Golfers playing nice with area courses open
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Photo: Dave Scherbenco, License: N/A, Created: 2000:01:01 00:00:01
Golfers are on the course Saturday at Wilkes-Barre Municipal.
Photo: Dave Scherbenco, License: N/A, Created: 2000:01:01 00:01:51
Sawyer Koretz, of Bear Creek, watches his drive Saturday.
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Two weeks since the re-opening of golf courses around the state, it doesn’t appear that local golfers are teeing off much on the safety restrictions put in place during the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, business has picked up and clubs around the area have remained filled with golfers happy to get back to enjoying a round for a few hours. Several courses have seen similar positive reactions from their membership ever since Pennsylvania loosened restrictions and allowed golfing to resume on May 1.

“People have been very happy coming out, finally getting out to play,” John Spencer, owner at Lehman Golf Club, said. “The weather was so nice in March and April and they weren’t able to play. I think they were chomping at the bit.”

I think in Pennsylvania it’s a relatively short golf season compared to other places around the country,” Jeff Heath, assistant golf professional at Huntsville Golf Club in Dallas, said. “A lot of people are excited to use the nice days we have around.”

Golfers returned to their favorite courses with some different guidelines in place to promote the safety of everyone.

Tee times were spaced out to 15 minutes or more, and cart occupancy is restricted. At Lehman, flag sticks stay in, while golfers sign in at a side window, rather than stepping in the clubhouse.

If there was any tough adjustment, it was the changes to riding in carts. Initially, only single-occupancy carts were available — sometimes an issue for both sides of the transaction.

“When it’s one in a cart, it costs the golf course (extra gas),” John Kebles, pro shop manager at Wilkes-Barre Municipal, said.

“One of the scenarios I didn’t think about,” Shane Bradley, the general manager at Fox HIll Country Club, said, “was we have a number of players who were under the age of 16 who couldn’t drive one.”

That item was quickly ironed out, however, when an updated guidance allowed multiple occupants in a cart if they’re from the same residence.

Besides that, Bradley said, the only issue he’s seen is an overloaded server trying to keep up with everyone trying to schedule tee times online. It’s all been smooth sailing once they reach the fairway.

“The feedback from the members is that the pace of play is phenomenal,” Bradley said, noting that rounds are clocking in at around three-and-a-half hours and that groups aren’t catching up to each other often.

“It’s just like going out in your yard and working,” Kebles said. “As far as social distancing, if you ever played the game of golf, nobody hits the ball next to the other guy. Social distancing isn’t even an issue.”

With golfing going steady, clubs’ next order of business is getting creative with adding to the experience.

Heath said Huntsville prides itself on being a “full-service club” by taking bags out of cars and cleaning clubs, among other services. It’s had to scale back in some areas but is still “trying to find ways to continue providing great service in a safe way.”

At Wilkes-Barre Municipal, Kebles said to-go hot dogs are now being prepped for golfers to take out with them.

Fox Hill is brainstorming its own ways to do the best it can during its tournament season, because those events are scheduled to go on as planned.

“It’s obviously going to be restricted sizes of the field and modifications of what is included in the event,” Bradley said. “If we can continue to meet those requirements, we’ll find a way to get it done.”

Contact the writer: [email protected]; 570-821-2054; @CVEricShultz on Twitter

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