By Ken MacLeod
Golf courses closed for over a month were putting the finishing touches on maintenance today and getting ready to greet customers Friday as Stay at Home orders expire or are relaxed throughout Oklahoma.
At both public and private courses, mowers were getting fairways striped and greens that haven’t had a fresh ball mark in 30 days where being groomed to reopen.
Superintendent Russ Myers has had his full maintenance crew back at work for over a week after dwindling down to just five during the shutdown.
“We have been able to get it back in very good shape for opening,” Myers said. “We’ve had the time to get the whole place mowed out and bunkers get an extra raking. For this time of the year, we look close to what we do every year.”
Southern Hills reopened last year after an extensive renovation so members are even more eager to get back. The course will be open to members for golf, but most clubhouse dining and other functions will be brought back in stages.
At LaFortune Park in Tulsa, Director of Golf Pat McCrate and superintendent Scott Schurman were busy getting ready for what is sure to be a crowded weekend. McCrate has a new fleet of Club Car carts with GPS and blue tooth speakers ready for customers. The restrictions in place will limit one cart per golfer at present, along with limited access to the clubhouse and to-go service in the restaurant.
Make sure to call for tee times as most are full and walk-on play will be limited. The lights on the par-3 course will be on Friday and it will remain open until 11 p.m. along with the driving range. McCrate expects the par-3 to be exceedingly busy as options for doing things at night are limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Schurman was able to keep his entire maintenance crew employed during the shutdown thanks to the support of course owner Tulsa County Parks. Department. That gave them time to do an extra aerification of the greens and perform some other detail work they would normally not have been able to do with hundreds of golfers on the property daily.
“There’s still a lot I would like to do to make it better, but we’ve done some good things,” said Schurman. No superintendent is ever satisfied, but from what this reporter saw driving the property Thursday the golfers will be more than glad to be back.
Courses reopening Friday include all public and private courses in Tulsa, all public courses in Oklahoma City, public and private courses in Norman, Kickingbird GC in Edmond, Sapulpa GC and scattered others throughout the state. Remaining closed for now are courses owned by the Cherokee Nation including Cherokee Hills in Verdigris and Cherokee Trails and Cherokee Springs in Tahlequah.
“It’s been a tough month but we’re eager to have golfers back out,” McCrate said. “I know they’re going to enjoy the conditions Scott and his crew have the course in.”
The courses that remained open throughout April may see their numbers return to a normal level after being inundated for the last month. Lance Allen, general manager at Forest Ridge Golf Club in Broken Arrow, said the course had more than 1,000 rounds above a normal April.
“I’m a little torn,” Allen said. “I loved seeing all the new faces and I’m sure we’ll get some residual benefit from all of those who came out and enjoyed the course.”
On most days, Forest Ridge was running tee times all the way through 6:30 p.m. and averaging close to 200 players a day when 120 would be a normal April tee sheet.