Willow Ridge Safely Filling The Need For Sport And Growing The Game Of Golf
When COVID-19 swept across the globe, it also erased most sporting opportunities.
As things slowly started to re-open, Willow Ridge Golf & Country Club was ready to welcome golfers, meeting and exceeding safety expectations, and with an eye on continuing to grow the game of golf in Chatham-Kent.
“We pre-emptively developed a cart divider,” said Willow Ridge’s head golf professional Chris Hill about the course’s preparations for re-opening.
“We were lucky enough to have MPP Rick Nicholls, and Mayor Darrin Canniff out here for 9-holes. They took a look at the carts, took some pictures and sent them off to the higher powers, which we think had something to do with eventually the whole province being allowed to use them.”
Willow Ridge now has 70 divided carts, allowed golfers to safely ride, and allowing the course to speed up tee times, which remains a struggle at other locations.
After the initial hit to operations, Willow Ridge, due to their innovation and foresight, are thriving as golf was able to return earlier than many services during the pandemic.
“To be honest, it’s probably been the busiest two weeks we’ve maybe ever had,” said Hill about Willow Ridge’s return to operations.
“I had my skepticism about how many people would want to come out,” he continued. “I thought there would be a certain percentage of the population who would still want to hunker down, but I think the lower COVID-19 numbers in this area attributed to people coming back to the course. Really, everyone is coming out in droves.”
It’s not just members and regulars, with golf as one of the only sports in full operation, Hill and Willow Ridge are seeing a boost to the game locally.
“I’ve seen a whole lot of people coming out, that I’ve never seen before. We’re getting a lot of younger people out lately. I think that has a lot to do with no baseball, softball, volleyball, soccer leagues, so golf is really the only thing you can do to get together with your friends and to spend some time together.”
Despite the popularity of Willow Ridge and the game of golf, Hill and the course are taking precautions seriously.
“Still everyone is going to be social distancing, they’re only allowed to be six-feet apart. We’ve put measures on the golf course that you aren’t allowed to touch the pin. We have a contraption on the pin that allows you to get your ball out of the hole without touching the pin. We’re kind of the only game in town right now, and until things open up, that’s good for the game of golf.”
With that in mind, Hill sees this time as an opportunity for people to try the game of golf, and to continue growing golf at the grassroots level in Blenheim, and across Chatham-Kent.
“Aside from getting people out who have never played the game, this is the one activity right now you can sign up for as a group and get out and do with your friends.”
“At Willow Ridge, we’ve been trying to grow the game at the grassroots level,” Hill added, noting school visits, a strong Junior program, and league’s increasing, with many younger individuals participating in the game.
Despite the hard times, Willow Ridge has maintained their rates this season, and continue to offer their senior specials, and twilight rates to entice golfers to make the drive to Blenheim.
“We want to entice people to make the drive, and try our course,” said Hill.
With so much happening at Willow Ridge, and the course being ahead of the curve in terms of safety measures, it’s hard to argue with their early success leading the pack out of the coronavirus pandemic.