American humorist Harold Segall once said, “Golf is not just an exercise; it’s an adventure, a romance... a Shakespeare play in which disaster and comedy are intertwined.”
Although it’s been a unique spring for Montgomery County golf courses, all four are now up and running, offering beautiful courses for area golfers.
“It’s been a little weird how they have all these guidelines,” said Natalie Fuller, who owns Indian Springs Golf Course in Fillmore with her husband, Wade. “But I feel like we are finally getting our feet under us. People are wanting to get out there and golf, and that’s a good feeling.”
Montgomery County boasts four golf courses, two public and two private. In addition to Indian Springs, Shoal Creek Golf Course in Raymond is open to the public, while the Hillsboro Country Club and the Litchfield Country Club are open only to members and their guests.
All four courses were able to open briefly this spring in early March, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic closed them for much of the spring season. They were allowed to reopen May 1, with several restrictions and social distancing guidelines.
Fuller said they opened and had a really great weekend in March before the pandemic struck.
“We were slammed,” she said. “Every cart in the shed was out. The weather was so perfect.”
Shortly after, all area golf courses received a letter from the PGA (Professional Golfers Association), when non-essential businesses were shuttered. Originally, they planned to let golf courses remain open, but they were closed throughout the month of April as well.
Rachel Skinner, who manages Shoal Creek Golf Course in Raymond, said they have reopened to the public, seven days a week, but there have been changes.
“We can’t let anyone in the clubhouse,” she said. “We can’t serve beer or hot dogs. There’s so much of what we can’t do, and it hurts.”
She said that they work hard to keep the course clean and sanitized, as she and her crew bleach every golf cart after use. Golfers who are unable to walk a course are allowed to rent a cart, but only one golfer is allowed per cart, unless they are members of the same family.
“It’s been tough,” Skinner said. “But we gotta do what we gotta do.”
Other restrictions include only two golfers per hole. Golfers are also encouraged to pre-pay online and call ahead to set up a tee time to limit contact with other people.
Fuller said most golfers at Indian Springs have been following the social distancing guidelines, although she misses visiting with them in the clubhouse.
“It’s for the good of the game,” she said. “People are doing what they are supposed to do. I’ve been impressed at how well everyone is doing what they are supposed to do.”
Chris Short of Litchfield, who serves as the president of the Litchfield Country Club, said they have been mindful of the young and older population of their membership, who is more at-risk of contracting the virus. They have taken out the ball washers from each hole and took the rakes out of the sand traps.
“Basically anything with a high frequency touch point has been taken out,” Short said. “We are doing what we can to protect our members.”
He added they are also looking forward to offering curbside food service to members in the near future, although it will have a limited menu. They will also be filling their pool over Memorial Day weekend with the hopes of opening it to members in a few weeks time.
In Hillsboro, Marvin Traylor, president of the Hillsboro Country Club, said they used the downtime in April to improve the clubhouse and the course, through the efforts of lots of volunteers.
“Hillsboro Country Club is anxious to be released from the restrictions like all area golf courses,” Traylor said. “But we are glad to be open.”
Traylor said this year, the club has a new greenskeeper, Caleb Payne, as well as new club managers, Tim and Sarah McConnell of Shelbyville, who are anxiously awaiting to open Tobias Pub House.
“The course looks great this spring,” Traylor said. “We really had a lot of volunteerism during the down time to help us get the clubhouse ready.”
Traylor and Short said both organizations are accepting new members, and both tout a junior golf program for young golfers. Neither require full membership to either country club.
“We have a very well-run youth clinic,” Short said. “It has not been officially cancelled, and we are hoping to get off with a later start than usual.”
At Indian Springs, Fuller said they are working hard to keep things clean, sterilizing carts after every use and keeping sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer on carts and throughout the course.
One big change for their course, which is home to many fundraising tournaments and scrambles, will be changes to those events.
She said they are working on ways to continue with those outings, while maintaining social distancing guidelines, including efforts to have not more than 50 golfers in a session and potentially hosting morning and afternoon sessions to accommodate participants.
“We want to do everything we can to help our customers,” Fuller said. “After eight years here, they are our family.”
Despite all the state restrictions and social distancing guidelines, Montgomery County golf courses provide a great way to enjoy the beauty the county has to offer, and get some exercise as well.
“It’s just great to have such nice clubs around here,” Short said. “I’ve played some of the more exclusive clubs elsewhere, and some of our courses are just as nice.”