WCTA Surveys BC Golf Superintendents re COVID-19

Recognizing a need for quantitative feedback from golf superintendents regarding the COVID-19 outbreak, on April 19, the Western Canada Turfgrass Association initiated a brief survey sent to 198 individuals, both WCTA members and non-members, at 197 golf facilities throughout British Columbia.


As senior turf care personnel, the anonymous survey was targeted toward golf course superintendents.  For the purpose of this survey, golf courses were defined as the entire facility whether they included 9, 18, 36 or another number of holes.  Questions were designed to avoid pre-disposition of answers by respondents and the survey was kept short with the main goal, learning BC golf superintendent’s attitudes toward golf courses being open for play during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Ideally, this survey would have gone to every golf course superintendent in the province but we have yet to see that contact list,” stated WCTA Executive Director, Jerry Rousseau, adding, “WCTA staff started developing a comprehensive BC golf course directory a few years ago but not all information for the provinces 300+ facilities has been populated.  We recently made some minor updates but a lot of records were out of date.  It took some time, but we ended up with nearly 200 current superintendent contacts for this survey.”

Survey Specs:
198 individuals were polled representing 197 golf courses
Respondents could only fill out one survey
The breakdown of the distribution list by type of ‘ownership’ was:
        o 74 societies:
             61 semi-private clubs
             13 private clubs
        o  15 municipal courses
        o  108 proprietary

Results at April 21:

At the time of writing, 97 responses were received (49% response rate).  Margin of error, which indicates how closely survey results reflect views from the overall population, is 8%.

Q1. Please indicate your position on the opening of golf courses during the COVID-19 outbreak.
        •  69.07% in favour of opening golf courses
        •  15.46% against opening golf courses
        •  14.43% undecided
        •  1.03% no position

Q2. Do you feel you have the most up-to-date information to answer question #1?
        •  88.66% yes
        •  5.15% no
        •  6.19% unsure

Q3.  Is your golf course currently open or planning to open by end of April?
        •  58.76% yes
        •  20.62% no
        •  17.53% uncertain / being discussed
        •  3.09% waiting for decision from provincial government

Q4.  Who decides if your golf course will open?
        •  32.99%  Board of Directors / members / society
        •  42.27% owner
        •  7.22% municipality
        •  11.34% provincial health officer
        •  6.19% other

Q5.  Have you implemented any special COVID-19 best management practices for the grounds/turf care department?
        •  92.78% yes
        •  1.03% no
        •  6.19% working on it

Q6.  Whether your golf course is open or not, are you resorting to any type of minimized maintenance practices?
        •  95.88% yes
        •  4.12% no

Preliminary and current results were provided to the Allied Golf Association of BC and shared with other associations curious about superintendent feedback, including GCSAA, OGSA and NGCOA.

Thank you all respondents for the quick turnaround of this survey – we are now able to provide government decision makers, BC golf leaders, and the industry at large, some very useful information.

The following are unedited comments from survey participants: 

I am against opening right now, I feel it is far more important to keep people safe and healthy, let's golf later!

I feel that’s golf course is a great place to help with isolation blues BUT I do not feel the members or pro shop staff take policy enforcement seriously enough.

safest healthiest place for people to be right now, keep your distance and stay healthy and happy while supporting a small business and the economy. As long as the golf course operators are not getting greedy and overcharging or cramming people out to the first tee, all golf course should be open while limiting the amount of people permitted inside the pro shop

Where our golf course is located we rely on American and Albertan play. Not super comfortable with the idea of golfer from Alberta coming here to play golf and possibly bringing COVID with them. I think courses should be closed til after the long weekend in may, and look at opening at the end of may, to reduce the desire for people to come to the area. We are mostly waiting for direction from the government on how to proceed.

We are a community owned 9 hole course and opened April 18 with restrictions. We allow only booked tee times and only one person at a time at the front counter, We placed many signs in and around the clubhouse explaning the rules we put in place. So far we have had good co-operation from our players

I think local health authorities and regional recommendations should have the most weight in making these decisions. Federally and even provincially theres too much variance

Golf is one sport social distancing can work if monitored properly and we need to get people outside in order for them to be completely healthy in order to fight this virus.

We really don't know the true numbers of infected people and where due to not testing enough, therefore, how do we make an informed decision.

I think if people are smart and responsible we can make it work.

It would be nice to have a universal set of policies/guidelines for all golf courses to follow to best protect employees and customers

We are a resort golf course that relies on out of town play. At this time I feel it is not wise to give reason for guests to travel to our region, hopefully soon.

opening must only be allowed under covid19 parameters, with stringent monitoring.

Our plan is to open May 1, 2020 with a small crew to enhance staff safety. This crisis has brought our management team closer together, and in fact the golf industry as a whole has again shown it's willingness to share information for the betterment of golf, and safety of staff and patrons.

The Province has been advocating and stressing that mental and physical health is key during this time of isolation. they encourage us to walk, hike, ride bikes etc to stay healthy because that is what boosts your immune system to fight Covid-19 should we aquire it. What better environment to get some release and excercise than on a 180 acre open facility where you are 300+ yards from the next group of 2,3 or 4 people who are all individually social distancing ( as per many written and verbal protocols all over the course ).

We did a trial last week opening for members and one guest last week. We had limited tee times, to twosomes from 9-3, with 15 minute intervals. We opened from Wednesday to Sunday last week. A decision will be made soon on what we do this week. We have strict guidelines for golfers and they are adhering to the covid 19 guidelines.

There have been a number of very informative emails sent out with a lot of very good info on safe practices that can be implemented at a golf course to keep everyone safe

Golfers don’t adhere to rules most of the time and I could see this being a dilemma from the non golfers.

The Columbia valley is located 3.5 hours west of Calgary, there are nine 18 hole golf courses located in this valley which all rely on golfers travelling from surrounding areas but mainly from Alberta, some courses rely on this more then others. Our course is a destination course and 70 to 80 percent of our revenue comes from Calgary area. With having golf as a non-essential in Alberta, and British Columbia having golf as an essential is forcing everyone that is an avid golfer to travel into British Columbia to get their fix. We can put all the measures that we need to in place for the golfer to be safe once they get to the course but between their home and their destination, that is what is out of our control and would be putting all the staff at risk from front of house, back of house and the turfcare staff. We have come up with multiple different ways of managing our staff and maintaining the golf course but we still end up with the same result, that we cannot guarantee that we are putting our staff into a safe working environment. As we all know this virus is VERY contagious and is far from gone! I think golf should be a non-essential for the time being and see what the future holds for this pandemic.

golf courses can not be turned on and off we are a plan in motion and the grass has its own plan,we need to keep it alive and be treated more like a zoo

Grounds maintenance team is taking extensive measures to ensure the health and safety of our team during these times.

Dont think were far enough along to open yet. May long weekend would be best to give more time to get firther along curbing the spread. Courses dont make much money until May long anyway

We want to open but we would like to do it safely. We can minimize touch points and practice physical distancing. What I don't know is how often we need to sanitize common use areas such as washrooms.

I feel golf courses should stay closed until such a time where it is safe to open. I am a Superintendent in an area that will see up to 70% of out of province traffic play our course. With things the way they are in Alberta I feel it is not safe for people in our area having car loads of Albertans visiting the east and West Kootenays for recreation. I would support shutting down golf till the end of May at this time and re-evaluate in the third week in May for a June opening. Essential golf maintenance still needs to be done on courses during this time. We should not be putting the health and safety of our staff/ patrons at risk to make a few dollars.

I believe that the property I am associated with as well as other golf courses in the province are taking this issue very seriously and are going to great lengths to ensure that a safe environment is provided for both staff and patrons.

Things seem to be going well so far. Only opened 5 days. Members and employees are respecting the changes we have made.

Think opening can be done relatively safely but really doubt once players return they won't keep pushing the boundaries and violating safe practices. Biggest concern though is needing to bring in a bunch of new employees and have to hope they are doing the right things outside of work. Also am curious how they allow golf to use their own judgement but ban all sorts of outside activities that can easily be done safely as well with a little common sense.

If we can open and operate golf courses safely for our staff and golfers I believe we should be open. The mental health benefits from golf, giving people something to do, I don't think can be understated. Mental health during this pandemic in my opinion is not being talked about as much as it should be.


I feel that golf courses have a excellent opportunity to provide the public with a safe place to get some exercise which is beneficial to their health and well being. If done the correct way with only a few modifications to our daily routine we can make sure everyone is safe. With all the closures of parks and open spaces that have been happening it is important to supply an alternative.

I feel with following government health regulations and monitoring/enforcing these regulations that a golf course can be a safe environment to get exercise and help with mental health during this time.

Opened Sat Apr 18. 12 min tee times, one per cart, members only, no guests. Signage everywhere to comply or we close! Main concern is that we protect members of the club and our community. Cups are raised above the surface. No bunker rakes , ball washers. Turf equipment sprayed down after each use with bleach/water solution. Numerous emails to members detailing expectations and with regards to zero tolerance to careless behaviour .

We're all aware of the impact of social distances and are following it to the strictest guidelines.

I feel golf carts should not be allowed as it is just too hard to police social distancing and way to costly to have marshals on every hole. As long as all touch points are eliminated I feel it’s a safe way to enjoy the outdoors

We opened April 18th with limited Member only play at 12 minute tee times. Implemented strict guidelines for members to show up 15 minutes before tee off check in then transferred them to 1 only putting green. When group left # 1 tee next group could go to tee. Have two marshal's to rake traps and fill divots and take pictures of anyone breaking any rules. Not sure how mowing during the week is going to work but staff have instructions to keep away from play. Players have strict exit rules to keep distance from others entering. So far so good.

If there is ever a social distancing activity for people to enjoy and stay safe, golf is it.

Our golf course is a resort destination & most of our guests are travelling from Alberta. I cannot see how it is safe or responsible for us to encourage that sort of travel. Most people will be travelling in the same vehicle & even if they dont they are going to be stopping for gas, food, drinks. At the golf course we can put in place all the measures we want & say that we are being safe but there are examples everyday of how people arent adhering to these distancing principles. The Industry of golf riskes huge backlash from the non golfing community & that could be devastating to the industry long term. If we delay golf in B.C. until other non essential services are back operating & it is deemed safe that's our best course of action. I have spent the last few weeks going over all the precautions & changes to our daily procedures to keep myself & staff safe & its almost impossible to say we can run our crew in good faith to them. If 1 person even gets a head cold what do we do? Close down the course for 2 weeks? Then take another 2 weeks to get it back to playable conditions? Let's just delay golf until the end of May then reassess how the province is coping. If things still arent safe to golf then let's hold off till July 1st.

I believe we have to follow the strong recommendations of our health officials. BC has come a long way in the c-19 fight. We don't want to be leader in ramping upwards "the curve". That would be the worst thing that could ever happen to the golf industry.

Our CEO states Health First. Economics Second. We are studying plans to open outside operations only this summer. RV Resort and Golf. Hotel, Casino?

We are a destination golf course close to the Alberta boarder and 3 hours from Calgary. We feel that allowing golfers to travel together in the same vehicle (which is what would inevitably happen) is somewhat irresponsible on our part. We can put in all the measures that have been discussed to allow for social distancing on the golf course for our guests, and likely do so in a somewhat responsible way, however I struggle to come up with safe responsible ways to staff and prepare the course for opening and play. It also would expose golf as an industry to poor public opinion on why golf can remain open while so many other services are closed, furthering the divide and negative stereotypes golf gets from the general public.