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Keeping a safe distance in San Luis Obispo County

By |  May 8, 2020 0 Comments

Of the trio of San Luis Obispo County golf courses in California — Morro Bay GC, Dairy Creek GC and Chalk Mountain GC — only Dairy Creek had to close due to the pandemic, according to superintendent Josh Heptig.

“The good thing is that in our area, our public health director and our county CEO have both been adamant that golf is an essential activity in our county from day one,” Heptig says. “We worked really hard to try and make sure that golf stayed open.”

Dairy Creek GC was closed because of its location in a large regional park that was shut down because it was a designated area where the infected homeless population could be quarantined. While that course is closed, the crew members have been able to aerify the roughs, greens and fairways.

As for the other two courses, Heptig says rounds may be around where they normally are to slightly down, especially at Morro Bay.

“It’s an oceanside course that gets a lot of tourists, and our county is trying to suggest that people don’t travel within or to California,” Heptig says. “We’re a locals-only course. That’s what all the golf courses in the area have gone to, trying to keep the virus at bay and our staff safe and healthy.”

To ensure the course can remain open, Heptig says people aren’t allowed in to the pro shop until 15 minutes before their tee time; no range balls or scorecards are available; there’s a limit of 20-25 people on the putting green based on social distancing; and social distancing signs dot the golf course.

“We sent an email blast out that if we can’t continue to do this, our golf course is going to be closed down,” Heptig adds. “A lot of it is trying to get individuals to police themselves. We joke that golf has been doing social distancing before it was a thing. Golfers don’t really spend a lot of time around each other, except on tee boxes and putting greens and those are the areas we’re seeing issues.”

Heptig says he foresees courses having to increase staffing to meet regulations.

“We’re struggling to figure out how to do that and make this a profitable business,” he says. “We need to make sure we’re keeping our customers, our employees and our community safe. We’ve also got to make some money and maintain a proper business model. Golfers still want to play but we’ve got to pay bills and keep people safe.”

Heptig is wary that other revenue generators at the courses may take a hit as well.

“Usually, we try to keep people on the property as long as we can to get some additional spend on the bar or any other area that we have, so we can generate more revenue. Also, having events that are more than 10 people or even up to 50 people is going to be a big issue from a health and safety standpoint,” he says. “When we get back to those types of activities … it might be as long as a year or 18 months.”



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