Area golf courses remain open during coronavirus outbreak

Nolan Berry, of Gering, hits a tee shot on Hole No. 1 at Riverview Golf Course in Scottsbluff. Riverview is one of the many golf courses open during the coronavirus outbreak.

With the CDC urging people to practice social distancing of 3 to 6 feet, golfing is one of the few athletic endeavors that lets you stay active while keeping that distance.

Riverview and Monument Shadows Golf Course is one of the many area golf courses open. Monument Shadows golf pro Robert Thomas said the golfers he’s been in contact with are happy they are able to get out and play a round of golf.

“The people who are out playing are excited we’re still open and they’re able to enjoy being outdoors. Hopefully, we can continue that. You never know what may happen tomorrow. We’ll just have to play it by ear day to day. It’s might be something that changes if we have a case in the county. Until then, we’re trying to operate as best we can and make a few changes to protect ourselves and protect the golfers,” Thomason said.

To help spread out the golfers on the course, Monument Shadows is staggering the tee times every 10 minutes.

“we are asking all players to have a tee time. We (won’t allow) walk-ins to come through the door, so we can keep social distancing and not put a lot of people on the golf course at the same time,” he said.

All golfers must call in to set up a tee time. Tee times must be called in at 308-635-2277. As of now, the pro shop is closed to walk-in traffic. There will be a window where golfers may pay green fees and make purchases from the pro shop.

“What we are doing with members who have their own private carts, we’re informing them they can just drive up to the window and give us a nod. When it’s their tee time we’re sending them to the tee, instead of them coming in and having contact with the golf shop. We are trying to reduce the number of people coming in and out of that door,” Thomason said. “Anybody who pays green fees and cart fees, those are the people we will have contact with. Hopefully, we can still get those people on the course.”

Thomason said most of the golfers who’ve been on the course so far this season are members of Monument Shadows.

“Currently, with the weather and this time of year, we are seeing mostly people with memberships and have cart storage or have a yearly cart rental from us. We do have some green fees players, but the traffic does seem to be down because of the virus. Some people may be homebound or not thinking about golf right now, either,” he said.

There are also safety measures in place for those renting golf carts, Thomason said.

“We are spraying the golf carts down after each use. We have towelettes if the golfers want to wipe the cart down before they use it. We are disinfecting at the end of each use. We like to have those clean and ready to go when they need to be used,” he said.

Monument Shadows is also trying to keep people from touching the hole flags, Thomason said.

“We started with the cup half in and half out of the cup. If the ball made contact with the cup it was considered holed. Tom Wallace, who is the superintendent, is going to put a piece of styrofoam into the cup so the ball will fall into the cup, but will not fall to the bottom of the cup,” Thomason said. “The top half of the ball will be sticking out of the cup, making it easy to grab out of the hole. We would like to keep the flag sticks left in place. If all of the golfers would leave the flag sticks in place, putt out or if its a gimme putt just pick it up and go on to the next hole to reduce the number of contacts.”

The golf course is also taking other safety precautions including not having ball washers, or restroom facilities in use on the course. The restroom facilities in the golf shop will still be open.

Monument Shadows is also not putting out rakes in the sand traps.

“They could probably, with their foot, just smooth the lie down they so they have a lie that would be replicated if it were raked every day. When we get going he may have the sand pro out raking bunkers,” Thomason said. “We recommend smoothing a spot out in the bunker with your foot and taking the shot.”

Riverview’s Course Manager Jerry Frueh said they are also open with some restrictions.

“So far, we’re open as normal. We’re figuring out a way to (keep people from picking up pins). There’s a number of different idea popping up on Facebook and some of the golf sites. We’re working on that right now. Once we get this implemented with the pins, we don’t want them picking up the pins. They’re recommending not to rake the sand traps,” Frueh said.

Frueh said business hasn’t been as brisk as it has in past years, but the diehard members are still getting some rounds in.

“I think it’s because of the virus. A lot of golfers want to get out and get going. I have some guys who are members stopping in and calling and asking if they can go golfing,” Frueh said.

Frueh said they are operating under much of the same restrictions as Monument Shadows, but they also have trash cans out on the course for those who may have a drink or other trash they need to throw out.

Frueh said not all of their interaction with the public has been positive, but he takes it in stride.

“I’ve gotten a little flack from people about us being open, but you got to get out and do something, he said.

Jeff Van Patten is the sports editor of the Star-Herald. Jeff can be reached by calling 308-632-9050 or emailing jeff.vanpatten@starherald.com.

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