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Meadows at Pemberton golf course opens this week

Sea to Sky courses getting set to return

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The first Sea to Sky swings of the season are set to take place in local tee boxes.

The Meadows at Pemberton is planning to open for the 2020 season on April 30.

The club will open to members and passholders with a slate of new policies and procedures in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

While many courses have opted not to open, golf courses are exempt from the 50-person limit as long as physical distancing of at least two metres and other precautions are met.

Vancouver Coastal Health deputy medical health officer Dr. Mark Lysyshyn confirmed in an April 16 letter that courses are allowed to operate, safely.

Though many courses across the country were mandated shut by provincial bodies, Meadows GM Kevin McLeod said he's been keeping a close eye on the situation to determine if it was reasonable to open, and if so, what policies and procedures should come into effect. With several B.C. courses already announcing how and when they would operate, McLeod was pleased to have a model from which to build the Meadows' approach.

"We kept watching what they were doing and watching the health [situation], listening to [Provincial Health Officer] Dr. Bonnie Henry every day," he said. "Our whole goal here is to help flatten the curve. We didn't want to open too soon. We're all trying to do our part here, so the decision to stay closed until April 30 was made."

Among the precautions the club is taking are: making sure golfers stay two metres apart at all times; holding tee times 15 minutes apart, up from eight; closing practice areas; requiring golfers to arrive no more than 15 minutes before their tee time; limiting carts to one rider unless people are in the same household or arrived together; and asking golfers to touch as few things as possible, removing implements such as ball washers while requiring the pin be left in the hole.

While some courses that have decided to open have received mixed feedback, McLeod said he hadn't heard any negative reaction as of the afternoon of Friday, April 24, though that was shortly after the opening date was made public.

"Time will tell. We're a small community and a lot of people want to come out and play. This is 140-acres-plus, probably closer to 150 acres, so as long as we maintain our new standards, everything should work fine," he said, adding that staff members will drive around the course to ensure golfers are following the new rules. "Everyone has to do their part for this to work, and if I have people out on the golf course that aren't following the social distance rules, then we have to deal with that, because that's going to negatively impact everybody."

McLeod said infractions would be handled on a case-by-case basis.

As for the course itself, McLeod said he's been out on course completing tasks such as cutting grass, and noted that the conditions look solid. He added that returnees may notice some changes to the course in the home stretch.

"Over the winter, we did a little more taking down of some trouble trees in the back nine, some cottonwoods, so we've got a lot more open play areas back there," he said.

For a complete list of new policies and procedures, visit pembertongolf.com.

Meadows' neighbouring course in Pemberton, Big Sky Golf Club, is working on its approach and hopes to make an update on its plans in the days to come, according to GM Mike MacNeil.

In Whistler, meanwhile, the Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Course is aiming to open on June 1, though that is a tentative target that would put it two to three weeks behind a typical opening day.

"We'd normally be preparing to open in the next little bit and the hotel would be open, but it's definitely a different time, and we're preparing to open in the summer," director of golf Nick Droulis said, adding that the club is closely watching provincial health guidelines. "We're continuing to evaluate the situation every day and are currently preparing to open on Monday, June 1, but we'll continue to evaluate that as we go along.

"Luckily, the golf course is big enough to create a safe working environment for everybody to get this golf course ready to play."

In terms of offseason course improvements, Droulis said some of the greens were resurfaced while crews also completed irrigation work.

"The course wintered terrific. It's in fantastic shape. The fairways have never looked better and greens are in terrific shape," he said. "We're really excited about the product and we think it's going to be amazing on opening day."

Over at Nicklaus North Golf Course, the plan is to open both its 18 holes and Table Nineteen Lakeside Eatery (for takeout only), which recently underwent a $2.4-million renovation, on May 22.

GM Jason Lowe stressed that he and his team will operate all elements to adhere to provincial health policies in effect, and will also consult with Tourism Whistler, the Resort Municipality of Whistler and Whistler Chamber to ensure a united approach.

"We'll be operating in accordance with all provincial policies, but also standing by our local community recommendations," he said in an email. "The safety of our community and respect for the Whistler health care system is the No. 1 priority and we'll modify our plan with whatever restrictions are required to protect Whistler locals and our team."

He added that club owner GolfBC is donating $1 from each round played in May to local food banks. The contributions will be pooled and spread across the province, Lowe noted.

Lastly, Whistler Golf Club GM Alan Kristmanson said the club hopes to open in mid-to-late May after a delay in removing snow from the course.

"We had no rain, really, through March and April and rain's what gets rid of the snow," he said. "We put light layers of sand on the fairways to make the snow melt faster."

Kristmanson said the course had no winter damage and is in otherwise good shape. He added that he has checked out courses that are open to see how they are implementing precautions, and plans to bring a similar approach to the course.

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