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City golf courses open amid COVID-19 restrictions

Social distancing measures, longer gaps between tee times and foam inserts in cups among the changes golfers can expect at Strathcona and Chapples golf courses.

THUNDER BAY – It’s not quite par for the course at the city’s two municipal golf clubs – but it’s not that far off.

The city has added an extra five minutes between tee times at Strathcona Golf Club and Chapples Golf Club for the opening weekend and put foam inserts into each cub to curb the need to pull pins on greens.

The clubhouse has been closed, only one golfer at a time is allowed into the pro-shop and the public is being encouraged to book tee times online or by phone.

Golfers not living in the same household can only ride one to a cart and people are being asked to follow social distancing measures in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other than that, it’s still the same game that has frustrated and entertained millions over the decades.

It’s great to be back on the course, said Pat Berezowski, supervisor of golf for the City of Thunder Bay.

“At 7:30 this morning we had our first golfers go off the tee. It was nice to see. Everyone was very supportive this morning, with golfers very happy to be here. The flow seems to have been good all day here,” Berezowski said.

“We obviously have a longer interval than we normally have. Normally it would be 10 minutes, and we’ve increased it to 15 minutes, just to assure golfers that this is just a start.”

The added time allows course staff to handle a barrage of incoming membership requests, while also encouraging golfers to practice safe physical distancing measures as they wait to tee off.

“We don’t want to create congestion here at the golf course. We want to be able to educate the golfers, talk to them and see what their needs are. Their support, that’s what we need,” Berezowski said.

Actually getting on the course on opening weekend is a different story.

Most – but not all – of the available tee times for this weekend were scooped up within minutes of them being made publicly available.

It’s a good problem to have, Berezowski said, assuring no tee times were handed out before going live online.

“It’s just been that busy,” he said. “We look at the tee sheet at six o’clock and it will fill up within minutes. Unfortunately some will be left out, but I still encourage people to call the golf courses to see if there is an opening, especially if they’re a single or a double. We might be able to squeeze them in.”

Services will be limited on course, but Berezowski said he does plan to have a beverage cart available starting next week at Strathcona and Chapples.

He’s hoping to open the driving range next week and said the putting green is open now, but limited to six golfers at any given time.

As for tournaments, Berezowski said most charity events have cancelled for 2020. Organizers of men’s and ladies’ nights are discussing how they might operate this season, with no gathering allowed at either course until pandemic restrictions are lifted. Thunder Bay District Golf Association events will be up to the organization’s executive and course availability.

Organizers have already cancelled the Strathcona Invitational, scheduled for the August long weekend.

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith has been the editor of Thunder Bay Source for 17 years and has served a similar role with since 2009. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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