THUNDER BAY – Thunder Bay-area golf courses are expressing deep frustration with provincial orders to close, with at least one remaining open Saturday, citing confusion over the timing of the new regulations.
Premier Doug Ford announced late Friday afternoon his government would order golf courses and other outdoor recreation amenities closed as of 12:01 a.m. Saturday.
The government had initially allowed courses to remain open during the provincial shutdown announced April 1, but targeted them for closure along with playgrounds, soccer fields, basketball courts, baseball diamonds, and more on Friday.
Ford said the moves were necessary to combat surging case numbers and hospitalizations in much of the province.
The order made little sense to Dragon Hills Golf Course owner Mike Komar, whose course remained open Saturday with dozens of golfers on the links.
“We’re very frustrated for sure,” he said. “We don’t know… what we can do, what we can’t do. We haven’t gotten official notice from anybody… All the different things we [read] online are contradictory.”
A statement from the provincial government Friday specified golf courses would be required to close at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.
Other restrictions announced Friday on religious services, funerals, and weddings don’t go into effect until 12:01 a.m. Monday. Komar claimed he believed that implementation date applied to all of the changes.
“The new restrictions were supposed to start on Monday morning at 12:01 a.m., that’s what we understood,” he said. “Now we have people telling us it starts this morning at 12:01 [a.m.]. Well, they have to be a lot more organized than they are.”
Gerald Breukelman, who owns the Northern Lights Golf Complex and Centennial Pines Golf Course, claimed he was also uncertain on when the restrictions would take effect.
He planned to open on Saturday as well, but said few customers showed up.
“I don’t get this,” he said Saturday. “It’s a beautiful day, people should be outside – they’ve proven outside is better.”
Both owners argued their courses were safe, with groups limited to four people, enhanced sanitizing of equipment, masking, and other measures that allowed play to proceed last summer.
They also expressed frustration over the province-wide closure when COVID-19 indicators in the Thunder Bay District had declined significantly in recent weeks, with 56 active cases as of Saturday and nine residents in hospital with the virus.
“I think they don’t quite get it in Toronto, where we are up here,” said Breukelman, who expressed general frustration with ongoing public health measures.
He believes residents are likely to turn to illegal social gatherings, if they can’t access regulated activities.
“I think they better get this straightened out pretty quick, because people have had enough,” he said Saturday. “If they don’t get them back to doing things, people just aren’t going to listen anymore.”
The provincial government walked back its order to close playgrounds on Saturday, but left the prohibition on other outdoor amenities in place.
-With files from Catalina Gillies, TBT News