By Steve Williams
With the impact of the coronavirus pandemic putting a stop to most sports enjoyment, local golfers are still getting an opportunity to get outside and play at the four courses in Knoxville and Knox County.
Public courses at Whittle Springs, Knoxville Municipal and Williams Creek (par 3) in the city and Three Ridges Golf Course in the county are still in operation and have put in special safety procedures at their locations.
“A lot of us have been playing golf here for 50 years. We grew up here,” said Chuck Cavalaris, who was playing in a threesome with Steve Hoskins and Mike Jones Thursday at Whittle Springs.
“We’re just thankful the City of Knoxville and Billy Casper Golf and the administration and everybody here at Whittle Springs are keeping this open. We can get out and get fresh air and get our social distance and be as normal as we can with everything going on.
“It’s about the only thing that we can do, and who knows how much longer we’ll be able to do it. We just appreciate that opportunity.”
Mike McGill, who is an assistant on the golf staff at Whittle Springs, pointed out Thursday afternoon “the golf carts are being sprayed down when they come in and go out. And we’re keeping the doors open so nobody has to touch a door.”
Only one adult can ride in a golf cart at a time too, said McGill.
Cavalaris pointed out another safety measure on each green, where a noodle is placed in the cup to allow the golfer to pick up the ball without touching the flag stick.
Each golfer at Whittle Springs also has to sign a “waiver of liability and hold harmless agreement” before being allowed to play.
“Golf courses have really struggled the past few years with so much rain, even flooding in February,” added Cavalaris. “Rusty Howell (Director of Golf at Whittle Springs) made the tough call to limit seating in the clubhouse to just one table for four. It was like 10 or 12 before.
“I just can’t stress enough how much it helps to be able to do a physical activity outdoors.
“We realize all of this may be taken away for a short period of time, but it just means so much and helps a person’s mental outlook to know this option still exists.”
Howell said tee times at Whittle Springs start at 7:30 a.m. and end at 6 p.m.
Three Ridges Pro Mark Brown said similar safety procedures are being used at his course and several golfers have been taking advantage to play especially when the weather has been good.
“You can get some sunshine and at a safe place to do it,” he said.
Play at Three Ridges is open from daylight to dark.
For the second Thursday in a row, Knoxville enjoyed sunny skies and warm weather, resulting in good turnouts at the local golf courses.
IN AN UPDATE on city parks moving to “passive use” during the COVID-19 outbreak, Nathan Nease of the Knoxville Parks and Recreation Department announced Friday: “Park restrooms, athletic fields/courts and playgrounds are currently closed until further notice in order to reduce community exposure.”
Activities like walking, running on the trail and throwing a frisbee or football are permitted, but not team sports or anything in a group setting, added Nease.
THE CITY has postponed all youth and adult athletic events until May 11 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. All tournaments that were scheduled to take place at the city’s athletic facilities have also either been rescheduled or cancelled.
The city’s goal is to restart the spring athletic programs as soon as we are allowed to, added Nease.
TROY FLEMING, Recreation Manager for Knox County, sent out this statement on youth sports and the coronavirus:
“After again meeting with Knox County public health officials and along with much consideration, Knox County Parks and Recreation has decided to postpone all spring sporting activities through April 6, putting us in sync with Knox County Schools.
“This includes youth and adult sports; any organized sporting activity on all Knox County property; and all third-party tournaments.”
Fleming said Knox County Parks and Recreation officials are planning to meet April 6 to update the situation, following contact with the Knox County Health Department.