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Alberta golf courses deemed non-essential service: ‘It could be devastating for the industry’

Dr. Hinshaw doesn’t consider golf courses essential services
WATCH: Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, explains why golf courses are not considered essential services and the process they face in reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

With spring and warmer temperatures upon us, now is usually the time when Albertans start to think about their golf game. But amid the COVID-19 pandemic, golf courses have been deemed a non-essential service.

On Thursday, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said she’s been getting a lot of questions about whether golf courses would be allowed to open, given the current health measures in place to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw had a clear message for Albertans.

“Golf courses are a non-essential service,” she said. “Golf courses are not accessible to the public at this time.”

Alberta Golf pushes province for exemption from COVID-19 rules
Alberta Golf pushes province for exemption from COVID-19 rules

READ MORE: 3 people fined under COVID-19 emergency orders for golfing on closed Ontario golf course

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She did note, however, that like other non-essential services, golf courses can have workers on the grounds to get the golfing range and other things ready, should they be allowed to open later in the season.

The news was tough to hear for local courses.

“We really feel that we’re an essential activity and an essential business, so we were a little bit disappointed,” said Jamie Driscoll, course manager at Trestle Creek Golf Course.

“We were kind of hoping there would be a little more consultation before kind of just a random announcement.”

Alberta golf courses say being deemed non-essential service is ‘devastating for the industry’
Alberta golf courses say being deemed non-essential service is ‘devastating for the industry’

After a bad season last summer because of the weather, Driscoll said not being able to open within the next few weeks could be bad for business.

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“It would be devastating, quite frankly, if we weren’t able to golf this summer — both financially and mentally,” he said.

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“This industry has 15,000 jobs that all of a sudden could be lost if we don’t get them open in about three weeks or so. So it could be devastating for the industry.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Canada lost 1 million jobs in March

Driscoll said the Canadian Professional Golfers’ Association, Alberta Golf, National Golf Course Owners Association and Alberta Golf Superintendents Association sent a package to the provincial government last week, with a list of measures they would take to ensure public health orders are followed.

He believes golf is not only the ideal sport for physical distancing, but it’s also great for people’s mental health.

“There’s no more than four people in the group, they’re generally about 20 yards from each other and about another 200 yards from the next four people. So there couldn’t be a better position to be in,” he said.

“Don’t forget about the mental aspects of this entire pandemic. I feel that the mental pandemic could be worse than the physical pandemic if we don’t get our children out golfing, get our adults out of the house and give ourselves a lot of mental relief.”

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READ MORE: COVID-19 pandemic taking toll on Canadians’ mental health: survey

Jae Maegaard, head golf professional at Paradise Canyon Golf Resort in Lethbridge, said it’s disappointing but he supports the health measures currently in place to protect the public.

“As a group here, we’re definitely disappointed, with the amount of work we have put in [and] the communication we’ve had with other golf clubs in the area — in the province [and] out of province,” Maegaard said.

“We’re taking it a day at a time,” Maegaard said. “We’re hoping that something can be rearranged after this weekend, maybe some more guidelines that can help us all out to make sure that it is safer to come down and play.”

Jordan Jeske is the owner of The Projct, an Edmonton gym that also offers golf performance classes and one-on-one training sessions. With the physical distancing measures currently in place, all of those programs have come to halt.

“We were making this big headway, getting ready for the golf season,” Jeske explained. “All that stuff had to kind of stop right away.

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“Now it’s like all of a sudden this complete shutdown and people are like, ‘What can we do now?'”

COVID-19 and your mental health over the Easter long weekend
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Jeske has moved many of the gym’s offerings online. While he always thought about offering virtual golf classes and programs online, the COVID-19 pandemic forced him to do it a lot sooner than planned.

“It’s a good program for people to learn more about themselves… and any limitations they may have, and this is the time to fix those things. The people that used time as an excuse or didn’t have time for things, we now have that time given to us,” he said.

“I’ve been coming here and filming a ton of content and we have an app, so putting a lot of stuff in the video library. So I’ve kind of had to push that a lot faster than I was expecting to.

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“Hopefully we continue to see people want to jump on that with the hopes of still being able to play this year at some point.”

He’s also holding out hope they may be able to offer some programming, while following the guidelines around physical distancing.

“When you’re on the golf course, after the tee shot you’re rarely walking together. Everyone is going to their ball and I think there’s potentially ways we can maintain that and keep social distancing and staying safe.”

In a televised address earlier this week, Premier Jason Kenney said the current measures in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 would likely be in place at least until the end of May.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said much of Canada’s return to normal will depend on a vaccine that could be months away.

READ MORE: No return to ‘normality’ until coronavirus vaccine is available, Trudeau says

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