Golf season underway as area courses deal with COVID-19 concerns

  • Frank Meyers, right, walks beside Doug George while golfing at Amherst Golf Club, Monday, Mar. 16, 2020. They were in a foursome with Timothy Schmitt, background left, and Timothy Neale. All live in Amherst. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Dave Twohig, who is the head pro at Amherst Golf Club, stands near the area where people usually gather to socialize, Monday, Mar. 16, 2020, but they have been pushed to the side of the room so they are not used. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Frank Meyers, of Amherst, takes his second shot on the sixth hole, Monday, Mar. 16, 2020 at Amherst Golf Club. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Timothy Neale, center, of Amherst, tries to will his putt into the hole, Monday at Amherst Golf Club. His foursome avoided touching the flag sticks due to the concerns over COVID-19. Amhers is open for play but is following guidelines put in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Frank Meyers, right, watches his drive on the sixth hole, Monday, Mar. 16, 2020 at Amherst Golf Club as Timothy Neale looks on. Both are from Amherst. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Timothy Schmitt, of Amherst, hits from a trap on the sixth hole, Monday, Mar. 16, 2020 at Amherst Golf Club. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Frank Meyers, right, putts as Timothy Neale, center, lines up a shot and Doug George watches, Monday, Mar. 16, 2020 at Amherst Golf Club. The foursome, that also included Timothy Schmitt, avoided touching the flag sticks. All live in Amherst. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Doug George, of Amherst, hits from a trap on the sixth hole, Monday, Mar. 16, 2020 at Amherst Golf Club. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 3/16/2020 6:25:35 PM

The words in the center of the website suggest the time of the year: “We are open for play!!”

The words at the top of the website state the reality of the situation: “Recommendations for COVID-19 Virus Control”

Amherst Golf Club officially opened on Wednesday, but it is heeding the advice of the experts in regards to the coronavirus.

“I got a bunch of guys getting ready to go play right now,” Amherst golf pro Dave Twohig said Monday afternoon. “Everything is a go. Basically, we’re following all the guidelines with the virus. I was talking with a member, a retired doctor, and he helped us out with getting things, what we should do and not do.”

A number of other courses are currently open — Southampton Country Club, The Orchards in South Hadley and Cold Spring Country Club in Belchertown. Some are planning to open soon — The Ledges Golf Club in South Hadley, Holyoke Country Club and Wyckoff Country Club in Holyoke.

“It’s great for people to get out and play in the fresh air,” Twohig said. “There is minimal contact with people playing in small groups of four.”

All courses are following the advice of health officials. Amherst does not want anybody to visit the course if they are feeling sick, have a fever or shortness of breath, or have been exposed to a person infected with COVID-19.

On the course, Amherst recommends players keep the flag sticks in place on the greens. The sand traps will not have rakes so players should lift their ball out of the sand. Players also should avoid touching another player’s ball.

Twohig said the club is limiting the time people spend in the pro shop. “Come in, pay fees and go play,” he said.

Twohig said the club is sanitizing counter tops, bathrooms, cart wheels and handrails throughout the day.

Twohig said the course is in good shape and the virus has yet to disrupt its tournament schedule, which starts at the end of the April.

“We have a tournament schedule that is somewhat in place and we’re hoping it happens,” Twohig said. “It might change.”

Southampton Country Club has been open since March 7.

“There was a decent amount of play on Saturday and Sunday,” co-owner Tom Strycharz said. “The previous weekend was pretty much mobbed.”

Strycharz said the club’s restaurant is unavailable, but players can order food halfway through their round and pick it up on their way to the 10th hole.

The club has been diligent in cleaning the bathrooms, carts and high-traffic areas.

The Orchards opened on Thursday and rolled out their new membership options, a variety of different ways to attract players to the club.

“This is something that is really going to cater to the golfer that doesn’t have enough time to justify having a full membership,” said club general manager Chris Tallman. “We have a lot of people with busy lives ... This gives them an opportunity to be a part of what we have at The Orchards.”

Tallman is entering his first full season at the South Hadley club. He said the course is three to four weeks ahead of schedule.

“The conditions are fantastic right now. With the weather we’ve had we’ve been able to aerate and top dress the greens,” he said. “The greens are rolling fantastic and the course is clean. A lot of tree work was done on the golf course over the winter.”

The course is taking precautions with COVID-19. It has removed all miscellaneous items from bathrooms that people would touch and it has posted signs to encourage good hygiene.

Like other clubs, The Orchards is sanitizing throughout the day. Tallman echoed the advice from Amherst Golf Club to avoid touching the flag sticks and other golf balls. Also, players should be mindful reaching into the cups. “Anything inside 10 feet is good,” he said.

Tallman said the club’s schedule hasn’t been hurt too badly since it’s early in the season.

“We had some private events we had to postpone and reschedule, some member events. We were planning on opening the restaurant this Friday for the membership but we have to push that back,” Tallman said. “Hopefully, all this gets figured out. There a lot of unknown and uncertainly. We’re taking it day by day.”

Cold Spring Country Club officially opened on Monday. The course is in good shape following the mild winter, according to head pro and director of golf operations David Wright.

The course unofficially opened last week, and Wright said about 80 rounds were played on Saturday.

The club will offer a new restaurant — Joseph’s at Cold Spring. It will be operated by the Craig family, owners of Hanna Devine’s Restaurant in Ware.

Joseph’s was scheduled to open April 1.

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