Granite Pointe is one of several golf courses in the West Kootenay preparing to open for the season during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Nelson course has tentatively set May 4 as the first day golfers can tee off.
Granite Pointe president Am Naqvi said the board of directors’ priority is to mitigate COVID-19 while also offering the sport to its members.
“If we think this thing is getting worse, then we probably won’t open. But if it doesn’t then we will open,” said Naqvi. “We’ve got a whole series of protocols to have separation between people.”
Naqvi said Granite Pointe, which is celebrating its 100th year in 2020, is introducing several measures to keep golfers safe. The restaurant and driving range will remain closed, he said, while guests will have to book tee times online, answer questions about their health at the entrance and be limited to one person per cart.
It was also be open exclusively for members. Naqvi said membership fees have already been collected and spent to prepare the course for the season, so refunds aren’t a possibility.
“We have to deliver the service. That’s what we have to do,” he said. “If it wasn’t for COVID there wouldn’t be any issue.”
Golf courses around B.C. have begun to open, many well ahead of those in the West Kootenay depending on climate. Castlegar Golf Club opened Saturday, while Rossland’s Redstone Resort and Balfour Golf Course will open tomorrow.
But the pandemic has impacted the sport nationally. The RBC Canadian Open, which had been scheduled to tee off in Toronto in June, was cancelled for the first time since 1944 when golf was on pause because of the Second World War.
Meanwhile in B.C., BC Golf executive director Kris Jonasson said last month courses should remain closed to all but maintenance staff.
Naqvi said that isn’t realistic. Granite Pointe has been operating in the red for several years — last year it reported a $157,801 loss in 2018 — and Naqvi said the course needs to offer the sport in some way to stay afloat.
“Even though BC Golf is saying that, they don’t look at the operating costs of this golf course. They just say, oh well, the safest thing to do is just not do anything at all and stay home. Well that’s easy to say, but not if you are in business.”
He conceded, however, that keeping Granite Pointe open only to members won’t be sustainable if gathering restrictions continue.
Typically Granite Pointe makes its finances public during its annual general meetings in May. Naqvi said the AGM will be postponed for the time being, but the course has made changes to improve its bottom line in consultation with the Nelson and District Credit Union, to which it owes approximately $1 million.
Those include a change in management. Naqvi said the course has parted ways with general manager David Belling, who last week was included in a list of Canada’s top golf instructors and in 2018 was recognized as one of the top 100 instructors in the world.
Naqvi said the move was financially motivated and did not reflect Belling’s performance since he joined Granite Pointe in 2017. Jackie and Tony Graci, the latter of whom is Granite Pointe’s longtime grounds superintendent, have taken over Belling’s duties.
The course is also moving ahead with its plans to sell off 16 acres of land for housing developments. Naqvi said a three-acre lot has been listed at $1.2 million, while the other 13-acre parcel is priced at $3.2 million.
Meanwhile at Balfour Golf Course, general manager Craig Wilkinson said all 18 holes will be playable by the public albeit with a slew of safety measures.
Those include reduced hours, a ban on walk-ons, the closure of on-course washrooms and practice facilities, and the removal of typical on-course additions such as benches, rakes and ball washers.
— With files from Connor Trembley