Talk about Canadian, eh?
Some Southwestern Ontario golf courses have done such brisk business through the pandemic, they’re opening through the winter, even in the snow.
White Squirrel Golf Club, located outside Zurich, north of Grand Bend, is teeing off on winter golf for the first time to give house-bound and pandemic-weary folks a safe, outdoor activity.
“It’s more about getting outside and swinging a golf club than taking your score seriously,” said Brittany Nigh, White Squirrel’s manager of golf operations. “It’s a bit more fun.”
The fundamentals of the summer sport stay the same on frozen ground.
Snowy golfers will still find the fairway in play, but there are no tee blocks and the green isn't used for putting. Instead, temporary greens have been crafted to protect the course.
Nigh said COVID-19 pandemic safety restrictions have spurred creativity and the desire to keep the course open year-round.
“We do try to always think outside the box and do things a little differently,” she said. “Let’s not focus on what we can’t do, let’s see what we can do within the restrictions and can do safely.”
But what about tracking down a white ball in swaths of fluffy snow? Nigh recommends playing a fluorescent or coloured golf ball and still keeping the weather forecast in mind.
“You can do it in some snow, but obviously if the entire course is covered in two feet of snow, it’s going to be pretty difficult to find a patch to hit the golf ball from,” she said.
She also recommends wearing gloves and waterproof shoes, dressing in layers that still let you swing your arms, and packing a thermos.
The club also has transformed its front nine holes into a hiking trail, free for the public to use, and is keeping its restaurant open year-round.
Nigh said locals have warmed to winter golf. “It’s offered our community a nice outlet,” she said.
Another course, the Fox Golf Club, just north of London near Granton, also is open for the winter, with similar snowy weather adjustments.
The Fox is run by Waterloo-based company GolfNorth, which has set up eight of its Southwestern Ontario courses for winter play, including ones in Forest, Petersburg and Baden.
“We thought golf was safe and fun and people felt comfortable doing it all summer, and in the winter this year, people need something to do,” said Doug Breen, GolfNorth’s vice-president. “It’s just a way to get outside, get some exercise, do something fun with your buddies.”
He said any day that would be appropriate for skiing would be good for winter golf.
If the pandemic brainchild of winter golf is popular, GolfNorth plans to keep running it in future years.
And so far, the frosty conditions haven’t deterred any golfers.
Breen said earlier this week, groups played their courses even after Tuesday’s storm, with snow up to their shins.
“It’s absolutely a quintessentially Canadian thing to do to embrace the cold,” he said.
Max Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press