Golf has been a popular sport to play during the COVID-19 era, but one aspect of the game has been greatly restricted since last March: tournaments.
“Shotgun” starts and banquets lead to gatherings that aren’t allowed during the pandemic, prompting Surrey-area course operators to adapt.
With winter winding down and spring on the way, operators of the city’s largest golf facility, the 36-hole Northview Golf & Country Club, have announced plans to restructure their tournament packages to allow for such events to be safely held there.
Tee time-only tourneys are offered, with staggered starts and no congregating, in tandem with on-course food and beverage options.
“Charity events can look forward to conducting a safe, enjoyable day for their guests while still being able to raise those much needed funds for their great causes,” explained a recent newsletter to Northview patrons. “We look forward to once again welcoming back many of our valued, long-term event clients this season.”
Tournament director Daryl Allercott said in a typical year, golf “events” there have ranged from 24 to 300-plus people, ever since the course opened in 1994. “I’ve been there since opening day, pretty much,” he said. “We do about 150 events a year. Tournaments are a key component for us.”
Last spring, when the global pandemic was declared, golf was put on hold at most Surrey-area courses, although some never closed.
At Northview, most of the bigger events were cancelled from May to July, and the course hosted some smaller tournaments in August and September – “only a handful of those,” according to Allercott. “We never did host any really large-scale events last year, just smaller golf outings – social clubs and that sort of thing. But we are going to be diving back into it in the spring here, or at least hoping to.”
For spring and summer 2021, “some tweaks and adjustments” to tournament packages reflect COVID protocols, Allercott said, so there won’t be any shotgun-type tournaments on the Ridge and Canal courses, or large banquets held at the big clubhouse on Payne Stewart Drive, off 168th Street.
“Shotguns” become a crowding issue when hundreds of golfers turn up at the same time and hang around the golf shop and carts.
“That will be a big adjustment for some of these events because they’ve always structured their day around that for many years, gathering like that,” Allercott noted. “So now we’ll have golfers tee off at 9:30 or 10 in the morning and the last groups will be going at 3 or 4 o’clock, depending on the group size.”
He said this year, tournaments won’t look much different than a regular day of golf there, except for signage and some on-course food stations.
Some of the largest corporate tournaments held at Northview are hosted by retailers, including Save-On-Foods, Costco and London Drugs, Allercott said. Yearly since 2007, the Vancouver Canucks have booked the course for their pre-season charity tourney, known as “The Jake,” with current and former hockey players among the hundreds of golfers.
“A lot of events are still pondering what to do, they have the information,” Allercott said. “I know a lot of the smaller events are pretty keen, but things are still on the table and people are weighing their options this year.
“The golf portion,” he added, “as long as it’s done on a tee-time basis, that’s a safe option because it’s staggered and there’s no congregating.”
“Other courses are adjusting their packages and what they’re offering, too, for tournaments,” Allercott noted. “Some facilities ran (reformatted tournaments) last summer, late last summer, with sending out golfers at different times, and by all reports things went pretty well. People enjoyed their day and things ran smoothly. It can be a fun day with a few things going on, just done in a safer way.”
As for the general popularity of golf these days, Allercott said Northview was “busier than ever last year, selling out. It was a madhouse for sure, and that goes for all the courses in the city. It was hard to get a tee time, just like in the 1990s.”