No carts. No cash. And no clubhouse access. But Strawberry Valley Golf Course will be open for play starting Friday.
“Our phones have been ringing off the hook since the governor gave the OK,” said course superintendent Rene Vadeboncouer.
Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday relented to growing pressure from the state’s golf community to reopen Massachusetts golf courses, which have been closed due to COVID-19-related safety concerns. Massachusetts was the last state in the nation to give golfers the green light.
Baker opened up the tee boxes with a number of guidelines designed to reduce the risk of golfers inadvertently spreading the virus. Those guidelines include keeping clubhouses closed, which means golfers won’t be able to access pro shops, bathrooms, or any food service areas. Golfers also can’t show up more than 15 minutes before their tee time and must depart immediately after their round is over.
Vadeboncoeur said he had been in contact with state golf associations and his team was largely prepared for Baker’s guidelines.
“We’ve been preparing the course so we wouldn’t need a lot of set up time once we had an idea of what was required of us” he said.
The course is asking golfers to reserve tee times over the phone. The number of available slots will be reduced, as one of the state’s guidelines is for 15 minutes in between tee times. Strawberry Valley normally books in 6 minute intervals.
Strawberry Valley golfers will check in at the window near the clubhouse cash register, but they won’t be able to pay in cash, in accordance with another state guideline. Vadeboncouer said the course is set up to take cards as well as other electronic payments, such as Google Pay and Apple Pay.
“Will be disinfecting the machine after every transaction as needed,” he said.
Acting Town Manger Scott Lambiase said he was surprised the state is prohibiting cash payments.
“[Customers] can walk into Stop & Shop or a gas station and still use cash, so I don’t know why it was necessary to put that regulation in,” he said.
The biggest inconvenience Vadeboncouer is concerned about is the prohibition on golf carts, especially considering Strawberry Valley’s hills, the number of older players, and players who have already purchased cart passes.
“That’s a little bit of a hurdle we’re still navigating,” he said.
With the clubhouse closed, Vadeboncouer plans to ask the Board of Health for permission to sell bottles of water outside. Until then golfers should bring their own water to the course, he said.
One other change golfers will notice are the holes themselves. Pins are required to remain in the holes to prevent multiple people from having to touch the metal pole. To make it easier to pull balls out of the holes, Vadeboncouer said they have turned the cups upside down making the hole shallower. That said, Vadeboncouer encouraged golfers to play with an extra degree of sportsmanship.
“Gimmes are encouraged now,” he said.
Last week’s heavy rain made it difficult for course employees to trim the quickly growing fairway rough, said Vadeboncouer, who has been working the course for 12 years now. But he said the course should be all cut by Friday afternoon.
“Its in great condition,” he said.