FORE! YOUR SAFETY: Golf courses implementing new guidelines due to COVID-19

A greens keeper mows around the 18th green at Dothan National Golf Club on Tuesday morning. The course has made adjustments like removing flag sticks and inverting holes to allow players to practice social distancing.

While public golf courses remain open in Dothan, some safety precautions have been put in place due to COVID-19.

It might even lead to some lower scores.

“We have removed our pins and inverted our cups,” said Matt Rivers, director of Dothan National Golf Club. “Once it (ball) hits the cup, then it’s considered in. So actually, people are getting pretty nice scores right now.”

With no flags in place, Rivers said the cups are being placed in the middle of the green. Also, only one golfer is allowed per cart in following the social distancing rules that have been recommended.

“If you’re playing a foursome, it’s four carts,” Rivers said. “We’re really trying to distance the six foot — keeping people away from each other as much as we can.”

Rivers is also trying to space out the tee times just a bit.

“Let’s say your group is four people and my group is four people,” Rivers said. “A foursome will ride down to the tee box and they’ll go one at a time.”

The rakes have also been removed from the bunkers to further avoid players handling objects that have been touched by others.

When a person comes to register, they now do so through a window instead of actually entering the clubhouse.

“We’ve got almost like a to-go window,” Rivers said of the registration set up. “We have a sanitation station with Lysol and wipes and stuff like that. In the bathrooms outside we’ve got the sanitation stations.”

Even the common areas outside have been adjusted.

“We took away all of our chairs outside on the patio so you’re not able to sit and congregate,” Rivers said. “Once we get around nine people, we let everyone know that if someone else comes, that will be it.

“Everyone has been pretty respectful of it so far. We do have some people who don’t really get it yet.”

Rivers is starting to see a reduction in the number of golfers who show up to play due to the coronavirus situation.

“On Friday and Saturday we had well over 100 people,” Rivers said of this past weekend. “Yesterday (Sunday) after Gov. Ivey had released the mandates, we noticed it was about half of what we usually do. We’re definitely starting to feel the effects.”

Highland Oaks in Dothan, which is part of the Robert Trent Jones Trail of golf courses across the state, is implementing similar guidelines sent down from its state headquarters.

According to the RTJ web site, there is a ban on removing flagsticks while putting. One person is allowed per cart and there is take-out only on all food and beverage purchases. Tee times may also be limited at certain times in order to maintain the safest environment.

All of the 11 facilities on the RTJ trail currently remain open for play.

A representative of Highland Oaks referred all questions concerning the new guidelines to John Cannon, president of the RTJ Trail. A message left for Cannon on Monday morning seeking comment had not been returned before completion of the article.

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