Three weeks after Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, broke the hearts of Alberta golfers by deeming golf courses a non-essential service, the province has now announced that the public can hit the links as early as Saturday.
With the short notice, staff at courses in and around Lethbridge are now scrambling to be ready for golfers as soon as possible.
“We’re the most popular people right now,” the head professional at Paradise Canyon Golf Resort, Jae Maegaard said.
Maegaard said the word that courses would be soon be opening didn’t take long to spread after Premier Jason Kenney broke the news on Thursday afternoon.
“Our cell phones, emails, Instagrams, Twitters, every line of communication a member has on us… we got hit with it within fifteen minutes,” he said.
Maegaard said the staff at Paradise are just as excited as the public to get going with the season, but added they’re still committed to ensuring the safety of all guests amid the pandemic.
“It’s earth-shattering for us because you go through a whole winter — and it looked very promising — and then we got hit with snow that delayed us, the weather was bad, and then we get COVID-19, which puts us even further behind the eight-ball,” he said.
“So to actually have that news, and have us being open in the next couple of days is super exciting.
“Yes it’s going to be a lot of work… but at the end of the day it’s going to give an outlet for people. It’s going to be awesome to have people come down and enjoy the sport, while social distancing.”
Maegaard said the staff at Paradise Canyon have been innovative in their approach to safety, including putting together touchless flag-sticks that allow golfers to grab their golf balls without touching the flag or hole.
Getting courses ready is now a mad scramble for staff across the province, and Maegaard said the grounds crews are the ones with the most work to do.
“Having the news sprung that quick is definitely some pressure and some heat on our turf crew more than anything,” he said.
On the pro-shop side, Maegaard said Paradise Canyon has been ready for weeks with safety precautions and social distancing measures, including plexiglass barriers at pay stations and a walk-up window at the pro-shop to prevent visitors from entering.