Although the weather wasn’t ideal for an opening, with light showers and temperatures around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, four local golf courses were among the courses in the state allowed to reopen on Friday thanks to restrictions on limited outdoor recreational activities being lifted as announced on April 27.
Cross Creek Resort, in Titusville, Green Acres Golf Course, in Titusville, Hunter’s Station Golf Club, in Tionesta, and Mt. Hope Golf Course, in Guys Mills, saw anxious players take to their respective greens despite wet conditions and cooler temperatures. With the revving of golf carts traversing the grounds and the sounds of balls being launched off tees, it was a sign of normalcy that people have been longing for since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Oil City residents Jack Russell and Andrew Pikna were two of those athletes that were dying to get back on the green. Both played a round of golf at Cross Creek Resort in the afternoon on Friday. Although they’ve played through the 27 total holes the course has to offer every year, it was a little bit sweeter for them this time around.
“It’s fantastic,” Pikna said of getting the chance to play. “I’ve been doing a lot of fishing and a lot golfing; just trying to get outdoors. We’ve been playing some courses that weren’t in great shape, so we figured the first day (Cross Creek) opened up, we’d like to get out on a course that was in a little nicer condition.”
Friday’s round of golf wasn’t exactly the same as what golfers like Pikna and Russell have come to be accustomed to in the past. Tee times are more spaced out due to social distancing and extra sanitary measures are being implemented to prevent contact and cross-contamination between golfers. As Russell pointed out, the result of each hole didn’t end with the sound of a putt sinking into the bottom of the hole, rather a clank off a pipe sticking out of the hole.
“I’m excited to see, as this quarantine progresses, what this plays out like,” Russell said. “You can see right now, we’re putting into PVC pipes instead of holes to keep us from touching the pins. But, it’s good to be out doing something."
Cross Creek, located at 3815 state Route 8, in Titusville, plans to be open from 9 a.m. to dark, according to Resort Golf Pro Randy Pullease, to golfers who are ready to break their cases of cabin fever. He expects the opening weekend to be “not jam-packed but fairly busy” due to better weather.
Pullease has felt the impact of being “one month behind” due to being shut down because of COVID-19 and admitted he “would have opened on April 1” if the stay-at-home orders and non-essential business shutdowns were not implemented.
“We’ve lost some money and some of our players and guests have already cancelled,” Pullease said. “It’s going to be a hit on us. It will be a while before we get back to normal.”
There are some signs of the temporary new normal at Cross Creek. Golf carts are sanitized between each use. Golfers wishing to enter the pro shop are limited to one person in the shop at a time and are encouraged to wear face masks. Traffic through the pro shop is limited to one direction to prevent further contact between people. Out on the course, however, a mask is not required to play.
Pullease added that there is no additional restrictions on the amount of players allowed on the golf course at one time saying, “27 holes allow a lot more room than other golf courses.” The normal limit of four players per hole is still in effect. He does expect to be flexible adding that “this is all new territory” and “a lot of things could pop up that you’re not going to think about until they happen.”
Here’s a look at what other local golf courses are experiencing and expecting as they begin to open up:
Mount Hope Golf Course
Located at 29790 state Route 27, in Guys Mills, Mount Hope Golf Course has resumed its normal operating hours of dawn to dusk every day, according to General Manager Doug Smith. The course is also taking similar precautionary measures of scheduling tee times 15 minutes apart, removing the ball washers and trap rakes from the holes and leaving the flag sticks in place.
“Full-scale maintenance” of the greens is back online, according to Smith, and league play is going to resume. Scrambles and events are not allowed at this time as Smith is “waiting for the government” to give the green light on larger outings. Masks are not required to play, but they are encouraged by Smith as he called wearing them “a good habit.”
Smith echoed similar sentiments about trying to recover from the loss of business since its closure on March 20. He also would have remained open if the aggressive mitigation efforts were not in effect.
“It’s a big hit to the revenue,” Smith said. “We appreciate that people are allowed (to play), so we are trying to catch up. We hope to have a busy weekend. Our motto is that we always hope for the best and plan for the worst.”
Hunter’s Station Golf Club
Like its counterparts, Hunter’s Station Golf Club, located on state Route 62, in Tionesta, has been trying to adapt through this uncharted time and is now open from 8 a.m. to dusk, with tee times ending about two hours prior to dusk, according to owner Terri Obenrader. Hunter’s Station will also be offering food at its restaurant from noon to 7 p.m. during the week and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the weekend.
Obenrader shared that the course will be implementing tee times every 15 minutes instead of its normal 8-minute gap. Flags will remain in their holes, while golf carts will be limited to one person each unless multiple golfers live in the same household. Cleaning and disinfecting measures will also be significantly increased.
Hunter’s Station was planning to open at the beginning of April, according to Obenrader, but was forced to close. Although the weather isn’t always friendly for golfers, Obenrader said that “there is more business” that goes on during the month “than people think.”
“We know that there are really around 13 good playing days in April,” Obenrader said. “However, we do play-and-stay packages and with the start of fishing season, people book our lodges. There was definitely a loss there.”
That loss will be countered with a high volume of people scheduled to hit the course this weekend. Obenrader said that the course is mostly booked up for today and thinks she’ll be “pretty busy” over the weekend. Golfers who do come out are asked to wear a mask in the pro shop.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Obenrader said. “I didn’t know if people were going to be too afraid to come out, not able to because of not having jobs, or excited to come out from being stir-crazy from being indoors.”
Note: Operators of the Green Acres Golf Course were unable to be reached before publication. Borland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.