Business brisk at Okanagan golf course as people look for normalcy amid pandemic
‘You can kind of feel like the world is normal again,’ says club's manager
The Okanagan Golf Club has become an escape for people looking to safely enjoy the outdoors and regain some sense of normalcy as the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down many other recreational facilities.
With a few minor changes to the way things are usually done, the 36-hole golf course has managed to give golfers the same experience while maintaining physical distancing.
"It's pretty easy to maintain a six-foot space from your playing partners when golfing," said general manager Dan Matheson.
He says while the actual golfing is pretty much the same, there are some significant changes to the resort experience for customers.
"In the old days, a lot of resort courses had a bag drop area. You'd drive up, the kids would help you with your golf clubs, take them out of your truck," he explained.
Now, golfers have to carry their clubs over to the bag drop area themselves before being directed to their golf carts.
"[It's] very different than traditional resort style golf courses where service was the absolute goal of every facility and you shouldn't have to touch anything or do anything," said Matheson.
Every night, he says, rental equipment and carts are completely sanitized and left covered in a sanitation fluid that ensures the carts are germ free in the morning.
The extra safety protocols haven't turned customers away from the sport.
"We all take our own carts. Nobody touches the flag. Nobody touches the rakes," said golfer Vicki Redding. "I feel perfectly safe here."
Most players are just glad the course has stayed open.
"It's just the thrill of hitting a good shot and, you know, just being with all your friends and enjoying the weather and scenery," said Cody Balfour, who was visiting from Alberta. "That's what makes golf awesome."
"It's a laid-back environment, safety protocols are in place but you can still come out, have fun and you can kind of feel like the world is normal again," said Matheson.
He says the golfers' cooperation with the new system is what will allow the course to stay open for the summer and possibly into the fall, providing an important source of revenue that's been lost because of travel restrictions.
"There is no substituting the fact that 40 per cent of most resort style golf courses in the Okanagan, 40 per cent of their revenues, come from out of province, maybe even out of country travel," said the general manager.
But he says that's been offset in part by a trickle of tourist groups from the Lower Mainland, other parts of B.C., and Alberta.
With files from Dana Kelly