Anyone who wants to golf at a Central Illinois public course Friday better make that tee time ASAP.
Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker outlined new guidelines for golf courses to reopen Friday after being closed for five weeks because of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Weibring Golf Club at Illinois State in Normal began accepting tee times online last Friday afternoon when the governor's executive order was issued and by Monday morning was already booked for this weekend.
"The twosome component aided in selling out so quick," said Weibring head PGA professional Tom Szymoniak. "We knew there was a possibility that would happen. There's a lot of interest in people coming out and wanting to play."
Decatur's Hickory Point Golf Club and Red Tail Run Golf Club began accepting reservations at 8 a.m. on Monday. Tee times are available by calling Hickory Point Golf Club at (217) 421-7444 or Red Tail Run Golf Club at (217) 422-2211.
The City of Bloomington will begin accepting tee times for its three courses — Highland Park, Prairie Vista and The Den at Fox Creek — at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, according to director of golf Jason Wingate. Golfers are asked to call the course they want to play to make a tee time.
Normal's Ironwood Golf Course began accepting tee times online Monday afternoon at normal.org/1284/Golf-Ironwood. The Links at Ireland Grove, a 9-hole executive course in Bloomington, also will be accepting online reservations starting Tuesday night at thelinks.teesnap.net.
"The weather is supposed to be great (on Friday) and people are itching to get back out," said Wingate. "I expect Wednesday when we start taking tee times the phone will be ringing off the hook."
All courses, public and private, in the state won't be operating as usual with several restrictions in place to keep golfers as safe as possible.
Only twosomes will be allowed and tee times must be at least 15 minutes apart (Weibring has decided on 18-minute intervals). That will drastically cut back the number of golfers on the course.
No golf carts, either owned by the course or privately owned, will be allowed except for individuals with a physical disability or physical limitations. Golfers can use their own pull cart, but rental pull carts won't be allowed.
Flagsticks can't be removed and the cup will be elavated so golfers won't have to place their hand in the bottom of a regular cup. Bunker rakes also will be removed.
Clubhouses and pro shops will remain closed as will practice ranges and putting greens. The courses will operate at minimum staffing levels. Golfers are asked to keep social distance guidelines in mind and not shake hands.
Golf courses were allowed to do maintenance work after being closed by Pritzker's executive order on March 26.
Grounds at the local courses should be in good shape for May 1. Bill Clevenger, executive director of the Decatur Park District, said the two course superintendents — Red Tail Run's Tom Mooney and Hickory Point's Greg Foley — have received help keeping up the grounds from pros Ben Irwin (Red Tail Run) and Hickory Point (Andy Potts) — in keeping tghe courses ready and looking good.
"We are mowing fairways, tees, and greens and they are all working together," Clevenger said. "There is aerification that is happening on the greens as well. I think our golfers will find that our staff has done yeoman’s work."
Most of the courses, which were open for a short time in March before being closed, are charging their regular rates. However, Szymoniak said Weibring Golf Club decided to cut back a little bit because not all its usual services are available.
"A lot of people have been confined to the house and there still are a lot of restrictions in our state," said Szymoniak. "This is an opportunity to get out and get some fresh air."
PHOTOS: Class 2A boys golf
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Contact Jim Benson at (309) 820-3404. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_benson
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