While sports around the country have been canceled from the middle of March all of the way up until June, golf courses in Nebraska have been fortunate to stay open and allow golfers to golf during the coronavirus pandemic.
Norfolk Country Club, Fair Play Golf Course and the Eldorado Hills Golf Course have seen an enormous jump in participation this year, mostly because of good weather and COVID-19.
"Our member rounds have been up substantially this year; we are up about 66% more compared to last year," said Tom Johnson, PGA head golf professional at Norfolk Country Club. "We're seeing a lot more family golf, and the weather definitely helps."
Golf courses in Nebraska have put in a few restrictions to help golfers stay safe.
Golfers may have only one person per golf cart except for a family member or someone who lives in the same household. Foam noodles have been placed into the bottom of each hole, so golfers don’t need to reach all the way down to grab the ball or move the flagstick. Golf courses also have removed ball washers, coolers and rakes from the course.
"We are eliminating the touch points on the course," Johnson said.
For the driving ranges, balls are left out in pyramid form so golfers don't have to touch bags to remove the balls. They can use their own clubs to move the balls around.
The golf carts also have one sand bottle while the Norfolk Country Club took the rakes and put them onto the carts. At the end of every round, everything that comes with the cart — including the rakes, sand bottle and steering wheel — are sanitized.
"We will spray everything down and wipe everything down with a towel every time they go out and come back," Johnson said.
Golf leagues have started to begin, which have been another contributing factor to the success of golf courses this year. They will continue to go on until further notice, as long as everyone is abiding by the rules.
"It's been a great start to the year. People are itching to get out and do something, which golf is one of the things people can do outdoors," Fair Play golf manager Jon Erickson said. "Courses are off to a good start. I hope we can continue this trend of staying busy because it's good for golf in general."
Erickson said he hasn't seen any problems with the golfers pushing against the rules, which has allowed golf courses to stay open.
"We're trying to keep the people safe," he said. "I really have seen numbers pick up this spring, so hopefully we can continue the momentum through the summer."
After opening up the course March 15, the Norfolk Country Club has seen a rise in golfers per day compared to years in the past.
"Normally in years past, we would average 30 to 40 players a day and in April we were averaging 80 to 100 players a day," Johnson said. "We also spaced our tee times out. Normally our tee times are nine minutes apart, but we went to 15-minute tee times. This was to eliminate the amount of people around the pro shop at a time. This helps space people out a little more when they come to the facilities."
The coronavirus pandemic has affected millions of people and businesses around the country, but the sport of golf has provided people a chance to get outside and play the sport they love.
"We were one of the luckier states that was able to golf. Everyone was just happy to be out playing golf," Johnson said. "It's a nice outlet for a lot of people, and that's the way golf has always been."
As we enter summer months, golf courses are looking for business to continue to boom as the weather gets nicer and people want to be outside.
"Golf is probably going to have its best year ever," Johnson said. "It's a very safe sport during this time. It is one of the sports people can play and you can do it effectively with social distancing."