PORT ANGELES — Instead of the typical cart barn odors greeting Port Ludlow Golf Course head golf pro Tyler Sweet as he opened up the facility Tuesday, a fresh scent enveloped him.
“I walked into the cart barn this morning and it’s never smelled so clean,” Sweet said.
The disinfectant used by the course’s player service attendants while scrubbing golf cart surfaces left a zesty, lemon scent that lingered in the air, Sweet said.
Port Ludlow Golf Course is one of the area courses taking a number of precautionary moves to protect its clientele and employees against the spread of coronavirus.
“I’m sure the squirrel that lives in the cart barn really appreciated it,” Sweet joked about the cleaning measures.
During this decidedly serious period, hitting the fairway for a round of golf is an available option for those looking for some recreation and exercise — and to get your mind off of the latest news.
Gov. Jay Inslee’s order Monday announcing a minimum two-week statewide closure of sit-down service at restaurants, bars and entertainment venues along with theaters and gyms in a bid to slow the virus’ transmission did not mention golf courses.
“That’s one positive thing from Inslee’s remarks,” Peninsula Golf Club head pro Chad Wagner said. “Golf allows us to get outside and stay active while still following precautionary measures.”
An article on GolfDigest.com quoted Dr. Catherine Troisi, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, as saying golf as it’s normally played — outdoors, with natural social-distancing built in — “would be fairly safe.”
Area courses were busy Tuesday implementing revised check-in experiences and detailing best practices in these trying times.
Most of these practices follow social distancing cues outlined by federal, state and county health agencies, but some are an added step meant to discourage and limit “touch points.”
Players are encouraged to call ahead and iron out payment and play options at area golf courses.
Handshakes are out, as are any other physical greeting. Wave to your playing partners as you stay six feet away from each other through the round.
Another big one to remember: The flag stick stays in the hole.
Courses are recommending leaving the flag stick in place on the green.
Flag sticks are one of the few shared items on a golf course and this move will minimize touch points on the golf course.
Golf handicaps should be pretty far down the list of worries right now, but scores won’t be impacted.
The USGA approved a rule change in 2019 that allows players to keep the flag stick in while playing out the hole — previously the stick had to be pulled as players putted out through the green.
Port Ludlow Golf Course detailed a few changes on its Facebook page Tuesday.
Check-in is now a three-step process. Golfers can call the pro shop (360-437-0272) to pay for rounds and services over the phone. Players would then check in with an outside services attendant in the parking lot’s Players Services box and proceed to head to the tee box.
No food or beverage options will be available at Port Ludlow during this period, Sweet said.
“Basically, you can’t get to a golf shop employee unless you give us a call,” Sweet said. “Players have the option of booking tee times online or they can call when they get to the parking lot.”
“Our phone has been ringing off the hook,” Sweet said.
He detailed some other measures in place.
“We are allowing single-riders only on our power carts and renters do not have to sign an agreement. Carts are not being stocked with tees, pencils or scorecards.
“We are trying to limit the amount of touches as best we can,” Sweet said.
Clubhouse bathrooms are being washed and sanitized regularly.
“The washrooms are getting a deep cleaning twice a day,” Sweet said. A native of British Columbia, Sweet is used to cleaning up after the dirtiest of athletes.
“This goes back to the days I worked at an ice rink,” Sweet said. “The worst was cleaning up after men’s league hockey. Those guys were just disgusting.”
Sweet said the course was staying open until dark.
“We will have an outside services guy still here until the last cart comes in,” Sweet said.
Sweet also said Port Ludlow had moved up it green aerification schedule to this week and will offer a special of $15 for walking players and $25 for those using a cart.
Peninsula Golf Club is asking players to pre-pay if possible and limiting the number of players allowed inside the golf shop to four.
The course also is closing its driving range at 4 p.m.
“We are sanitizing all golf carts, handles and any other touch point,” Wagner said.
We’ve removed all ball washing machines from the course, along with any water jugs and taken the rakes out of bunkers,” Wagner said.
“And we have been encouraging our players to leave the flag stick in. Most of them leave it in anyway.”
Sweet directed players to report scores for handicap purposes online for the time being.
That move itself will limit interactions. Sweet said some players have struggled to use technology provided by the Washington State Golf Association.
And Sweet is hopeful the course can continue to provide services during this period while also sticking to a summer schedule full of golf events.
“Getting to be at a championship course is thrilling and we want to do our part in hosting events,” Sweet said. “We have US Junior Amateur qualifying here this summer and a number of other events.
“It’s exciting to be here and be part of what we are doing to get back to the top of the course rankings in Washington state.”
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected].