At Starcke Park Golf Course in Seguin, there are some new rules if players need to get their golf fix in.
The rules come, of course, in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
General manager Bruce Allen reports that the course was very busy since the news began to come out on the virus, but that they had slowed down a little since spacing out tee times to account for social distancing.
“We only allow two groups at a time and then we leave off a tee time,” Allen said. “We also canceled all of our tournaments until April 1. We have a few groups that are more than 10 people, so we’re just trying to stay with what the governor wants, keeping it to groups of 10 or less.”
The course made an unprecedented move on Monday — taking the temperature of every golfer that comes in to play.
“Starting today, we have some forehead scanners that we’re using to take everybody’s temperature,” Allen said. “They wanted us to scan all the employees coming in, and I said, ‘well, let’s just scan the golfers.’ Before we started spacing out the tee times, we were having 200-400 interactions with golfers at the register.”
While Allen thinks that golf courses are probably one of the safest places to get outside, due to the space available for social distancing, he noted certain areas that can’t help but have people in close quarters.
“I think that’s what the golfers forget about, that they’re touching the doors that everyone else is, they’re checking in where everybody else is,” Allen said. “It’s good when you’re outside, but there are choke points where you are vulnerable.”
Groups any larger than 10 are teeing off with two foursomes, then are broken up by time, Allen said. The course has also moved tables and chairs outside, so people aren’t gathering and sitting together after their rounds.
“We have spaced out our seating and the park benches outside to space everybody out,” Allen said. “We’re actually encouraging a lot of people to go home, instead of sitting around and having a beer after the round.”
Allen said that rounds at the course were up significantly from last year until the implementation of leaving a tee time open after every two groups. Other courses in the area have closed including right up the road in Austin, where courses were shut down on March 16.
“It’s kind of a shame because there have been some closings nearby,” he said. “Even before that though, we were having a really good year. Once we started advertising on Golfnow, back when they used to play golf on Sunday afternoons on TV, we’ve been pretty busy. We’ve had customers from Austin, San Marcos and New Braunfels.”
New recommended protocols for playing golf amid the virus outbreak include no traditional handshakes before and after the round, flagsticks being left in the hole, not using rakes after playing out of sand traps and not borrowing or picking up clubs of their playing partners.
“We haven’t really done anything with the flagsticks,” Allen said. “If you don’t pull the pin, then everybody is reaching down there and every single golfer is going to touch the cup. I think tomorrow (Tuesday) we’re going to pick up the rakes. We’re just telling everyone not to worry about it — just don’t get in the hazard.”
Other courses around the country have taken further measures — setting limits to one person per cart or eliminating the use of carts entirely, closing course snack bars, and some have turned the cups upside down within the holes.
“We talked about doing the single rider per cart, but we’re going to wait until April 3 and see what the county says,” Allen said.
Allen is waiting to see what new recommendations come from the state and county to make additional changes, up to and including shutting the course down.
“We’ll have to wait on the governor and see what he says,” he said. “I would have to say that if San Antonio and New Braunfels do (shut down), that we would probably follow suit, because we’ll be swamped.
“When you’re out on the course it’s easy to social distance, but when everybody’s loading up and everybody’s finishing, or when you’re in the pro shop — that’s a different story.”
Kevin Duke is the sports editor of the Seguin Gazette. You can e-mail him at email@example.com .