Grayling area golf courses allowed to open under limited COVID-19 restrictions
Tue, 05/05/2020 - 12:28pm caleb
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Golf courses have opened and are starting the process of getting into full swing after restrictions to stop the spread of coronavirus, a highly contagious respiratory disease, were lifted to allow limited play.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, through an executive order issued on Friday, April 24, allowed golf courses to open along with other outdoor activities.
Golfers are limited to walking the courses and no carts can be utilized, although there is an exemption to allow people with disabilities to use carts.
Bob Koutnik, co-owner of the Fox Run Country Club, said the golf course would have normally been open for business on Friday, April 17.
The early arrival of spring weather would have allowed for some play before the area was impacted by snow and cold weather in the middle of the moth.
“The first two weeks in April were pretty nice,” he said.
The Fox Run Country Club is suitable for walking, but that’s not what most golfers prefer.
“The vast majority of our rounds ride,” Koutnik said. “That’s going to restrict a lot of our play.”
Koutnik said not being able to open up the clubhouse for food and drinks is cutting into revenues the business would normally generate.
“It’s having a tremendous impact,” he said.
The course is operating with a skeleton crew of employees when it would typically have 15 or 20 on the payroll to kick off the season.
“There will be no clubhouse help but me, because there is nothing for anybody to do,” he said.
Koutnik said it is not feasible to open up the kitchen for take-out meals, adding that the restaurant side of business will take a big hit by not being able to offer the popular Friday night fish dinners and St. Louis style ribs.
Besides having trees knocked down by storms, which has closed the course for a couple of days, Koutnik said he has seen nothing like this as the pandemic continues to cripple business.
“It’s kind of a crap shoot going forward,” he said. “We’re taking it day by day to see where we are and what we can do next.”
The Grayling Country Club usually opens on the second Saturday of April, which would have been April 11.
It also opened on Friday, April 24, when Whitmer relaxed statewide restrictions to allow some outdoor recreation.
“The minute that she said we could, we had people here,” said Tanya Shelp, the office manager, for the Grayling Country Club.
The club drew in a number of members and guests on its first weekend of play.
Rates are discounted to $11 for nine holes and $17 for 18 holes.
Nobody is allowed in the clubhouse unless it is absolutely necessary.
Guests can pay their fees to golf at a window located adjacent to the entrance of the club house as well as for orders of pop and beer.
Andy Vernon, the new general manager Grayling Country Club, said the course is suitable for walking as golfers play their rounds.
“It’s relatively short and it’s flat and the tees are close to the greens,” Vernon said. “It used to be a walking course for a long time until the 1980s. It’s made to be walked.”
The Grayling Country Club has lost a month’s worth of revenue, and shortfalls will continue while the ban on the rental of carts is still in place.
The kitchen at the Grayling Country Club will start putting out food for take-out orders on Friday, May 8, and will expand the menu later this month.
Vernon grew up in Kalamazoo and resided in Grand Rapids for the last 10 years. He moved to Grayling this past winter, where his brother, Adam Vernon, is a local attorney.
Andy has worked as caddy since the age of 13, on the grounds crew at golf courses, and handled inside golf operations.
He is also an attorney, but opted to help members and guests work on their golf swings rather than spending time in courtrooms and processing paperwork.
“I just decided that wasn’t for me right now, and this opportunity opened up for me, and I took it,” he said. “We’ll get through this. We’ve got a good crew here and a lot of good members. Everybody is pulling together.”
Andy acknowledged he is jumping into the deep end as COVID-19 measures continue.
“I never thought I would have to deal with a worldwide pandemic,” he said.
Most charity golf outings have been postponed until later in the year, while others have been cancelled due to the challenging times.
“We only have so many weekends,” Vernon said.
Golfers were encouraged to come out and play some rounds as warmer weather sweeps into the region.
“Get out of the house. We’re finally getting some good days,” Vernon said. “Walking is good for you.”