Snohomish County’s golf courses are eager to get back to something resembling normalcy.
After being shut down for six weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, courses across the county, from Arlington’s Gleneagle Golf Course in the north to Lynnwood Municipal Golf Course in the south, are set to reopen in a limited capacity beginning Tuesday.
“It’s exciting, that’s for sure,” said Dave Castleberry, the head golf pro at Harbour Pointe Golf Club in Mukilteo. “It’s been very difficult for us and a lot of other people to be without golf, and it’s one of those outdoor recreations that while you’re doing it you feel safe. It sure beats being cooped up in the house all day.”
Golf courses were forced to close as a result of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order issued March 23, which shut down businesses deemed to be non-essential. But Inslee announced last Monday that restrictions on outdoor activities would be loosened beginning Tuesday, and that includes golf.
Most of the county’s golf courses, including both public and private courses, began booking tee times immediately following Inslee’s announcement last Monday. The exceptions were the city of Everett’s courses, Legion Memorial Golf Course and Walter Hall Golf Course, which didn’t begin taking tee times until Friday, and Kenwanda Golf Course in Snohomish, which has the statement, “Unfortunately we are closed for the foreseeable future,” posted on its website.
Some course managers believe the reopening of golf courses is long overdue, given the sport is outdoor and naturally physically-distancing.
“I thought courses having to close wasn’t so great,” said Fred Jacobson, co-owner of Battle Creek Golf Course in Marysville. “But I’m very happy to be able to open. Some of the mandates as far as what we have to do, some seem reasonable, the majority seem like overkill.”
While courses can open Tuesday, they must follow a strict set of regulations to comply with COVID-19 worksite safety practices. That includes logging every player, limiting groupings to two players unless all the players come from the same household, one rider per cart, and no handling of the flagstick. Most courses say they’ve filled their holes almost all the way to the lip of the cup so players don’t have to reach into the hole to retrieve their balls.
The shutdown proved a major financial hardship for the courses, as it came just as they were about ramp up their seasons. Castleberry said that of Harbour Pointe’s staff or approximately 70 employees, all but four were laid off. Jacobson estimated that about half his staff at Battle Creek was laid off. While the reopening of the courses will allow them to bring some of their staffs back, it will be a slow process.
However, courses were allowed to maintain their grounds while they were closed, as course maintenance was deemed essential by Inslee. Therefore, courses were able to water and mow their fairways, greens and rough. Combine that with April’s good weather and the lack of playing traffic, and courses will be in pristine condition when players first arrive Tuesday.
“(The course) is beautiful,” said Everett Golf & Country Club head pro Brent Webber, who noted that the private club is scheduling tee times for the first time in club history because of the regulations. “I’m sure there are still some marks out there from divots, but with what we were able to do with mowing constantly and fertilizing, the course looks immaculate.”
Demand is already sky high, as pent-up golfers quickly snapped up the prime tee times through the first week.
“We started booking the day the governor’s announcement, and booking went bonkers,” Jacobson said. “There was strong enthusiasm and demand, even prior to the announcement. People would call and ask why we weren’t playing.”
The courses are hoping restrictions will be loosened further in the coming weeks to allow them to operate closer to full capacity.
Nick Patterson: firstname.lastname@example.org; 425-339-3000; Twitter @NickHPatterson.