Airdrie’s local golf courses are once again grappling with new restrictions brought on by the Alberta government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In light of new public health measures announced by Premier Jason Kenney on May 4, golf courses throughout Alberta are still able to operate, but have been limited to offering tee times to singles and members of the same household since May 10. Golfers who live alone are limited to playing with two close contacts from another household.
“The greatest risk, of course, when it comes to golf would be folks assembling for post-game adult refreshment in the clubhouse and socializing indoors,” Kenney said during a recent press conference.
Tyrel Babkirk, the director of golf and head professional at Apple Creek Golf Course, said the club just north of Airdrie is adapting to the new rules, which he acknowledged have resulted in a drop in revenue.
To compensate for the smaller allowable groups, he said Apple Creek has decreased the interval between the club’s tee times from 10 minutes to six minutes, in order to ensure the 18-hole golf course can still allow a similar number of daily participants as before.
“It’s definitely been an adjustment,” he said. “We’ve definitely realized a drop in the daily participants to the tune of 50 players a day. That impacts revenues, but at the end of the day, we’re thankful to be open and that our members and public players have followed the AHS guidelines.”
Another blow to Apple Creek’s source of revenue, according to Babkirk, has been the shutdown of the club’s restaurant – the Orchard Lounge.
“Obviously, when any facet of your facility is shut down, that’s going to directly impact your revenue stream,” he said. “We’re doing the best we can and we’re fortunate to have a snack shack located in the middle of our property – we call it the ‘core’ of the apple.”
Airdrie’s other local course – Woodside Golf Course – is getting used to the new protocols as well. Director of Golf Operations Chris McNicol said Woodside has taken a similar approach to Apple Creek, but has gone a step further by only booking singles and twosomes.
In order to maintain a similar number of daily golfers as before, he said the club is only booking nine-hole rounds, though golfers can still book two nine-hole blocks in the same day, if they choose to do so.
“Realistically, what that does is double up the capacity for us to ensure we can get our members out and every other user group we have,” McNicol said. “It’s worked well and we haven’t had any issues with access.”
McNicol said golfers appreciate the new pace of play the protocols result in, but added the restrictions have meant the “energy” of the golf course has slumped.
“It’s a weird thing,” he said. “[May 17] was a beautiful day and we had 90 per cent capacity on the tee sheet, but the parking lot was half empty and it just felt weird. Nobody was buying from beverage carts – it’s not like if you’re playing by yourself, you’re going to have a couple of beers.”
Other changes include Woodside’s driving range operating by appointment only, according to McNicol, and the cancellation of the club’s junior camps this spring. He added the Woodside restaurant has also closed, further impacting revenues.
“I feel for the restaurants around town that went out and spent a ton of money on patio stuff, only to be shut down,” he said. “The revenue they would have brought in from that would have… taken a long time to pay off as an investment.”
Golf course restrictions will stay in effect until after the May long weekend, according to the government, after which they will be reassessed.