Birchbank Gold Course delayed its opening of the driving range and course until further notice. Jim Bailey photo.

Birchbank Golf Course suspends course opening

Birchbank to decide course of action, after BC Golf requests all golf courses to stay closed

Just when Trail golfers were poised to tee off at Birchbank driving range on Wednesday, the call came down from British Columbia Golf requesting that all courses close.

As a result, the Birchbank Golf Course is postponing the opening of its practice facility until further notice.

“As a conscientious member of the community, we are taking all forms of information and input into consideration before making a decision,” said Birchbank manager and golf pro Jeff Papilion.

The club announced that it was opening its driving range on Wednesday, and the course next week, however, a release by BC Golf, asked that all courses in the province shut down in respect of the pandemic.

“In this time of major concern throughout our province, country and indeed the global community, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, British Columbia Golf would like to extend our full support in the matter of requesting closure of all play at BC golf courses. While we do not take this decision lightly whatsoever, we realize that in the best interest of all golfers, their families and loved ones, staying away from golf facilities in order to do our part to ‘flatten the curve’ is the most responsible and prudent thing to do.”

While, most courses have complied with the request, there was some backlash.

In Langley, the proposal drew a blast from Doug Hawley, managing director of the Redwoods Golf Course, who said the organization was “overstepping” its authority.

“I am shocked that a statement like this has gone forward without any consultation with actual golf course operators.”

No courses were notified, and Papilion found out after it was posted on social media.

“Because the decision came out Sunday night, so late and so innocuous – Instead of sending all the courses an email, we all had to find out on FaceBook,” said Papilion.

Prior to the request, Birchbank had prepared for the opening by purchasing a number of sanitizers for potential patrons and bleach and ammonia for the golf balls, carts and other equipment, as well as make a plan for safe spacing at the point of purchase and on the driving range.

Similarly, in anticipation of the season start, Birchbank implemented rules and restrictions adhering to safe distancing, no flags, modified holes, and extensive wiping down and cleaning of equipment and facilities.

Golf Canada CEO Laurence Applebaum admitted that neither his organization or BC Golf can mandate course closure, however, he said he had been in touch with most of the clubs across Canada and strongly suggested they close for the good of public safety.

“I will tell you that the overwhelming majority are thinking about the health and wellness of their staff, and of their overall memberships, and so the majority of them have closed their doors until further notice,” said Applebaum, who noted that a lot of golfers are older and vulnerable to COVID-19.

“It’s on a club-by-club basis and we’ve been providing the guidance of wanting to have everyone think about what (public health officials) have told us are the best things we can to be safe, be healthy, and to try and do all the right things to eradicate the coronavirus.”

Papilion understands the reasoning behind the actions; he only hopes Birchbank and other clubs can survive the indefinite delay and it’s ultimate effect on the bottom line.

The Birchbank Golf Club will notify the public when a decision is made.

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