On this bright, shining day, their expressions were closer to smiles than grimaces.
With so much of Sequim shut down in recent days and weeks to help stem the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, it seems local golfers and visitors are finding a bit of an oasis at local golf courses.
“The phone has been ringing off the hook. People are asking, ‘Are you open?’” said Garrett Smithson, head professional at The Cedars at Dungeness.
Fortunately for The Cedars and other peninsula courses — on the golf side anyway — the answer is yes, with some alterations.
Golfers can still hit the links, but The Cedars is using raised cups, so no one is putting hands (and potentially, germs) in the communal cups. It’s hands off the equipment, which includes the flag markers. Hitting into a bunker means one levels out the sand with a foot rather than a rake.
Sanitizing carts has become a more labor-intensive process than just a few days prior, Smithson said.
And there’s a four-person maximum inside the pro shop.
“Everyone’s cool; they’re just happy to play golf,” Smithson said. “We’ve got to keep everyone safe.”
On March 16, Gov. Jay Inslee ordered all bars, restaurants, entertainment and recreational facilities to temporarily close to fight the COVID-19 spread. But the order did not specifically mention golf courses.
“That’s one positive thing from Inslee’s remarks,” Peninsula Golf Club head pro Chad Wagner said. “Golf allows us to get outside and stay active while still following precautionary measures.”
That means golfers are able to still get their rounds in, with social distancing and some traditional pleasantries (handshakes and the like) suspended.
Smithson said The Cedars had to temporarily lay off a number of staffers — the course closed its restaurant and bar — but was open for play for a pack of about 50 members of its men’s club on March 19.
“Every person who walked in the door said, ‘Thank you’,” Smithson noted.
Tournaments were still on tap at The Cedars, too, with course officials sending notices out to those already registered about amendments to the course. That means the Spring Go Big Golf Tournament is on.
“We’re fortunate to keep the business … on the golf side open,” Smithson said.
As a bit of silver lining, Smithson noted, The Cedars is celebrating its 50th year of play, with a package deal for golf, cart, range balls and a sleeve of 50th anniversary balls in the pro shop.
Call 360-683-6344 or see 7cedars.com/golf for more information.
SkyRidge Golf Course, Sequim’s other public venue, remains open for play on both links and driving range.
“As directed, we have and will continue to implement safe and sanitary practices, including now, social distancing,” course officials note on the website.
As of March 22, the course restaurant, Soren’s Cafe, will be open for food pick-up orders from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday-Sunday, and “grab and go” beverage sales will be allowed past the time of food service, SkyRidge officials said.
Call 360-683-3673 or see www.skyridgegolfcourse.com for more course information.
At Sunland Golf & Country Club, head golf professional Frederick Green said golf will continue at the private course “unless the Governor decides to order everyone to stay home sometime soon.”
Sunland staff is taking steps to ensure that large quantities of people are not frequently touching certain items he said. Staff have placed an approximate 3-inch long peice of PVC pipe in the cups to act as a spacer and it does not allow the golf ball to fall to the bottom of the cup.
“Golfers can easily pick their ball up from near the top of the cup without touching parts of the cup or flag stick,” Green said. “This still allows the golf ball to fall into the cup allowing the golfer to post their score so they can maintain their handicaps during this time.”
Sunland staff are encouraging golfers to not touch flag sticks, sand bunker rakes, golf ball washers/cleaners or playing partners’ golf balls. Carts are getting disinfected after each use, too, along with frequently-touched areas throughout the clubhouse.
“We are also encouraging people to walk the golf course at this time as that makes it easier for them to stay 6 feet away from others,” Green said.
Ludlow, Peninsula courses open
Instead of the typical cart barn odors greeting Port Ludlow Golf Course head golf pro Tyler Sweet as he opened up the facility last week, a fresh scent enveloped him.
“I walked into the cart barn this morning and it’s never smelled so clean,” Sweet said.
The disinfectant used by the course’s player service attendants while scrubbing golf cart surfaces left a zesty, lemon scent that lingered in the air, Sweet said.
Port Ludlow Golf Course is one of the area courses taking a number of precautionary moves to protect its clientele and employees against the spread of coronavirus.
“I’m sure the squirrel that lives in the cart barn really appreciated it,” Sweet joked about the cleaning measures.
During this decidedly serious period, hitting the fairway for a round of golf is an available option for those looking for some recreation and exercise — and to get your mind off of the latest news.
Area courses were busy on March 17 implementing revised check-in experiences and detailing best practices in these trying times.
Most of these practices follow social distancing cues outlined by federal, state and county health agencies, but some are an added step meant to discourage and limit “touch points.”
Players are encouraged to call ahead and iron out payment and play options at area golf courses.
Handshakes are out, as are any other physical greeting. Wave to your playing partners as you stay six feet away from each other through the round.
Another big one to remember: The flag stick stays in the hole.
Courses are recommending leaving the flag stick in place on the green.
Flag sticks are one of the few shared items on a golf course and this move will minimize touch points on the golf course.
Golf handicaps should be pretty far down the list of worries right now, but scores won’t be impacted.
The USGA approved a rule change in 2019 that allows players to keep the flag stick in while playing out the hole — previously the stick had to be pulled as players putted out through the green.
Port Ludlow Golf Course detailed a few changes on its Facebook page Tuesday.
Check-in is now a three-step process. Golfers can call the pro shop (360-437-0272) to pay for rounds and services over the phone. Players would then check in with an outside services attendant in the parking lot’s Players Services box and proceed to head to the tee box.
No food or beverage options will be available at Port Ludlow during this period, Sweet said.
“Basically, you can’t get to a golf shop employee unless you give us a call,” Sweet said. “Players have the option of booking tee times online or they can call when they get to the parking lot.”
“Our phone has been ringing off the hook,” Sweet said.
He detailed some other measures in place.
“We are allowing single-riders only on our power carts and renters do not have to sign an agreement. Carts are not being stocked with tees, pencils or scorecards.
“We are trying to limit the amount of touches as best we can,” Sweet said.
Clubhouse bathrooms are being washed and sanitized regularly.
“The washrooms are getting a deep cleaning twice a day,” Sweet said. A native of British Columbia, Sweet is used to cleaning up after the dirtiest of athletes.
“This goes back to the days I worked at an ice rink,” Sweet said. “The worst was cleaning up after men’s league hockey. Those guys were just disgusting.”
Sweet said the course was staying open until dark.
“We will have an outside services guy still here until the last cart comes in,” Sweet said.
Sweet also said Port Ludlow had moved up it green aerification schedule to this week and will offer a special of $15 for walking players and $25 for those using a cart.
Peninsula Golf Club is asking players to pre-pay if possible and limiting the number of players allowed inside the golf shop to four.
The course also is closing its driving range at 4 p.m.
“We are sanitizing all golf carts, handles and any other touch point,” Wagner said.
We’ve removed all ball washing machines from the course, along with any water jugs and taken the rakes out of bunkers,” Wagner said.
“And we have been encouraging our players to leave the flag stick in. Most of them leave it in anyway.”
Sweet directed players to report scores for handicap purposes online for the time being.
That move itself will limit interactions. Sweet said some players have struggled to use technology provided by the Washington State Golf Association.