Local golf courses open, enforcing restrictions due to coronavirus

Burt Thornton prepares to hit a golf ball at the Quail Hollow driving range Monday. Thornton is thankful that the course remains open amid the COVID-19 spread.

The spread of the corona-virus has played a major role in the scheduling of many sporting events and seasons across the world.

Here in Southwest Mississippi, however, there are some recreational sports that have yet to be shut down. One of them is golf, and with the spread of the virus affecting many with their jobs and normal day-to-day activities, hitting the links is still an alternative for some.

In Pike County, both Fernwood Country Club and Quail Hollow golf courses have not shut down.

But despite staying open, extra precautions are being taken, including sanitizing equipment.

“The majority of the courses remain open with some new restrictions in place,” Fernwood Country Club president Chuck Paulk said. “Those restrictions are that you have to ride in your own cart, so no two people in a cart, which makes sense. All things have been removed from the golf course that can be communally touched.”

These items include refreshment stands and rakes in bunkers. In addition, pins in each hole cannot be touched, and padding has been placed inside the hole preventing the ball from falling deep, reducing the chances of players touching the plastic interiors.

Other restrictions have also been put into place at Fernwood.

The course has been restricted to members of the country club only.

The public was allowed to play at the course on Tuesdays and Thursdays but Paulk said that has been suspended until further notice.

At Quail Hollow, similar restrictions are being put into place.

“Being a PGA member, they have sent out blast guidelines to help us to kind of get through this,” Quail Hollow director of golf Ronny Ross said. “Things like keeping the keys in the cart and wiping the steering wheel down. We are making sure that everyone gets their golf cart in by 7 p.m. so we can get them cleaned up good and sanitize and ready for the next day.”

Ross added that with the fears of COVID-19 spreading, and with people practicing social distancing, golf is an ideal activity.

“You are out in wide open spaces and you don’t have to be hugging up on anybody,” he said.

As far as the number of people who have played golf recently at the Pike County courses, business hasn’t really been on an uptick.

Paulk said that numbers at Fernwood have been down a bit. Ross said that business has been steady at Quail Hollow.

Both Ross and Paulk encourage their customers to stay safe at a time like this, adding that if they do decide to play at their respective courses, that they act responsibly.

One person who is thankful that the courses remain open is Burt Thornton, who spent Monday afternoon hitting balls at the Quail Hollow driving range with his grandson Ridge.

“Very thankful, it gives us something to do besides go shopping,” he joked. “I played last Thursday and haven’t played since then. There were some doubts so I called before I came.”

Paulk said that at a time like this, with all of the recreational sports that people of southwest Mississippi regularly enjoy, golf is encouraged for those looking for an activity to do that doesn’t require being near others.

“As far as the common sports that we enjoy recreationally in the summer or whatnot, it is probably the safest, other than possibly hunting by yourself,” he said. “Even with proper social distancing outside, it is a group activity that can be safe.”

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