Edmonton golfers teeing up in lower COVID-19 case areas

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Edmonton golfers looking to play a few rounds with people from different households need only to drive a short distance away from the city.

The Alberta government announced new restrictions for high case regions where there are more than 50 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people and with more than 30 active cases. This means golfers in Edmonton and Calgary, which are considered hot spots, must play with members from their own households or two close contacts if they live alone.

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Golfers in lower case areas, such as Two Hills, Jasper, Kananaskis and Elk Island, are allowed to play with groups of 10 or fewer from different households, although they must maintain physical distancing of two metres and can’t ride in the same golf cart.

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Cindy Dumbleton, the manager at Two Hills Lions Golf and Country Club, said business has been booming since they opened for the season on April 10 and was relieved that her course was in an area with lower cases.

“(Golfing) is one of the only things that you can get out and do during COVID,” she said. “We can have groups of four golfing together. We have people from Edmonton (coming here), Sherwood Park, St. Albert, Fort Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan, Lloydminster, Vegreville, everywhere (and) all around the Lakeland area as well. We have people that come from west Edmonton. They just obviously love our little golf course.”

Dumbleton said she’s not nervous about visitors coming from high case areas because everyone wears masks if they’re indoors and staff keep the club sanitized regularly. Those wishing to play must book ahead of time.

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Wade Hudyma, the general manager and chief operating officer of Edmonton’s Royal Mayfair Golf Club, said the course has been busy when it opened for the season on April 17, but in a different way. Instead of groups of three or four, people are playing either alone or in pairs.

He said the social aspect of golf has changed.

“It feels different,” Hudyma said. “Golf is such a social game. That’s what’s missing right now because you don’t have friends playing with friends. You don’t have friends meeting friends on the patio or in the clubhouse to share a drink or a meal. That’ll all work itself out (in) the next little while and we’ll be back to normal.”

Darren Robinson, the general manager at Kananaskis Country Golf Course, said they don’t pay much attention to where people are coming from, but generally the club sees some visitors from Edmonton. Most golfers are from the Calgary area, he said.

Robinson said golf is one of the safer activities to do during the pandemic as it is outside and people already keep their distance.

“(Golf) is a wonderful activity,” he said. “In addition to the safeness of it, it also providing employment opportunities, it’s providing outdoor opportunities for people to get out and get fresh air, get some exercise, get some safely distanced socialization and really take their mind off of what has been an incredibly challenging time for so many.”

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Dr. James Talbot, an adjunct professor with the University of Alberta’s school of public health, said golf is a much safer sport compared to indoor activities such as a spin class. He said golf with the right restrictions can be safe to do.

Talbot said having two regions with different restrictions defeats the purpose of having the regulations there in the first place.

“In public health, we would call it a perverse incentive,” he said. “You’ve created an incentive for people to go golf in an area with fewer restrictions, even though they come from a place where there’s more COVID happening. That is one of the dangers of setting up a region-by-region approach.”

The province recommends Albertans stay in their home community and to avoid non-essential travel.

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