RIVER FALLS, Wis. -- Clifton Hollow Golf Club general manager Mike Tschida said the clubhouse phone was ringing off the hook Monday morning.
“We just opened up tee times this morning and we’ve got two lines going,” he said.
Clifton Hollow began taking tee times by phone and online at 9 a.m. Monday, and by midmorning business was brisk after Gov. Tony Evers amended the state’s Safer at Home order last week to allow golf courses to open for business effective Friday, April 24.
Golf courses were not considered essential businesses in the governor’s original order issued March 24. The order, issued in response to the coronavirus outbreak, was set to expire April 24. Then on April 16, the governor announced another month of Safer at Home, which continues to restrict non-essential business and travel in the state but allows golf courses to open under strict guidelines.
Those guidelines include allowing walkers only -- no carts -- with social distancing requirements observed at all times, unless the players reside in the same household. All tee times and payments must be made in advance online or by phone, all ball washers, rakes and benches should be removed, and courses should use "no cup" pins to avoid people coming in contact with flagsticks. Clubhouses, pro shops and driving ranges remain closed.
Tschida is asking golfers at Clifton Hollow to check in 20 minutes before their tee time. They will then be directed to the practice green, which will serve as an "on deck" circle with just one group allowed on the green at a time. The starter will call them to the first tee.
Since Clifton Hollow is a licensed off-sale liquor retailer, Tschida said the club will be allowed to function as a liquor store and have the clubhouse open.
“Obviously we’re doing that with limitations as far as social distancing measures,” he said. “Only allowing so many people in the clubhouse at any given time. But they’ll be able to get cans of beer and bottles of pop.”
Among the other safety measures will be plexiglass barriers in the clubhouse to separate customers from employees.
“We’re tapping into resources across the country as far as how other golf courses are doing it,” Tschida said.
Clifton Hollow historically opens the last week in March, although spring snow has pushed the starting date into April the past three years. Tschida said the club was ready to go as early as March 15 this year and after losing about a month of the season he is looking forward to getting started Friday.
“We’re keeping a pretty positive attitude on this,” he said. “The last three years golf season really hasn’t started until the middle or end of April anyway, so we’re just pretending there’s been snow on the ground up until now.”