Eric D’Elia drives off the first hole at Brunswick Golf Club on Tuesday afternoon. Adam Robinson / Times Record

With golf in Maine in full swing, many courses around the state are experiencing high turnouts and smooth transitions.

While players have to still deal with raised cups, no rakes in the sand pits and a few other minor golf inconveniences, as of May 28 they now get to enjoy practice ranges, more tee times and open pro shops.

The state relaxed restrictions on golf courses, allowing pro shops and clubhouses to open. Furthermore, driving ranges are available and players are no longer limited to courses in their county.

AJ Kavanaugh, the director of golf at Brunswick Golf Club, said May probably set a record in attendance.

“It took us a few days to a week to get used to the restrictions at the beginning, the discs in the cups made it feel more traditional,” Kavanaugh said. “But, we were definitely busy… It was overwhelming. We were selling out everyday and had around 5,500 rounds of golf.”

Brunswick, as well as every golf course in Maine, will be able to change their wait in between tee times. Instead of 12 minutes, Brunswick is going with 10 minutes, adding quite a bit more tee times to an already-busy schedule.

“We are seeing all walks of people and it’s a nice sense of normalcy,” Kavanaugh said.

A group of golfers prepare and hit their approach shots on the ninth hole at Brunswick Golf Course on Tuesday. Adam Robinson / The Times Record

For members, things have gone well, so far.

“It’s still early in the season but we are getting into June now and the weather has been progressively better and I feel the course is being heavily used,” Brunswick Golf Course member John Gullo said. “People have been social distancing, people are arriving 10 minutes ahead of time and not hanging around too much. Now that the deck is open, they are social distancing on the deck.

As for being able to use the driving range and practice greens, that’s been a huge help, as well.

“Much better,” Gullo said. “I’m a new golfer and I can use all the help I can get.”

Brunswick has had to make some adjustments.

The club has a back-storage area that members use to enter freely and grab their clubs and carts.

Now, employees have to do all of that. On the course, carts are for single riders only, but the club is expecting a shipment of dividers to put in the carts for people who are comfortable with riding with someone else.

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Outdoor dining is about to open at the Bath Golf Club.

“We were able to technically open indoor dining but for safety and logistical purposes we are remaining outside,” Sean McCarthy, director of operations of Resurrection Golf, owner of The Bath Golf Club said. “We are building out the outdoor seating and using what we can. We don’t have a huge indoor space so that’s been a challenge. We’ve kept to doing pretty packaged stuff with drinks. We are opening outdoor dining on June 10.”

A light mist falls over the Bath Golf Club recenty. Submitted photo

McCarthy also is happy with the attendance numbers this year.

“It’s been steady,” McCarthy said. We have definitely seen the jump of people just excited to get out. Overall, it’s been good.”

Highland Green Golf Club is still closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Freeport Country Club is up and running.

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Waterville Country Club got to kick off the Maine State Golf Association season on Tuesday morning. The course hosted the first MSGA member play day, which became a two-day event that will bring around 250 golfers to Oakland between Tuesday and Wednesday.

Pelotte was enthused about Waterville being able to hold the event.

“It’s a real positive for our club,” he said. “It’s a good day for everybody. It’s a good day for golfers that are getting back to their normalcy in terms of MSGA play, it’s a good day for Waterville Country Club because we’re in great shape and our club is getting exposure to more people than just our members. And it’s a good day revenue-wise too.”

The event filled up in minutes after registration was opened, and MSGA executive director Brian Bickford asked Waterville head pro Don Roberts to stretch what is normally a one-day event over two days. Roberts obliged, and the MSGA worked with Waterville to make sure the course could handle the number of players with the restrictions in mind.

Pelotte said the MSGA’s assistance eased any concerns about how the play day would go.

“They’ve been very much involved with the state leadership, and they’ve had some time here to figure out exactly how they can host these events,” he said. “I didn’t have any major health concerns with it because of the fact that the MSGA, along with us, were very in tune with what was being asked of us.”

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The qualifiers for the Maine Amateur championship are set to begin next week. The first will be Tuesday at Willowdale Golf Club in Scarborough, followed by another on Thursday at Brunswick Golf Club.

A third qualifier will be at Poland Spring Golf Course on June 16, and the final one will be at Bangor Municipal Golf Course on June 18.

The championship will be held July 7-9 in Biddeford-Saco Country Club. The Maine Women’s Amateur Championship will be held July 20-22 at Augusta Country Club.

 

Kennebec Journal staff writer Drew Bonifant contributed to this report.

 

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