A sigh of relief was collectively let out by golfers around the province when the Government of Saskatchewan stated that courses would be able to open to the public in a restricted format starting May 15.

The new format sees a mix of minor and major changes to the way golf courses are allowed to operate and generate revenue.

For Swift Current's pair of 18-hole tracks, Elmwood Golf and Country Club and Chinook Golf Course, the 2020 golf season opens with a reduced maintenance staff.

"The maintenance staff all total at this moment, Doug Levins is working with himself and four full-time employees. Then if need be, he'll pull a day here, a day there with some other employees from the city to help out. Normally, his staff by now would be probably in the 10-12 range," noted Ken Koster, Head Golf Professional and General Manager of Chinook Golf Course.

The reduction of staff of course spilled over into the club houses of the two golf courses, as they have been ordered to remain closed, with the exception of washrooms and the pro shop.

"Moving forward here now, we do have a lot less staff. The kitchen and the clubhouse not being allowed to be open has restricted staff there. As well in maintenance, not having to have the course ready by our average open of April 22 has pushed it so that we didn't have to hire as many people leading up to May 15. The positives of it is it has saved the golf club some money and wages, but it's also restricted our revenue from coming in," said Sheldon Reinhart, General Manager of Elmwood Golf and Country Club.

With golf courses being a relatively socially-distanced venue in their natural state, that will be even more the case in 2020.

Originally, tee times were scheduled to be staggered every 20 minutes, though the government lowered that down to 12-minute tee times.

"In essence, we're losing about 33 percent of our tee times that we usually had. But, overall, we're happy because 20 minutes was going to be very tough. One, to get our membership on the golf course, and two, satisfy all of our current members that we do have and other golfers," added Reinhart. "Getting us back to the 12-minute tee times, we're able to accommodate about 200-240 golfers in a day. We feel that's a very doable number to start the season off with."

Things may become somewhat slower from there, as another restriction calls for a 'limit of one person per golf cart, unless the occupants reside in the same household'.

Though walking is encouraged in the Government of Saskatchewan's list of restrictions and recommendations, Koster said his course has plans in place to accommodate the demand for carts.

"What we've actually done to make sure that everybody can get a golf cart that needs one is instead of keeping all tee times over the course of an hour, to start - especially on the busy weekends - we'll hold off and block off one tee time per hour. As we see the day unfold, do our math to figure out if we have enough golf carts, then we'll let some of the tee times open so that we have an opportunity to accommodate more golfers."

Other measures have been enforced by the province to ensure less physical contact with aspects of the course, including pins being left in the holes, no rakes in bunkers, no ball washers, and closed on-course washrooms.

Power carts and push carts are also mandated to be fully sanitized before their next use, calling for a quick crash course in everything related to disinfectants, and adding another expense to the books.

"It's an interesting one, it's an educational one to try to figure out what disinfectant is going to do the job at the most economical price and will take the least amount of time to take effect when we spray it on the golf carts," said Chinook's Koster.

A rule hitting one Swift Current golf course harder than the other is the elimination of all tournaments and events.

Elmwood's General Manager says it projects to be a hit in their revenue, though they're hopeful another set of lifted restrictions can occur later in the summer.

"Not being able to have shotgun tournaments, that's going to be obviously a hurt for our revenue, but we're hoping that tournaments will be allowed later in the season. So, I do have a lot of the tournaments that were booked in May and June, booked later in the year in August, September, October," said Reinhart. "We're obviously not going to get back every tournament that we had because of COVID-19, but we should see some of the tournaments come back in the fall, and hopefully we'll be allowed to have them and we'll have a successful year at the golf course."

"For our golf course, it's a little bit different - we don't do a lot of tournaments," said Koster of Chinook. "The majority of our events are your small, corporate little company tournaments where you've got 20, 30, or 35 golfers. In terms of major revenue loss, we're not expecting that area to cause a major loss in revenue, just because we don't have a big tournament every weekend or anything like that."

One thing both courses are in unison on though, is the gratitude for being able to provide an option for those needing to get outdoors after what felt like an eternity spent inside. That was evident by both Chinook and Elmwood's opening day getting quickly booked up well in advance.

"Everybody's been I think going a little bit stir-crazy. I think there was a big sigh of relief from a lot of golfers out that will have an opportunity to get out and enjoy some fresh air, at least at a distance - wave and say hello to people they haven't seen for a while," said Koster.

"You've got kids that are staying home and the parents are having to teach them, you've got all the sports getting cancelled, so there's not a lot for the kids to do," added Reinhart. "Some of these families who maybe didn't think about golf or didn't have time for golf, we're hoping maybe some of them will say 'hey why don't we get a golf membership this summer and maybe take the kids out golfing once or twice a week', and that kind of stuff. That would be something that we would really cherish, and hope that families can find something to do together, not be in their house the whole time, and get out and start doing things."

The full list of the Government of Saskatchewan's restrictions for golf courses in the province can be viewed HERE.