Windsor

Golf courses, marinas ready to get back to business as province eases COVID-19 restrictions

Adam Wagner says he and others at the Ambassador Golf Club in Windsor have been waiting for a long time to hear news that COVID-19 restrictions for businesses are set to ease up. 

'We've been ready for a while,' says Adam Wagner with Ambassador Golf Club

Golf courses will be allowed to open Saturday but with provincial guidelines aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19. (John Robertson/CBC)

Adam Wagner says he and others at the Ambassador Golf Club in Windsor have been waiting for a long time to hear news that COVID-19 restrictions for businesses are set to ease up. 

Ever since Ontario Premier Doug Ford made the announcement on Thursday that some businesses — including golf clubs, marinas and certain other recreational spaces — would be permitted to reopen as soon as this Saturday, Wagner says the phones at his golf club have been ringing almost non-stop. 

"We've been ready for a while," said Wagner, director of golf operations with the Ambassador Golf Club. 

"Our biggest holdup was the restrictions and not knowing what we were able to do, what kind of restrictions they were going to be able to put in place, what services were allowed to open and how we need to restrict things."

The golf club on Sprucewood Avenue in LaSalle will reopen at 7 a.m. on Saturday and has already completely sold out every available tee-time until 6:30 p.m. 

Still, Wagner said golfers will notice specific measures to maintain physical distancing, as well as prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

"You're going to see a lot of restrictions for traffic flow, in terms of how we'd like people to move around the facility and move around the property," he said. 

"When people pull into the parking lot, we're going to direct them up to the clubhouse where they're going to be greeted by one of our stuff. They'll receive instructions on where to go, how to go and what to do to keep themselves safe."

Adam Wagner is director of golf operations at the Ambassador Golf Club. He says his organization has been waiting for eased COVID-19 restrictions for a long time. (Sameer Chhabra/CBC)

Wagner explained that the province issued a set of recommendations to golf clubs and courses across Ontario, adding that the list is more of a set of guidelines than hard-and-fast rules.

He added that Golf Ontario — an organization whose members consist of private, semi-private and public golf clubs — has also issued its own set of guidelines to ensure the safety of guests and employees.

"There's certain things like … they don't want us to touch the flagsticks," Wagner said. "They want one rider per cart, obviously maintain social distancing on the golf course … no handshakes for the players at the end — really kind of minimizing the amount of touch points that we have."

While the course and the pro shop will be open, guests won't be able to make purchases at the store — they'll only be allowed to sign in. 

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Guests also won't be allowed to loiter around the premises before or after their tee-times, nor will they be allowed to book a tee-time at the club itself. Wagner said all tee-times must be booked in advance — either online or over-the-phone.

He added that the Ambassador Golf Club is also staggering tee-times to ensure golfers don't potentially run into each other on the course.

"Before the pandemic, what you're going to find is typically golf courses are going to be anywhere in that eight, nine, 10-minute interval range," Wagner said, adding that his golf club typically staggered tee-times to strictly nine minutes between each hole.

"Now … we're going to 10 minutes."

... Our staff will be prepared, they will have masks if they choose to wear them.- Adam Wagner, director of golf operations, Ambassador Golf Club

Wagner said Ontario golf courses have been in contact with other provinces where golf has been permitted to find the perfect tee-time intervals. 

"We actually had a call this morning with some golf courses in Alberta and B.C.," he said. "The feedback we got [is that] the 10-minute interval seems to be enough."

Wagner said it'll be up to employees and guests to decide whether they want to don personal protective equipment like masks — now recommended to be worn in public by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit

"And our staff will be prepared, they will have masks if they choose to wear them."

Wagner said that his golf club is also prepared to adjust its rules as necessary.

"Everything's going to be evolving as we go, and we'll be making some changes on the fly if we have to," he said. 

Boaters ready to hit the water

Golf clubs in Windsor-Essex aren't the only recreational facilities celebrating the reduced restrictions.

Tom Beattie, one of the owners of Beattie's Sunset Marina and Holiday Harbour Marina in LaSalle, said his phone has also been ringing off the hook ever since Thursday's announcement.

And he too said boaters will notice some new rules.

I think they're going to do it smart and they'll just be happy to be back out there ...- Tom Beattie, co-owner, Beattie's Sunset Marina and Holiday Harbour Marina

"What we're asking is everybody stay social distancing and play it smart," he said. "I believe we're far from over. It is a good sign obviously."

Nonetheless, Beattie said it'll be almost impossible to enforce physical distancing rules with passengers onboard their vessels.

"We would have to be out there policing, and I think by the time we got to the next people, we'd have to turn around and tell the previous people we told the same thing," he said. "We're just relying on people to be smart and have a little bit of respect."

LISTEN | Tom Beattie talks reopening marinas with Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre:

Ontario is starting to reopen. Golf courses and marinas will be among the first, starting Saturday. But it's not business as usual. We talked to Brian Girard, owner of Dutton Meadows Golf Club in Dutton and Tom Beattie, one of the owners of Beatties Sunset Marina and Holiday Harbour Marina in LaSalle. 9:59

"I don't think that they're going to mess it up," he said. "I think they're going to do it smart and they'll just be happy to be back out there and enjoying life a little bit."

Some businesses unsure about lifted restrictions, but still preparing

While the province specifically listed a number of businesses that are allowed to slowly open again, some are unsure if they can start to welcome customers back.

Ryan Thomas, a physiotherapist in Windsor, said he's going to wait to hear from the College of Physiotherapists and the Ontario Physiotherapy Association for more details. 

He added his business is taking precautions as they slowly reopen their physical space, including securing essential personal protective equipment.

Windsor physiotherapist Ryan Thomas says he's not sure if the eased restrictions apply to his business, but steps will be taken to protect patients nonetheless. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

"To respect social distancing … we'll have a flow through the clinic that will be slow, not stressful," Thomas said. "We'll make sure that each client is cared for and … clients will be phoning from the parking lot to make sure they are allowed to enter."

In the meantime, COVID-19 enforcement officers like Nicole Trajkovski, who's currently working with the Windsor-Essex Health Unit, will continue to enforce physical distancing measures — even as rules continue to change.

"In the beginning we were going hour-by-hour, now we seem to be going half-a-day to a day and adjusting our days as we need," she said. "Whatever [Ford] states and however Windsor-Essex county wants us to do it from a health unit perspective, that's the way that we will enforce it."

With files from Jacob Barker

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