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Case closed in golf debate as Edmontonians flock to courses

作者:admin 2020-06-30

Remember when there was that roaring debate about whether or not people should be allowed to golf during a pandemic?

When anyone who wanted to see courses and driving ranges open to the public was shouted down as an elitist who didn’t care about the health and safety of anyone else?

Well, two months after Albertans were finally allowed to tee it up, we’re seeing the results — people from all walks of life flocking to the fairways for what turns out to be one of the safest and most popular activities available.

“Everybody likes to say they’re busy, but if the sun shines were are literally sold out five to six days in advance,” said Trent Wright, the director of golf at Broadmoor in Sherwood Park. “We’re putting 300 to 350 players a day on the golf course. It’s really hard to get a tee time.”

While some of the same people who were once accusing golfers of having no regard for public health are now crowded around bar tables on Whyte Ave, courses are becoming sanctuaries for people looking for a safe way to socialize and enjoy the outdoors.

“Being a public golf course we’ve always been pretty busy,” said Wright. “But where we used to see some soft spots on the tee sheets, Thursday afternoons used to be quiet because people were getting ready to play on the weekends, or late afternoons and evenings on Friday Saturday and Sunday, those times are filling up now.

“Our last tee sheets used to be closed a little after 7:30 in the evening. We tried opening them up from 8 to 8:30 because of the demand and they’re filling up. It’s crazy.”

Over at Bogey Busters driving range in southwest Edmonton, they can barely keep up with the traffic. On a typical weekday last year you’d see eight or nine people hitting balls, now it’s more than triple that. The stalls are jammed.

“It’s been absolutely nuts,” said co-owner Lorne Gerlitz. “It’s hectic. It’s really, really busy. We’re doing 12 to 15 picks (when the range cart drives out and scoops up the balls) a day. We’re going through 30,000 balls twice a day on some days.”


The traffic has been so overwhelming they’ve had to hire more help.

“Last year was a bad year anyway with the weather and stuff, but this has been absolutely nuts,” said Gerlitz. “I think we’ve made in a month and a half what we did all last year. It’s been excellent.”


In keeping with safety protocols, range mats are spaced apart about eight to 10 feet, balls are washed in a bleach and soap solution, baskets are sprayed after every use and there is a hand sanitizing station outside the front door.

“Alberta Health has been out here a couple of times and we’re good,” said Gerlitz, adding that with so many people in the neighbourhood working from home those days, it’s easy for them to sneak out and hit a bucket. “People want to get out of the house.”

Courses are also noticing a wave of young players, as well. With sporting options limited because of the COVID-19 situation, they’re gravitating toward a safe alternative for their physical and mental well being.

“With soccer and baseball being cancelled, there is a huge spike in junior golf,” said Wright. “A lot of the young athletes, baseball players, soccer players, I see a lot of them getting into golf. They’re not in school, there are no other sports to play and this is one of the few activities that people can still do safely

“We’re seeing lots of families out on the course, and people who’ve had the clubs in the garage for four or five years who find themselves getting out.”

Since players can’t fly to the States for a golf vacation, and might not want to drive or fly to golf destinations in Canada, money that would have been spent on out of town trips is now being funnelled into the local economy.

“People who might have been heading to BC or to the provincial parks are maybe a little reluctant to go because they aren’t comfortable with hotels and restaurants yet,” said Wright. “So they are preferring to stay closer to home. Golf is seeing the spin off of that.”

With so many people reaping the physical and mental benefits, arguments and concerns two months ago about whether courses should even be allowed to open just seems silly now. And for an industry that is too often pummelled by Alberta weather, the surge in customers is a much-needed boost.

“I would debate with people on social media,” said Wright. “There would be this backlash, people would say we shouldn’t open golf courses just so rich guys can go hit the ball around.

“But it’s not about that. Golf employs 35,000 Albertans and it contributes $2 billion into the Alberta economy. And I know a lot of these facilities wouldn’t have made it if we’d lost the season.”

Follow me on twitter.com/rob_tychkowski

rtychkowski@postmedia.com

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