Sudbury·Audio

If they don't tee off this season, some northern Ontario golf courses could 'close their doors forever'

The Ontario government is expected to announce in the coming weeks which businesses can open this spring and northern Ontario golf courses are hoping they'll make the list. 

Several provinces have announced that golf will be allowed starting in May

A worker cuts the grass on the Timberwolf golf course in Sudbury, which like every other course in Ontario, does not yet know if they'll be allowed to open this season. (Erik White/CBC )

Lise Gagnon and her crew are busy raking the fairways at the Clear Springs golf course, hoping that someone might actually play golf on it this year. 

"We're ready to go. Get'r goin'!" says the owner of the golf club in Chisholm Township, near Powassan.

"People need to get outdoors. I think people are going stir crazy. And they won't be able to play soccer. They won't be able to play football, baseball — golf is the solution."

Golf courses are lobbying the provincial government to include them on the essential business list and in the plan to re-start the Ontario economy, the framework of which was unveiled this week.

"The weather's getting better and the pressure on courses and golfers to continue to follow recommendations are going to become more difficult," says Owen Rigg, a Timmins-based director with the Northern Golf Association, representing 29 clubs across northeastern Ontario.

New Brunswick is one of the provinces that announced plans to allow golf courses to open, with these strikers hitting the driving range this past weekend. (Gary Moore/CBC)

Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and British Columbia have all announced plans to open golf courses in May, which Rigg says "will only intensify the pressure felt by the industry in Ontario. I think there will be a big push for it."

Gagnon, who has worked at Clear Springs since 1974 and bought the course in 2003, says they have a plan in place to keep golfers safe.

That includes flags on the greens that golfers won't have to touch, as well as removing ball washers and sand trap rakes.

"If everyone's walking, six feet is very easy to keep apart," says Gagnon.

Some golfers have been spotted this spring sneaking onto courses to play a round, including some in the Sudbury area, but Gagnon says that hasn't happened on her course.

"People would be too scared of me I think," she says. 

"Usually we get itchy people coming out and visiting, but we haven't had anybody yet."

Gagnon says she has a couple of part-timers helping her get the course ready, but at the height of the season her workforce usually grows to about 20.

Rigg says some golf courses in the region might not survive an entire season with no paying customers. 

"I've talked to a few of the smaller operators over the last few weeks and I know there has been some concern raised," he says.

"We're hopeful that we don't end up in that scenario where it forces golf courses to close their doors forever."

Can you practice physical distancing and still enjoy a round of golf? Golf course owners seem to thinks so. That's why they are pushing the province to allow then to open this spring. The CBC's Erik White spoke about the idea with Lise Gagnon. She owns the Clear Springs golf course in Chisholm Township near Powassan. 4:24

About the Author

Erik White

journalist

Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik.white@cbc.ca

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