NZ golf courses enter unprecedented times

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It’s been a month since the first Covid-19 virus hit NZ shores and with that the NZ government has shown a firm hand raising the alert level to level 4 – the highest level aimed to eliminate the virus.

This means only essential businesses and services are allowed to operate for the next 4 weeks – supermarkets, petrol stations, banks and insurance operators to name a few.

So it comes as no surprise that sports turf venues have been shut down including all maintenance operations for the lockdown period.

NZ Golf Course Superintendents Association president Steve Hodson has been lobbying in conjunction with NZ Golf and Sport NZ to the government and remains hopeful that some dispensation can be given to the industry to at least allow minimal maintenance in an already isolated environment particularly on greens.

As we head into the 7th day of lockdown – many greenkeepers will be starting to lose sleep and strict government regulations imposed mean for many who live a reasonable distance from their course will find it unfathomable being unable to lay eyes on their place of work.

Some of these regulations are

  • Stay at home
  • Your “bubble” is the people you live with – stay in your “bubble”
  • Walking or cycling is allowed but only in your area
  • Keep 2m away from people
  • Driving to the beach or bush is not acceptable – ie no hunting, fishing, or surfing
  • Driving to essential services is fine – supermarket/petrol stations

These regulations mean cruising around to the golf club is essentially off limits and NZ police are out in force with checkpoints enquiring into driver’s reasons for being on the road.

The best-case scenario for greenkeepers at this stage is that some greens maintenance might be allowed, however the public perception is that sports turf maintenance is not an essential service and other industries fighting for survival will sit higher up on the list.

But as the industry shuts down for players – it’s becoming a hard pill to swallow when golf courses are now the most isolated places in the country and not one worker is allowed to help prevent what could be critical club-saving maintenance.

So what will golfers face when this lockdown is downgraded and courses likely open in a minimalistic capacity without bar and pro shop facilities?

A tip for golfers – be team players, be patient and don’t put the puzzles and the x-box away too soon.

It’ll be a slow burn to get courses back to the basic playable condition and courses may stay closed for period of time to allow staff some uninterrupted course revival – especially if courses are riddled with disease across the board.

Clubs with high foot traffic will need courses clear of patrons in order to just get the job done rather than working in between golfers.

Mowers will no doubt be operating in a continuous cycle to knock back growth and clippings – don’t be surprised to see breakdowns especially at courses with old machinery trying to push the limit.

The worst-case scenario at the end of the lockdown is not worth thinking about, but we must remember the bigger picture of a healthy society is the number 1 priority.

Stay safe.

Michael Minty

Stock image used