Golf courses have been out of bounds to players in Southwest Washington, but just a short drive away, fairways in Portland remain very much in play.
And avid golfers from Vancouver, like Ken Nowaczyk, are taking advantage of the opportunity, when they can.
“The courses are still packed on the weekends,” said Nowaczyk, who played at Heron Lakes last weekend. “I tried to call on Tuesday night, and the only times they had open (on Saturday) were twilight rounds.”
Golf courses in Washington have been closed since the state’s stay-at-home order was put in place late last month. However, golf courses were exempted from Oregon’s order, provided steps were taken to provide for social distancing.
Courses in north and northeast Portland, like Heron Lakes, Rose City and Glendoveer are attracting more golfers from Southwest Washington.
Mark Ross of Portland Parks & Recreation suggested playing on weekdays or days when the weather is not the best if golfers want to play with fewer players on the course.
“We’re seeing a lot of understanding and safe behavior from visitors,” Ross said. “The most important aspect is that all golfers continue to adhere to physical distancing guidelines set by public health authorities and publicized all over Portland Parks golf course properties — a minimum of six feet between others at all times.”
Gone from the courses are benches, ball-washers and even bunker rakes. Glendoveer is instructing golfers to play balls hit into bunkers as they would on ground under repair, meaning they get relief from the sand.
Nowaczyk said most golfers at Heron Lakes were still playing the ball out of the sand.
“And then you smooth the sand back out with your foot, as best you can,” he said.
At courses like Heron Lakes and Rose City, the golf holes have been inverted, creating a shallow hole about one inch deep.
“There’s something satisfying about making a long putt and seeing the ball disappear into the cup,” Nowaczyk said. “That doesn’t happen when the cup is maybe an inch deep. But I understand they don’t want people reaching into the hole.”
At Glendoveer, the cups have been raised an inch above the level of the green. Golfers only need to contact the edge of the cup and then the ball is “holed out.”
At Heron Lakes there are portable bathrooms available because the clubhouse is closed to the public. Also, handwashing stations have been placed throughout the course, and marshals are more visible on the course to ensure people are following the new rules.
“Golf is all about playing by the rules, the honor system and etiquette,” Nowaczyk said, “whether that’s marking your ball or not talking during someone’s backswing. These are just another level of rules on top.”
• All tee times must be booked in advance, either online (preferred) or by phone.
• Payment must be made by credit/debit card, preferably in advance if possible. Courses are generally not accepting cash.
• Pin flags are to be left in place on the greens and not touched.
• Courses are recommending golfers walk the course. However, if golf carts are required, there is a strict one-person-per-cart rule. Carts should also be reserved in advance.
• Each course will have its own individual guidelines and procedures. So be sure to check with the course of those guidelines before heading out to play.