Summit County golf courses take social-distancing, touch-point precautions to reopen amid COVID-19
Breckenridge plans for May 22, The Raven June 1, Copper Creek July 4
SILVERTHORNE — As Summit County golf courses begin to reopen over the next couple of months, golfers can expect a different experience thanks to the precautions courses are implementing with the hope of preventing any chance of the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Currently, Breckenridge Golf Club looks like it will be the first local course to open for the season on May 22. When the club opens its Beaver and Elk nine-hole sections (the Bear nine is set to follow as early as June 12) Breckenridge PGA pro Erroll Miller said the club will have social-distancing and touch-point rules to adhere to the regulations Summit County government wants golf courses to implement.
In Stage 1 of its “Roadmap to Recovery,” the county classifies golfing as “low-risk recreation.” According to the Roadmap to Recovery document, that means golfing can currently reopen with what the county dubs “strict physical distancing measures and precautions.”
At Breckenridge Golf Club, Miller said that will mean that, unless they live under the same roof, golfers will have to ride and traverse the course solo in a cart. The course will also be marked with social-distancing signage.
Miller said golfers will also experience what he described as an “inverted cup.” It’s a way to prevent golfers from touching the casing of the hole once their ball is inside it, as the ball rests above the hole rather than inside it. Miller saw the concept when he went down to Denver in recent weeks to golf as he described it, “for my own sanity and research.”
“It feels like the real game,” Miller said.
He went on to detail additional policies that will be in place at the golf club, including making sure hand sanitizer is readily available for staff and customers.
“We’ll be using credit cards only. You know, bag handlers — the guys and gals who would usually assist customers — some of those things will just go away early in the season,” Miller said. “We’ll have staff spending time disinfecting cups after they go out — it’s going to be a little different when we get started. But the great thing about golf is it has been really busy at the facilities that have been open. It seems like one element people can freely recreate and not get hassled by anybody. The golf courses in the Denver area have been super busy. It seems like, nationwide, those that have been able to open up have done robust business.”
Though Miller did think there may be as much interest as ever from locals looking to get out of a “cooped-up” situation inside their home and play at their local courses, he did forecast that a club like his will take hits in other ways. One is canceling annual large-group events, such as the Little Red Schoolhouse and Summit Foundation fundraisers the club typically hosts in the coming weeks. Miller said the club may reschedule those events for September.
“Any large shotgun-start type of events, they are probably not on the horizon for this summer,” Miller said.
He he also expects to lose a lot of the typical tourist customers who may not choose to golf — or vacation in Summit County at all — due to the economic downturn resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown.
That’s the expected situation this summer for Ryan Parr, general manager of the Raven Golf Club at Three Peaks in Silverthorne.
According to Parr and head club professional Sam Zuckerman, the Raven has set a tentative opening date of June 1. Zuckerman said the later-than-usual opening date is not due to the coronavirus but because more destructive-than-normal ice damage to the greens in mid-April when they took on water due to warm temperatures.
In Breckenridge, Miller said the Breck Golf Club’s greens experienced similar ice damage in November when warm temperatures follow the copious October snowfall. Both courses now are placing tarps over their greens to prep the often-fickle short grass for opening days.
The Raven is conducting social-distancing and touch-point precautions similar to Breckenridge. Zuckerman said golfers will be able to play one person per cart with groups as large as foursomes. The club has 80 carts in total, which Zuckerman said should accommodate the anticipated increase in local demand. When they do play, there will be no sand bottles, no scorecards, no towels, no tees and no pencils. He said as part of the club’s sanitizing process, the Raven’s cart guys will spray down each cart before a new golfer can enter it.
As for holes at the Raven, Zuckerman said the club will cut out foam pool noodles to prevent the balls from fully entering the cup, meaning once a golfer sinks a shot or putt, the ball will rest about a half-inch above the cup. Golfers also will be asked to not touch flags — even during putts flags will remain in pins. This policy is also in place at Breckenridge.
In terms of food and beverage, both Breckenridge and The Raven are planning for to-go service and are considering beverage-cart service out on the holes. At their pro shops, each club will have a cap on number of customers inside at one time, based on the amount of square footage inside the shop.
For their driving ranges, both clubs said they likely will have a cap on number of golfers taking part at once, with touch-point and social-distancing rules.
Over at the Keystone River and Ranch courses, Vail Resorts spokeswoman Loryn Roberson said on Friday it’s too early to make a definitive announcement regarding opening day as the corporation continues to monitor the COVID-19 situation and related health concerns.
At Copper Creek Golf Course at Copper Mountain Resort, spokeswoman Taylor Prather said the course is targeting a July 4 opening of nine holes, in line with the resort’s plans to resume on-mountain operations with social-distancing precautions and health considerations on the national holiday.
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