London Area Golf Course Plans to Reopen, Defying Ontario COVID Rules

via London Free Press
Author of the article:Kathleen Saylors  •  Woodstock Sentinel-Review
Publishing date:Apr 23, 2021

A golf course east of London is opening Saturday in defiance of public-health regulations and appears to be fully booked for this weekend despite pandemic stay-at-home orders.

The Bridges at Tillsonburg. (Chris Abbott/Postmedia Network)

A popular Oxford County golf course is opening in defiance of public-health regulations Saturday and appears to be fully booked for this weekend, despite a pandemic stay-at-home order.

The Bridges at Tillsonburg, an 18-hole course just south end of the town, has opened online tee-time bookings despite a provincial order shuttering golf courses until mid-May.

The course’s online booking system showed no tee times available for Saturday and Sunday, but dozens of slots still available for Monday. A call to the course confirmed the course was fully booked Saturday.

In an undated message on the course’s website, golfers are advised to practise a variety of COVID-19 safety measures.  “We have implemented the necessary protocols to ensure our golfers are able to play safely. We are excited to be open and the course is in fantastic condition,” the website reads.

The Bridges at Tillsonburg declined a request for comment Friday.  “No comment. We’re not trying to make a political statement. We’re just doing what we think is right. No comment is my official comment,” co-owner Murray McLaughlin said.

The course lists social-distancing measures, including asking golfers to walk instead of using a cart when possible and maintaining a gap between golf holes to maintain the proper distance from other groups. Groups of up to four people are permitted to use the course’s practice area up to 10 minutes before tee time, the guidelines say.

The decision to shutter golf courses has been questioned by golfers and industry representatives, who often note that physical distancing — that is, a swinging golf club — is built into the game.

“When we were allowed to open golf courses (in 2020), we did so with some very robust protocols that were universally adopted,” said Mike Kelly, executive director of Golf Ontario.

The industry association representing the province’s golf courses and amateur golfers recorded no COVID-19 cases related to the almost 20 million rounds of golf played last year.

Joyce Lock, medical officer of health for Oxford and Elgin counties, said this week closing outdoor recreation was a necessary move to send a strong message about the seriousness of COVID-19 variants and community spread.

“Golf course and tennis courts, people tend to be apart but inadvertently socialization does occur in those environments, as people tend to forget from time to time the need to stay apart,” Lock said. “Yes, it does seem a little bit harsh, but we are in very harsh times.”