Golf club owners, players frustrated over course closures

'People still need some relief':

By: Joshua Santos, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Orangeville Banner
It’s as frustrating as missing a hole-in-one or swinging the ball out of the sand.
Non-essential construction, golf clubs and tennis courses are closed. The provincial government extended the stay-at-home order until May 20, with a third wave of the COVID-19 sweeping through the country.
Many are questioning the wisdom of restrictions on outdoor recreation, which is inherently less risky than indoor activities.
“We are not close to two metres from each other,” said Tricia Smith. “One person is up on the tee box. When we’re putting, you must give them space. I’m closer to people when I am standing in line at the grocery store.”
Smith has been playing golf for less than five years. She plays with a group of friends who would play two to three times a week at Erin Heights. It was their way to socialize safely with restaurants closed.
“We’re all spending plenty of time with our families, so it was nice to go out and spend some time with friends,” said Smith, whose husband and three children also play golf. It would give them another option other than going for a walk, playing a board game or completing a puzzle.
Erin Heights Golf Course has been family-run since 1982. It is a nine-hole course that offers a men’s night on Wednesdays and a women’s night on Thursdays. Day rates for nine holes are $28 during the week and $30 on the weekends.
Smith finds the game helpful to her mental health, as she and her friends play recreationally, spending time laughing and joking around.
“My children and my husband, it’s more competitive, but when I’m with my friends, it’s just for fun. We have good and bad days and celebrate those both.”
Golf North Properties owns 33 golf clubs in the province, including the Calerin Golf Club in Erin, Orangeville Golf Club and the Trafalgar Golf and Country Club in Milton, which hosts a kids’ club. It was founded in 1994.
“We believe, despite the fact the pandemic is a real and serious concern, people still need some relief,” said Doug Breen, regional vice-president, and chief agronomist for Golf North. “If there’s a way, we can give people some mental and physical relief from the pandemic, then we think we should do that.”
Calerin features an 18-hole course on rolling terrain for uphill and downhill fairways, presenting a challenge to any all-around golfer. It is located on a hillside on the great divide between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie watersheds.
The Orangeville club hosts the leaf’s rookie golf tournament on an annual basis. It is a 2,800-yard nine-hole course.
Breen said golf is unique as the structure of the game allows for physical distancing.
“We know we can bring people through the courses safely, and we had some best management practices that were out of the ordinary, say to compare to 2019,” said Breen. “A year ago, we believed we could operate golf safely.”
Golf North offers course-specific, multi-course and corporate memberships. A 10-round package at Orangeville costs $240, while and 50-round package is $1,000.
They also offer disc golf, league play and a pro shop. Select clubs, such as Calerin, have air-conditioned banquet halls available to rent for weddings. It can typically accommodate about 30 to 400 people.