By Greg Ellison
(May 14, 2020) The Ocean Pines Golf Course sprang back to life this weekend following Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision last Wednesday to include 18-holes on the links among expanded outdoor activities permitted under the current stay-at-home order.
Starting May 7 in Maryland, a slight return to normalcy went into effect that broadened the range of allowable outdoors recreational pursuits, including golf, tennis and other solo or small group sports. Additionally, the state action opened up outdoor fitness lessons, recreational boating, fishing and hunting, as well as reopening closed facilities at state parks and state beaches.
General Manager of Golf Operations John Malinowski said players began teeing off again on Saturday, with extra care taken to adhere to covid-19 related health safety mandates in place, including proper social distancing.
“Everyone’s trying to do as much as they can to lessen the touch points,” he said. “When we’re sanitizing the golf carts … that’s easy to do, but every time someone touches something … you have to sanitize it again.”
Malinowski said to reduce repeated surface contacts, hole depths have been tweaked to eliminate the need to pull flagpoles.
“We put a piece of foam on the bottom [so] that the ball doesn’t go down in the hole all the way,” he said. “You easily retrieve it without touching the flag.”
The golf course guidelines issued for resumption of play limit bag checks to within 15 minutes of tee time. At this point, only credit card payments are allowed, with no cash accepted. In accordance with Worcester County liquor laws, alcoholic beverages are prohibited on the course.
The golf shop and clubhouse remain closed until further notice.
The guidelines for member play limits groups to foursomes, who can either walk or ride in separate carts.
Two people residing together can share a cart, which will be sanitized after each user.
Ocean Pines Golf Committee member Olga Novy, who ventured out for a round with her husband on Sunday, found the experience uplifting.
“It was good to get out there,” she said. “It’s healthy out in the fresh air.”
Novy noted proper social distancing was followed during bag check and all attendants wore facemasks.
“It feels like it’s a safe environment,” she said.
Outside of maintaining health safety mandates, Malinowski said the next challenge involves Mother Nature, with chilly and windy conditions on Saturday slightly tempered by Sunday.
“The weather this week now is looking a whole lot better than it was last week,” he said. “It was too bad that it was sunny and warm, then we get the go ahead order and it turned kind of cruddy.”
OPA Board member Larry Perrone visited the course on Monday and was impressed with ground conditions following offseason improvements to reduce wet spots.
“The golf maintenance people put in several drains within the golf course,” he said. “The whole area between the 18th to 10th hole was a wet area.”
Perrone also noted the cart path was updated to reduce rough spots from tree roots.
“The pavers did a great job,” he said.
Perrone credited General Manager John Viola and the golf maintenance staff for ongoing work to selectively remove trees.
“It helps air circulation which helps dry out the course after rains,” he said.
With course activities authorized to resume, the phones have been abuzz, Malinowski said.
“We’re starting to get filled up for this coming week and weekend,” he said. “Each day the weather looks like it’s getting better.”
Malinowski said the unsurprising general sentiment last weekend was jovial.
“It’s been fun seeing people … get out and do some stuff with their buddies,” he said. “Even if they’re standing six feet apart, they’re having a good time.”
To book tee times call 4-641-6057 x2. Currently online reservations are suspended. Updated modifications will be posted on the Ocean Pines Golf Clubs Facebook page and Twitter feed and also at oceanpinesgolf.org.