This was unsupervised play on the Homestead Farms golf course in recent weeks, as recorded by a neighbor. Now golf courses may be officially open, says the governor.

Management says distancing rules cut any profit and it couldn’t police earlier players

  LYNDEN ­— Gov. Jay Inslee last week announced the May 5 reopening of parks and recreation opportunities, including golf courses. However, some restrictions will still be in place on the greens. 

  Mick O’Bryan, general manager of Homestead Farms Golf Club, said things will be different, but he’s just glad to have the course open again. 

  “It’s been a rough couple of weeks with zero income and still having to keep the grass cut because it didn’t stop growing just because of the coronavirus,” O’Bryan said. 

  Social distancing limits golf groups to no larger than two people, or four if all are from the same household.

  O’Bryan said that last guideline challenges the golf course in being able to verify if golfers actually live in the same house and in terms of daily revenue.

  The group limit will be enforced as best staff can do, he said. As to two at a time teeing off, “From a financial side, if you’re filling your entire day with just twosomes, at best you’re going to do half of what you normally do.”

  Homestead can’t do much beyond taking people at face value if they say they live in the same house and show ID, but O’Bryan said staff members will also be out on the course making sure people don’t group up.

  For further health protection, Homestead will only allow six people inside the pro shop at a time. Counters, doors and bathrooms will be cleaned and sanitized multiple times a day.

  Bunker rakes will be removed from holes and tee times must be paid for by check or a debit or credit card. Homestead will not be doing any cash transactions.

  The course will also be limiting how many people can ride in a rental cart at any time. 

  “It’s only one rider per cart unless they’re from the same family or one is a minor,” O’Bryan said. “We’re going to be renting carts like crazy. We’re going to double the rentals, half the revenue and twice the labor to make sure they’re disinfected and wiped down all day. There’s going to be some challenges.”

  O’Bryan said most normal play on the Lynden course is by British Columbians, so he’s hoping for more business from locals with the U.S.-Canada border still shut down at least to May 20. 

  Prior to this week’s reopening of golf, people could be seen teeing off and using the Homestead course even though it was officially closed. Residents rimming Homestead contacted the Tribune with complaints about the conduct of those they saw out playing.

  O’Bryan said there was no way to efficiently regulate people gathering on the course with no staff members working while shut down. 

  “The golf course is deemed an open space the same as all of the parks within Homestead,” he said. “With the layout of the course and no money or staff, it was impossible to monitor. It was myself here with some family help from day to day, but there just wasn’t any way to financially make that work.”

  O’Bryan said that any members of the golf club who had already prepaid for the year had the right to be out there. 

  “It made it even harder to tell who was a member and who wasn’t a member,” he said. 

  Responsibilities with the homeowners association, sales, dues and other aspects of the course didn’t leave any time to monitor people gathering, O’Bryan said. 

  “Anyone that called, we told them if they had issues or saw something that was dangerous or wrong to contact the authorities,” he said. 

  O’Bryan replied Monday by email to one neighbor who has voiced complaints: “We will have all the governor’s provisions posted in the pro shop and in other places on the golf course. Now that we can open back up, the restrooms will be open for golfer use again. We will be monitoring the course all day, every day, so hopefully this will put an end to the urination problems at the restroom sites.”