NEW BRITAIN – Friday was supposed to mark the first day of golf carts returning to Stanley Golf Course, marking another move toward normalcy on the links, but Mother Nature had other ideas.
Steady rain through Thursday night has pushed back plans, and Kevin DeVaux, superintendent of golf course operations at Stanley, is now aiming for Saturday as a potential date where golfers will be able to get behind the wheel again, though they will only be allowed one golfer per cart to make sure six feet of distance is kept between golfers.
“Part of the process of getting carts back on the golf course was the golf course being able to handle it,” DeVaux said. “We would have double the carts out there, because if a foursome normally takes two carts, now all four golfers will be using one if they're all riding. Getting the cart around the course with minimal damage...that is something that's been part of the thought process all along. March was a good month being dry, but April hasn't been.”
For many local golfers, news of the weather delay may not be as much of a letdown anymore. Since the coronavirus pandemic caused Stanley to restrict cart use and other courses to close altogether, DeVaux has noticed an increased appreciation for walking the course and enjoying time outside during a period where citizens are mainly confined to their own homes.
“Golfers who normally take carts were enjoying the walk,” DeVaux said. “Some people said they might walk more often now. Every once in a while, someone called and said we were hurting business without golf carts, but that was a day we had 450 people out there.”
That day was just one week ago, when Stanley’s tee sheet was filled with roughly 450 golfers on Saturday. Sunday saw nearly 420, continuing with a busy April after the course’s March numbers were up for the first time in years.
“Those are numbers that you don't get historically even in July at golf courses,” DeVaux said of last weekend’s turnout. “But having Massachusetts closed, and some courses around us, we had people funneling in from all over. Our demand has been through the roof.”
The course was without carts but packed with people, though precautions put in place helped golfers satisfy social distancing guidelines during play, and other measures like eliminating rakes at sand traps are still in place to help prevent the spread of germs. But while operations have been promising without carts, the course is ready to bring the option back for those who want it.
“Initially, we were concerned about the process of cleaning the carts,” DeVaux said. “We felt that it was one less thing to expose our workers to...that was something we were concerned with for the first few weeks of this. We weren't comfortable with any scenarios to keep everyone involved protected. But as time went on, we became more comfortable with it.”
Of course, strict measures will still be in place to keep carts sanitary and to minimize risk. In addition to one golfer being allowed per cart, divot containers will be removed from all carts, and a marked station will be put up where golfers can empty their trash after their game. An employee will then take the emptied cart to the maintenance building, where a power washer will be used to clean the car, then solution will be sprayed to disinfect. Afterward, the cart will be left to dry before becoming available for the next wave of golfers.
DeVaux and other employees at Stanley ran the operation through a practice run earlier this week, and the process took 15 to 20 minutes before the cart was dry and ready to be used again. With 87 carts available at the course and more than 400 golfers showing up on warm weather days, that time can increase if demand does, but for DeVaux, making sure the carts are kept clean and safe is far more important.
“There's a lot to it when you're trying to keep people happy and safe,” DeVaux said. “It's going to be hard to turn [the carts] around. We're seeing how it's going to go…so we'll need some patience from the golfers.”
DeVaux will meet with the course director Friday morning to discuss exactly when the carts will make their return. They were ready for Friday to be the day, but the weather had other ideas. But once the fairways dry, carts will be back at Stanley.
“People have been calling wondering when we’re going to have carts,” DeVaux said. “We hope to have them ready by Saturday, and we have a full tee sheet right now.”