• April 2, 2020

GOLF: Local courses stay open but adjust to ever-changing situation with virus - Odessa American: Sports

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GOLF: Local courses stay open but adjust to ever-changing situation with virus

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Posted: Monday, March 23, 2020 4:51 pm

As more businesses and recreation areas are affected by the coronavirus pandemic, golf courses still have their doors open to the general public.

That’s still the case as Ratliff Ranch Golf Links, Sunset Golf Course and Andrews County Golf Course are among the area courses doing what they can to keep it that way.

“Golf provides a place for people to have some sort of normalization during this crazy time,” said Chris McQuatters, head golf professional at Ratliff Ranch. “We’re just trying to provide a place for people to get outdoors.”

As it stands, however, places like Ratliff Ranch are making plenty of adjustments dealing with the new reality.

Keeping the flagsticks in the holes, removing rakes from all bunkers and spacing out tee times to allow more social distancing in between groups are some of the changes being implemented.

McQuatters said that the times are now spaced out 12 minutes Monday thru Thursday and 15 minutes during the weekends. He said he’s also limiting the number of people in the pro shop at any one time in order to comply with CDC guidelines.

“As soon as this started transpiring, I started talking with colleagues locally and in the Metroplex about finding ways to keep the courses open,” he said. “We’ve also implemented some guidelines that the PGA has added as well.”

Sunset and Andrews both confirmed that they are enforcing similar policies with tee times and also shutting down or limiting the restaurants at their respective golf courses.

Another measure that Tommy Darland, head golf professional at Andrews County Golf Course, is taking is installing a PVC sleeve which keeps the ball near the top of the hole rather dropping all the way to the bottom, avoiding extra contact with the flag.

“We feel like we have something that we feel will create as good of an experience as possible without putting someone in a position where they don’t feel like they might be subjected to something,” Darland said.

The courses are adjusting their tournament schedules as well.

Darland said that he had to cancel tournaments in Andrews in compliance with the current CDC guidelines about limiting social gatherings of 10 or more people. He says hopes to reschedule those events at a later date.

Odessa Country Club was scheduled to host the NJCAA Division I National Championship in May but that was scrapped last week after the NJCAA canceled remaining competition for spring sports.

Ratliff Ranch was scheduled to host the Class 2A Region I tournaments in late April but that’s been put on hold due to the UIL’s decision to postpone play until May 4.

McQuatters said that the tournament schedule is pretty light until May but also understands that he’ll have to be flexible.

“ I’m not sure what the UIL is going to do but we’re certainly going to work with them to the best of our ability if they choose to play,” he said. “It just really depends on how things play out.”

That’s the approach that McQuatters and Darland are taking to their potential revenues as well. With fewer people on the course and in the pro shop buying merchandise, there is also uncertainty of what could come next.

As of noon Monday, neither Ector nor Andrews County had a confirmed positive case of COVID-19.

“When you take a day of golf and cut it in half when you space people out, that cuts the business nearly in half,” Darland said. “If we can continue to stay open, we want to provide that good experience for people and provide protection for them and the staff.”

McQuatters added that he’ll have a better idea of how things could look long term with a better forecast for this week.

“Things slowed down quite a bit,” he said. “Some of it is due to weather but we’ve had a good amount of play when the weather is decent. But I think this week is going to a good determinant of what’s going to happen moving forward.”

>> Follow Tony Venegas on Twitter at @OA_TVenegas

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