Editorial: Drop the Alberta golf petition – let’s par out instead of carding a triple

The Alberta petition to open golf courses is as misguided as thinking you can make that monster par 5 in two - over water

Kananaskis golf course, summer of 2019. DARREN KRAUSE / LIVEWIRE CALGARY

I have a goal to be a scratch golfer by the time I’m 50. Right now, I’m about a nine handicap.

Why 50?

From there, the next goal is to participate in at least one professional tournament in the Champions Tour – as a player.  You must be 50 to do that.

I enjoy practicing the game of golf as much as playing. It’s a passion I have.

That’s why I’m as disappointed as the thousands of other Alberta golfers that golf courses are closed during the coronavirus pandemic.

I want the courses to open; I’m ready for my 9 a.m. Sunday on the driving range and chipping green at my home course of D’Arcy Ranch. I want to tee it up and play tournament golf on the Alberta Golf Tour (another Alberta small business that could be devastated by golf’s shutdown.)

GOLFLIFE ALBERTA PODCAST – PGA of Alberta executive Dale Tomlinson, Darren Krause talk COVID-19 and golf

Even with the cabin fever building, the frustration over home schooling and the need to release, I’m not a golfer that wants to hit the course at the expense of either getting or spreading COVID-19.

Despite the growing petition numbers, (my mom sent it to me), I’m not signing it.

Before I tell you why, there’s something I’d like to clear up: Golf is not an elitist sport. Yes, you need to get clubs (my previous set lasted me 15 years), and you must pay green fees, but it is no less accessible than say… downhill skiing. Equipment cost, drive time, lift ticket – we don’t do that because it’s a $750 day for the family.

(Also, keep in mind, many of you wouldn’t hesitate to drop $100 cozied up to a pub seat for four or five hours, too…)

Further, parents shell out hundreds per month for their kids to play hockey, participate in gymnastics, dance, and more.

With a garage sale set of clubs and $150, my kids could play all season long.

But, I digress.

The golf metaphor

It’s a position I’ve been in before; I hit a high cut into the woods on a par 5. Not thick woods, mind you, but enough to be trouble. I see a window that I can advance the ball about 100 yards. I just need to squeeze it between two large spruce trees and I’m home free.

I’ve also got a chip out to my left, but then it’s still 250 yards to the green. I’ll never get there in one shot.

After calculating all possibilities, I know the chip out is the best shot. My competitive side usually gets the best of me – that selfish side that thinks I’m better than I really am.

Is there a chance I’ll pure a low screamer right through those two, thick-trunked spruce and bounce out to the 150-yard marker? Yes. After calculation, it’s about a 15 per cent success rate. I can live with that.

The chip out is a 95 per cent success rate. I may even be able to nut a three-wood and dribble it up near the green – 250 yards is my max though, and there’s a bit of a wind into my face.

Let’s go with the low screamer. I take a swipe, ever-so-slightly ticking a branch on my backswing, throwing my club off a degree or two. I strike it clean, but that misdirected club face sends the ball right into the trunk of one of the two spruce trees.

The ball careens to the right, deeper into the woods.

Shit. I tap ground to see if I hit an imaginary root. I look up at the branch and shake my head and utter a few more curse words. Everything else’s fault, but my own.

I card an eight, when it should have been a five, maybe a six.

This is the coronavirus.

Golf is not an essential service

The new hole 18 at McCall Lake golf course in northeast Calgary. CITY OF CALGARY WEBSITE

As much as I try to tell my wife that golf is as essential to me as a coffee in the morning, beer on a hot summer day (or any day), and something else… like breathing – it’s not.

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw has articulated as much. No more essential than most other Alberta businesses.

Sure, there’s roughly 43,000 regular golfers in the province (national golf report, 2014, quoted in a 2017 article) and tens-of-thousands more weekend warriors hacking their way around 18 holes during the summer month. It reportedly generates nearly $3 billion annually for the Alberta economy, too.

I have no doubt. I contribute to that economy.

There are frequent touch points that would have to be cleared up: pins, carts, rakes, those “can you grab my putter” moments. There’s the food and beverage carts, the bathrooms, outhouses, the hand shaking before and after the round. There’s driving range spacing, green fee payments and high fives after a chip-in birdie.

Most of this is going to have to be addressed even IF golf courses open.

But where we are right now, with a coronavirus peak expected sometime around mid-May, it doesn’t make any sense to rush it.

There are always those people who defy the rules. The people who drive the carts into environmental areas or skid stop the tires. The people who talk in your backswing, use the blade of their putter to pull the ball out of the hole, ripping up the edge and players that take their sweet time over their million-dollar PGA putt.

Oh, don’t forget the players who should be playing from the forward tees, but think their game deserves to start from two boxes back.

That’s why we can’t open them.

I want to sign the petition

Yes, I want to join the 36,000+ others that are pushing for golf courses to have special opening rights over other businesses. My game demands it.

I know that golf courses across Alberta are hurting; heck they’ve been hurting for the past five years with the economy in the tank. Shorter seasons with snow in May and September. Fewer tournaments with an oil industry a shell of its former self.

I just can’t.

The biggest driver behind this is our desire to get outside and do something. These damn isolation rules are driving most of us mad. Golf seems like an easy way to do it; get in a good walk, 100-ish trunk rotations and maybe a social beer with others – all while standing six-feet away from each other.

(I don’t want to get into how many six footers I see missed…)

It’s for this reason though, that I don’t want them to open. I want this to end sooner rather than later. I want to get to what the new normal is right away.

One false move, one bad decision along the way could set us back and keep us cooped up until Christmas. Remember – a large percentage of golfers are seniors, too. That’s a problem with cataclysmic physical, mental and economic outcomes.

It’s trying to find that window in the trees with a 15 per cent chance of success. There’s an 85 per cent chance we’ll hit the tree and end up deeper in the woods.

Let’s chip out, grab our good par – bogey at worst – and move on to the next hole.

About Darren Krause 545 Articles
Journalist, husband, father, golfer, writer, painter, video gamer, gardener, amateur botanist, dreamer, realist... never in that order.

11 Comments

  1. Golfed in BC this weekend. No issues whatsoever, 20 min between tee times, pool noodles so noone touches flag. 1 person per cart, only golf with who you booked it with. Proshop/bathrooms closed. If this is wrong, then buying gas and going to any store for anything should be banned because that’s more dangerous

  2. This ranks as one of the worst articles and metaphors ever written. People are certainly smart enough to understand the risks. No one is shaking hands in offices and therefore no one is going to high five on a golf course.

    An early open to the season, with the social distancing measures we have all been practicing for 5-6 weeks, is a huge a EAGLE for society, not a triple! Every one wins with an extremely low risk of transmitting COVID. It get’s people hopes up and gets them out, walking, and enjoying life.

    • What makes golf non essential and the liquor store essential? The writer fails to recognize that there are any new rules that could be put in place to effectively socially distance, which would make it just as safe as going out side for a walk.

      We need better delineation on why they classify it as non essential, and if you can put rules in place to fix this ( gimmies, online payment, relief from sand traps, mechanisms that retrieve ball from hole or guard from going in at first). I don’t see how you are allowed to walk along the street but not walk on a course where you are supposed to be +100 yards from the group ahead of you.

  3. I just don’t see the point of closing them when there are so many small changes that can be made to “have a little fun” in the current depressive climate we’re living in. I would certainly feel more safe on a golf course than I would at Sobey’s. Essential, no, but golf should be exempted in my opinion.

  4. This article makes no sense. There is less risk with golf than simply going to a grocery store or even living in a condo building. Seniors don’t have to play, as the vulnerable should be staying at home isolating (no different than them not getting their own groceries). It’s time to use common sense and not blanket all activities with the same rules when this one clearly has social distancing built into 90% of it. 6 feet apart, one person to a cart or 2 family members or no carts, pins always in, no rakes in bunkers, no pro shops & no ranges open, online check in and payment … it’s pretty simple.

  5. We can’t go to a dentist unless it’s an emergency. We can’t get medical care unless its an emergency. But by all means, getting on the golf course should be a very high priority to try and return some critical functions to society.

    I hope the Alberta Golf people behind this are ready for the massive public backlash should someone decide that golf is “essential” because it’s so far down the list of things that need to re-open there may be snow on the ground when it should happen. Go petition the government to get your courses back open, lets see if the government will get you golfing again.

    Not going to happen, it’s political suicide to do that when we won’t let the kids go to school. Again, this is so far down the list of services the public needs it’s ludicrous to even suggest time be focused on this.

    • Alberta Golf is not behind this petition and it is dangerous that you lack the ability to research that before making such a strong accusation, especially given the stated ramifications as you so eloquently pointed out.

      The fact that you’re comparing golf to children in school as it pertains to the spread of a virus is childish. The two are in no way similar and the chances of spread are exponentially higher amongst children on a playground than golfers at a golf course.

      If you’re going to argue against opening public facilities, please do a better job. And stop throwing accusations around without having the proper information.

  6. I understand Darren’s position. People have varying degrees of comfort in these times. As a widow living alone I want to get out and golf as soon as possible. My kids and their families are all on personal lockdown. Their fears are different than mine. You can’t fault Darren’s argument any more than those who want the courses open. On the other hand we all need to be vocal about what we want and signing, or not signing this petition is how we can do so in a good old friendly Canadian manner. More preferable than the pictures of angry protesters we see south of the border. Besides we won’t know what’s right or wrong until months down the road and we have that perfect 20/20 hindsight.

  7. This guy is out to lunch. We can golf safely with social distancing. The lobby has 30 rules to make golf safe. I can have a 14 person gathering in Alberta, but not golf? Give me a break.

  8. We need to get away from classifying things as either essential/non-essential. Instead we should be looking at whether things are safe/not safe.

    With the proposed changes to the pins/rakes etc it is my belief golf would fall into the safe category.

    This would allow thousands of individuals to earn a living in the golf business rather than being dependent on government handouts. We simply can’t afford to shut down any more of our economy than absolutely necessary.

  9. Right away this guy says he wants to get to scratch so he can “play an event on the Champions Tour”

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! Buddy, a scratch golfer couldn’t manage a 76th place finish in a 75 man field on the Champions Tour. This article is as stupidly off the mark as it’s authors delusions.

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