up so the ball just hits the edge instead of dropping into the hole.
Hand sanitizing and washing stations with soap and paper towel dispensers are also set up, he said.
A beverage and snack cart will be operating on the course, but will also be following protocols, Kendrick said.
Elsewhere, Battlement Mesa Golf Club remains closed until April 11 and the private Aspen Glen Club allows members-only play. Lakota Canyon Golf Club in New Castle did not have information posted on its website, and could not be reached for comment.