Maine golfers hoping for fewer COVID-19 restrictions as courses begin opening

Mar. 26—The Hermon Meadow Golf Club was a little wet on Wednesday, as would be expected this time of year.

But Cade Charron and his Husson University teammates didn’t care. They were excited to be hitting a golf ball outside instead of in a simulator.

Thanks to a mild winter with below-normal snowfall, Hermon Meadow Golf Club is open for business this week. Eleven of the 18 holes are in play — for walking only.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Charron, a sophomore from Topsham and the team captain. “It was nice seeing the ball fly through the air.”

He said the course wasn’t as wet as the players thought it might be.

“It held up pretty well. It was in pretty good condition for the third week in March,” Charron said. “The greens were slow but the ball rolled pretty good. It was nice to be able to putt on a real green.”

Hermon Meadow pro shop worker Cheryl Paulson said the course survived the winter well and has had some nice early turnouts.

“The course is pretty squishy but people want to get some fresh air and play,” she said. “We must have had at least 20 cars in the parking lot the other day.”

With people having a heightened case of cabin fever a year ago due to the onset of restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, Maine golf courses flourished. People found the sport to be the perfect cure to staying home.

Golf is a sport that lends itself to social distancing and the restrictions were easily tolerated by golfers.

“I would love to open in two weeks, even sooner,” Bangor Municipal golf pro Rob Jarvis said. “But it all depends on the weather.”

The milder winter means the frost in the ground isn’t as deep as usual so the greens are an excellent shape.

Jarvis said if that’s the case, “the rain can draw the frost out” and expedite the drying process.

Mike Dugas, who is the golf pro at his family’s J.W. Parks Golf Course in Pittsfield, is hopeful they will be able to open the second week of April.

“We have some snow on the greens, but not much,” he said.

Peiter DeVos, the pro at the Kebo Valley Club in Bar Harbor, said their course wintered well and isn’t ready for play.

“We don’t have a target opening date yet. We are excited to get started but we’re still a little ways away,” he said.

Jarvis said there is a buzz in the air as golfers are anxious to play.

“People are super excited. The number of texts, emails and phone calls I’ve received is crazy. I can’t keep up in trying to respond to them,” he said.

The big increase in interest last year led Dugas to establish a J.W. Parks golf academy beginning this year. Golfers of all ages and skill levels can enroll and receive in-person instruction from Dugas and his sons, Gavin and Eric.

“We’re trying to meet the demand for people who want to learn the game,” said Mike Dugas, who is the golf coach at Husson University in Bangor, where his sons played for him.

There was a large increase in the number of junior golfers, women and those returning to play the game last year, Dugas said.

One of the platforms for the golf academy is a virtual element, which will start in the fall. Golfers will pay a subscription fee and will be able to contact Dugas and his sons via the internet from across the globe and receive tips and suggestions.

Golfers also will be able to submit videos for analysis. Information about the academy can be found on the website

Dugas also plans to develop a junior golf tournament circuit in central Maine that will include events at a variety of courses in the region.

Jarvis hopes the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and state agencies will relax some of the COVID-19 restrictions that were imposed a year ago, especially now that Mainers are getting vaccinated in large numbers.

In 2020, there could be only one golfer per motorized cart unless the occupants shared the same residence. Those playing together who did not share the same residence also had to wear face coverings and one served as the designated driver.

“They can drive to the course in the same car but can’t share a golf cart without wearing masks?” asked Jarvis, who said wearing a face covering for a round of golf on a warm day can be a challenge.

He said other suggested areas of potential change might include the easing of sanitation requirements and protocols that prohibited touching the flagsticks, bunker rakes and ball washers.

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