Alert Level Fore! Golfers free to swing for the greens in N.L.

On Monday the government of Newfoundland and Labrador loosened a few of its COVID-19 restrictions, giving golfers the go-ahead to grip it and rip it.

Tennis NL calls foul on the sport's Alert Level 3 classification

Golfers took swings at the Willows at Holryood on Monday for the first time this year. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC )

Golfers at the Willows course in Holyrood wore tuques for the first day on the course this year, but the icy wind didn't chill the spirits of those on the links.

The Newfoundland and Labrador government Monday moved to Alert Level 4 of its phased reopening plan under the COVID-19 pandemic, loosening a few restrictions — including allowing golf, among some other outdoor recreational activities.

"A little tiny piece of freedom," said golfer Paul Anderson, who was all smiles. "It's going to be hard getting used to the new normal. [But] so far so good."

For the first time since September, Paul Anderson got out on the golf course. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

All of Monday's tee times were filled, with very spots left for the rest of the week. 

"Everybody's really excited to be out," said Willows general manger Jacki Northcott. "They can actually go out and socialize — of course, respecting the social distancing measures."

The course was filled with golfers and signs reminding players to maintain physical distancing rules.

Willows general manager Jacki Northcott says most tee times are filled until Sunday. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Golfers are told to wait in their cars until 10 minutes before tee time and the clubhouse allows one person in at a time.

Staff spray and wipe down golf carts after each use and there are no "touch points: on the course; no benches, no rakes, and no touching the flagpoles on each hole.

A raised cup will be used to prevent people from needing to retrieve their golf balls from the hole.

"There is a cup that pokes out of the ground, is a little bit higher so the ball doesn't actually go into the hole. It just hits the cup and rolls away," Northcott said.

Signs like this one have been posted all over the golf course in Holyrood. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

In contrast to the smiles on the golf course are the quiet and empty set of tennis courts at Riverdale in St. John's.

Like gyms, yoga studios, arenas and dance studios, tennis courts must remain closed even when the province moves to Alert Level 3. 

"We're definitely disappointed in the decision because we feel along with golf we're pretty much an equal playing partner in terms of physical distancing and social distancing," said Tennis Newfoundland and Labrador technical director Mike Meaney.

"Proper safety measures for our sport are just as just as easy to put in place as they are for golf."

Tennis NL has submitted a six-page report on why its sport should be allowed under Alert Level 4. Just a few small changes would make the sport as safe as golf, said Meaney.

"We'd simply just allow singles on the court or private lessons," he said.

"Play on every second court, so every second court would be empty and we'd have buffer times in between the private lessons and singles."

Tennis Newfoundland and Labrador technical director Mike Meaney says tennis players should be allowed back on the court. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

But while golfers don't touch any ball but their own, tennis players on either side of the net touch the ball during play. Meaney says there's a solution for that.

"I bring a can of balls, you bring a can of balls. I open mine, you open yours. One of us puts our initials on it," said Meaney

"Any time a ball lands on my side of the court, I know not to touch that with my hands."

Meaney has been in contact with a panel of more than a dozen tennis coaches from across the country as the organization works to come up with a standard for all of Canada. 

Meaney shows off his marker system to make sure players don't touch a ball belonging to their opponent. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Right now five of the provinces allow the sport: New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, British Columbia and Alberta, he said.

"Half of Canada is doing what we are proposing to do."

At the provincial government's daily COVID-19 briefing on Monday, the tennis crowd got a bit of good news from Chief Medical Officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald.

"We've received some information from the tennis association and we are looking at that, reviewing things, as this week progresses," she told the media.

Until then tennis courts, like the one at Riverdale, will remain closed. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


  • A prior version of this story incorrectly said that Alert Level 3 allows for tennis courts to reopen. It does not.
    May 13, 2020 5:57 AM NT