Golfing is allowed Friday! But you'll have limits in the suburbs

  • Jose Tavison rakes the 9th-hole bunker Thursday as park district staff members prepare Springbrook Golf Course in Naperville for Friday's reopening.

      Jose Tavison rakes the 9th-hole bunker Thursday as park district staff members prepare Springbrook Golf Course in Naperville for Friday's reopening. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Jaime Vasquez cuts the fringe around a green as park district staff prepares Springbrook Golf Course in Naperville for Friday's reopening. Golfers at Illinois courses will be asked to play in twosomes instead of foursomes to ensure social distancing.

      Jaime Vasquez cuts the fringe around a green as park district staff prepares Springbrook Golf Course in Naperville for Friday's reopening. Golfers at Illinois courses will be asked to play in twosomes instead of foursomes to ensure social distancing. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 5/1/2020 5:46 AM

Congratulations, golfers, on being able to hit the course again.

And good luck getting a tee time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

When Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an executive order April 23 that included the news golf courses could open May 1 under strict safety guidelines, golfers got busy.

"It's very difficult" to get a tee time, said Kevin Carlson, superintendent of golf operations for Naperville Park District.

With Pritzker's order came numerous restrictions golf facilities and players must follow, beginning with the social distancing mandate.

They affect each of Illinois' 540 golf courses, 263 of which are public courses, according to Carrie Williams, executive director of the Professional Golf Association Illinois Section.

Reservations for Naperville Park District's Springbrook and Naperbrook golf courses, available only online and prepaid, opened Monday and were sold out through the following Monday, May 4, by the end of the day.

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"Our volume of total available tee times is around 100 (golfers) a day," Carlson said about courses that used to host 300 people on a weekend day in summer.

"If you look at the restrictions, eight people can play an hour. You do the math and there's really not a whole lot of tee times available a day, and ours, when they become available, they'll sell out in a matter of hours," he said.

Naperville is hardly alone.

"We're almost fully booked for the first 10 days of May," said Noel Allen, director of golf for Glen Ellyn's Village Links, which took reservations online and by phone. "There are some tee times available, but not too many."

Golf courses across the suburbs are preparing to reopen Friday with a goodly number of restrictions in place. Juan Portillo rakes a bunker in preparation for the opening of Springbrook Golf Course in Naperville -- but golfers will be asked to use their clubs to smooth the sand once play begins.
  Golf courses across the suburbs are preparing to reopen Friday with a goodly number of restrictions in place. Juan Portillo rakes a bunker in preparation for the opening of Springbrook Golf Course in Naperville -- but golfers will be asked to use their clubs to smooth the sand once play begins. - Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A big concern, at least for golfers, is the rule that only twosomes are allowed, teeing off generally 15 minutes apart.

Elgin resident Tim Janeway, a former member of Elgin Country Club, is "infuriated" by that restriction. He has an 8:36 a.m. tee time Friday at Hawk's View Golf Club in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, which opened on April 24.

Hawk's View allows foursomes, with single golfers in carts and two in a cart if players are from the same household.

"Some of these fairways are 3 acres wide. There's no reason why we can't have the social distancing rule with four players on a golf course, with no carts," Janeway said.

"Put some responsibility into the players, that's all. They're dying to do it because they want to get out and play. And it's a game of foursomes. That's how the game is supposed to be played," he said.

Personal responsibility is exactly why the Lake County Forest Preserve is opening its three courses sequentially.

First comes Mundelein's Countryside Golf Club, the county's sole 36-hole public course. On Thursday afternoon it had three Friday tee times left, all after 5:45 p.m. Later times are easier to book because it's hard to get in a full 18 holes.

Brae Loch Golf Club in Grayslake will open May 8, and ThunderHawk Golf Club in Beach Park will open May 15.

"We want to evaluate what worked, what we think can work better and how we can make it work better," said Alex Eichman, superintendent of golf operations management for the Lake County Forest Preserve.

When golf courses open, the holes will be designed so golfers don't have to reach into the cup to retrieve their balls. Mario Vasquez gets things ready on Springbrook Golf Course's 9th green in preparation for Friday's reopening.
  When golf courses open, the holes will be designed so golfers don't have to reach into the cup to retrieve their balls. Mario Vasquez gets things ready on Springbrook Golf Course's 9th green in preparation for Friday's reopening. - Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

"We would love for the golf community to show Governor Pritzker that we can all be responsible and follow the rules in hopes that he would loosen some restrictions sooner rather than later," Eichman said.

The bottom line is there is joy in dubville.

Tim Govern, golf operations manager for the Arlington Heights Park District and a PGA professional, is excited to welcome people back to Nickol Knoll and Arlington Lakes golf clubs.

"Even though we're offering only about a third of the tee times, we'll have golf for the people in the community and they can hopefully enjoy their favorite sport after such a challenging few weeks," he said.

"One thing that's awfully nice, since we haven't been able to play for six weeks, is they'll see no divots at all. The course is really in great shape."

• Daily Herald staff writers Russell Lissau, Christopher Placek, Robert Sanchez, Katlyn Smith, Marie Wilson and Bob Susnjara contributed to this report.

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