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Fore! Golf courses prep for busy reopening; city sets rules for its courses

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Colby Reddoch’s phone started to blow up with phone calls and text messages Thursday afternoon after news broke that golf courses were set to reopen as early as Friday following Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s latest order.

Reddoch, the professional at Los Altos Golf Course, was getting inquiries about tee times and work hours from employees.

About an hour before Lujan Grisham announced golf courses could open for golf only during an extension of a stay-at-home order through May 15, Reddoch got word that the municipal courses in Albuquerque could open Saturday.

Reddoch said he will start taking tee times Friday morning for Saturday and beyond.

“We were optimistic that the courses would reopen,” Reddoch said. “We are able to provide a very safe environment for these people. Golf gives them a way to get out of the house and not crowd into Walmart like everyone else.”

Reddoch said he is planning to set tee times at least 12 minutes apart to give more space between golfers.

About a month ago, before Lujan Grisham ordered golf courses to be shut down, the courses in New Mexico were experiencing an uptick in rounds because there were few places to be safe and yet remain active.

Back then, the staffs at the golf courses were practicing several safety mandates, including disinfecting golf carts and cleaning all touching points.

At Paradise Hills Golf Course, there was PVC pipe inserted into the cups so that golfers would not touch the holes, said pro Gerome Espinoza. His phone was also experiencing a high volume of calls and texts Thursday afternoon.

The golf courses in New Mexico can open Friday, but most will open Saturday or Sunday. The public health order of relaxing business restrictions does not include San Juan, McKinley or Cibola counties, so golf courses in those counties will remain closed through May 15.

Espinoza expects Paradise Hills to be open Saturday.

“I’m not going to complain one bit,” Espinoza said. “It’s obviously needed … I’m excited and ready to get back to work. Ready to get back to the golf course and open it up for the people who are excited too.”

Espinoza and others said at least a day or two will be needed to open for preparation and to gain clarification of what is needed to be safe during operation.

Lujan Grisham said all retail at the golf courses should be closed during the extension of the public health order. At Los Altos, golfers can check in and pay at a window for their rounds. But at Paradise Hills, the golfers need to enter the pro shop to pay.

Jason White, the Sun Country PGA president who is also the director at the New Mexico State Golf Course, said he will probably open that course Sunday. He was optimistic that Lujan Grisham would allow for golf courses to reopen because he knew Sun Country had been providing the state with information about safety measures practiced at golf courses. That information included a 24-page manual of safe practices at a golf course during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Sun Country also provided the state with examples of other states reopening their golf courses.

“We believe we did the right thing in supporting during the first health orders,” White said. “We believe we were a good partner throughout this with our elected officials and leaders. We understood they had a difficult task and we tried to provide them with as much information as possible.”

White said that while he is excited, he is also a bit nervous because now those involved in the golf industry will need to adhere to the safety and make sure they are ready to reopen.

“Technically we can open (Friday),” he said. “I hope facilities make the right decisions in that regard and prepare accordingly to make sure they can open safe and responsibly. We all have to be partners in this.”

 

CITY’S STRATEGY FOR REOPENING GOLF COURSES

City of Albuquerque golf courses will reopen with limited operations on Saturday following new guidelines issued by the New Mexico Department of Health on Thursday. The new public health order allows golf courses to reopen for golf only. No dine-in food service or retail will be available.

The City owns four municipal golf courses that will reopen on Saturday:  Arroyo del Oso, Ladera, Los Altos, and Puerto del Sol. Please note that the golf facilities at Balloon Fiesta Park will remain closed as that facility is being used as a COVID-19 testing site.

City courses, including course concessionaires, will be following best practices for golf course operations under the current COVID-19 conditions. These best practices have been developed by municipal governments and golf course operations experts from across the country. Golfers should expect some delays and understand that not all services may be available.

Golf courses, their employees, and golfers, must continue to adhere to certain restrictions reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure:

 

At the Clubhouse and Parking Lot:

  • All rounds will require a tee time until further notice.
  • Tee times for twosomes will be in 8-minute intervals and foursomes in 12-minute intervals.
  • All transactions will be completed at the door or via a walk-up window. Pro Shops will remain closed to the public until further notice.
  • Golfers must remain six feet apart while waiting to check in for their tee time.
  • Players are urged to not arrive at the golf course more than 15 minutes prior to their tee time and to leave the course immediately when their round is complete.
  • Snack bars or grills will be open for take-out and carry away only. No congregating in areas surrounding snack bars, grills, or patios. Beverage carts will be available on the golf course; however, only one person per group may approach the beverage cart.
  • Physical distancing will be enforced at all times.

 

On the Course:

  • All practice facilities will be monitored by a course marshal to enforce physical distancing; driving ranges will be set up to use every-other tee.
  • Walking is encouraged; One rider per golf cart unless golfers reside in the same household.
  • No sand bottles will be allowed in golf carts.
  • No pencils will be allowed in golf carts.
  • All golf carts will be sanitized between rounds.
  • All ball washers have been removed.
  • All bunker rakes will be removed.
  • Flag sticks must stay in the hole at all times.
  • All water fountains will remain off until further notice.
  • Field restrooms will be sanitized every two (2) hours.
  • Physical distancing will be monitored and enforced by course marshals.

 

Face Coverings

  • Golfers maintaining the required six feet of physical distancing are not required to wear a face covering during play.
  • Golfers are required to use face coverings while inside any building or interacting face to face with any staff during any transaction, whether inside or outside.

 

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