Every Saturday, Richard Salaiz and a golfing partner would hit the course at Los Lagos Golf Club in Edinburg.
Salaiz once again walked the course Saturday with a partner, having what he described as an average round despite the course delivering “an eerie feeling with just a couple of other golfers on it.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted life as normal around the world, throughout the country and across the Rio Grande Valley, there is some micro-semblance of normalcy as some golf courses remain open, with restrictions in place.
Monte Cristo in Edinburg, Palm View in McAllen and Tierra Santa in Weslaco all remain open for now as well as Los Lagos. However, restrictions include either walking the course or riding one person per cart, no freestanding water jugs on the course, no gathering inside the clubhouse/grill areas which are closed, tee times are required by calling the respective course and, in some cases, the flags on the green are either removed or have a sponge in the bottom of the cups so golfers can retrieve their ball without touching the pin.
Shary Municipal Golf Course in Mission closed Saturday until further notice and nobody answered the phone Sunday at Tierra del Sol in Pharr.
“Los Lagos is doing the right thing,” Salaiz said. “The main thing was to get out there and get some exercise and we followed every protocol; we stayed apart.”
Salaiz said he called the city earlier in the week to make sure he could still power walk in his neighborhood. They told him that it would be fine as long as he followed the orders that are in place due to the virus.
County Judge Richard Cortez, who has issued a shelter in place order and curfew for Hidalgo County, said that he checked with his legal department when asked about golf courses.
“I was told that social distancing was required and only one person to a cart and no one inside,” Cortez said via text regarding the response from his legal team.
Golfers — even non-golfers — have said thanks to those few workers at the course for remaining open.
“We’re not allowed to have people inside the facility other than staff,” said Elizabeth Seiger, golf course manager for Los Lagos. “Customers can bring water with them or purchase it here and we are requiring tee times.
“Before all of this started, we were seeing an average of 160-180 rounds per day. During the past week, the most was probably around 50 rounds. We are trying to alleviate crowding and scattering tee times.”
Seiger said she received her first upset call earlier in the day on Sunday.
“Someone called not very happy,” Seiger said. “She felt we were helping to spread the epidemic. But we are following a strict protocol and the guidelines that city management has given us. Most of the people will call over and say they’ve enjoyed that day and were thankful that we stayed open.”
Palm View Golf Course’s David Rodriguez, pro shop attendant, said they are giving out one cart per person, and after the golfer is done they are required to park the cart and head to their vehicle.
“We sanitize the carts, wash them down with soap and water and Clorox every time one is used,” Rodriguez said. “We’ll get some calls and people will be shocked to find we are open. People are coming in the mornings especially, and we’ve had several new golfers even coming out.”
The pro shop attendant at both Tierra Santa in Weslaco and Monte Cristo in Edinburg both said that the course was fairly busy and golfers seemed excited to have something to do other than sit indoors all day.
Seiger, at Los Lagos, said golfers will also offer suggestions to help the course/golfers during the pandemic crisis. Since there are no flags on the green at Los Lagos, one person suggested that they put all the pin placements in the center of the green so golfers have a better idea where the hole is.
Salaiz said that it didn’t matter where the holes on the green were located for him or his golf partner.
“We’re lucky to even hit the green in regulation,” he said.