200701scl Golf

Nick Ferrie putts on the 13th hole at North Kingstown Golf Course. While many of the most popular summer sports events in Southern Rhode Island have been canceled or severly limited this year, local golf courses remain a social distance-friendly way to stay active and play with friends.

Summer’s here in South County, but like many things this year, it looks a little different.

While the hot summer sun beats down on the famed sandy shores of the area and other familiar sites are still very present, the COVID-19 pandemic has limited many of the crowds and some of those classic South County activities. While beaches and campgrounds have reopened, it has beenwith limited numbers to keep in line with social distancing guidelines as Rhode Island carefully and gradually begins bringing businesses back.

Still, the desire to go enjoy some outdoor time with family and friends in the beautiful weather is very much present. In a time like this, activities that allow people by themselves or with small groups to spend some quality time outdoors while also maintaining social distancing and creating a bit of a fun challenge could be perfect.

Which is exactly where golf comes in.

At some local golf courses, such as the North Kingstown Municipal Golf Course, business is as strong as it would be without a pandemic, and if anything, is seeing beginners and long lost players returning to the game as a way of finding joy and entertainment that provides a brief distraction from everything else in the world.

“It’s always a good time (to pick up golf),” North Kingstown Municipal Golf Course Head Golf Professional John Rainone said. “Now is as good a time as any. I think this is going to end up being a good thing for golf, getting more people back to the game. People’s lives will hopefully be less hurried and less crunched for time than they were in the past, so they can come out and enjoy a few hours in the outdoors.”

Unlike most businesses in Rhode Island, golf courses were never completely shuttered as, by its nature, the game allows for solitary and distanced play with little interaction from others, save for clubhouses, instructional lessons and golf carts, all of which saw their usage initially restricted but most of those restrictions themselves have been lifted as Phase II has been implemented.

Before the pandemic began, Rainone said that the warmer winter allowed for people to golf both later and earlier in the year than usual.

“It was the kind of winter where we never closed anyways, it was such a warm winter, so we were open pretty much throughout the winter,” Rainone said.

As COVID-19 began spreading throughout the area, country and world in late February and into March, business still wasn’t all too affected Rainone said, but as the spread continued to grow rapidly throughout the Ocean State, restrictions were put in place by the state.

While Rhode Island, unlike its Massachusetts neighbors, allowed golf courses to stay open, clubhouses, pro shops, golf carts, driving ranges, putting greens and any sort of on-site restaurants were closed. Caddies were done away with temporarily, as well as out of state golfers, and tee times were spread out.

“We went from a full operation with the driving range open, putting green open, golf carts and eight minute tee time intervals to no golf carts, no driving range, no putting green, no pro shop and only 15 minute tee time intervals, so only four groups per hour, so that put a big crimp in our business for the month of April and the first week of May,” Rainone said.

However, once Phase II was initiated, golf courses were allowed to bring back many of these classic golf aspects but with social distancing in mind, including driving ranges and putting greens, which must not have more than 15 people on at a time, and caddies and out of state golfers were welcomed back to the courses while golf carts for multiple people were also brought back, with thorough cleanings after each use.

The tee time restrictions were lessened as well.

“We run 10 minute tee time intervals now, which I think we’re going to stay with,” Rainone said. “We’re at two people, full rider golf carts for the time being, but the driving range is open, the putting green is open, the restaurant is open, so business has actually been very, very good since we got past the very tight restrictions.“

The North Kingstown Municipal Golf Course, situated just off the former Davisville military base at Quonset Point and current Quonset Development Park has been part of the community for over 70 years, offering views of the Quonset State Airport and Rhode Island Air National Guard station, Wickford Harbor and Narragansett Bay, in addition to a driving range, lessons, restaurant and many of the other amenities offered by private country clubs and other golf courses at a lower price.

North Kingstown residents can play all 18 holes of the course on weekdays for as low as $7 and $35 for busy weekend mornings, while out-of-town residents pay $34 and $42 for those times respectively.

For those familiar with the course, the methods of booking tee times have changed, with the course having to temporarily do away with online booking in favor of calling the pro shop to book a round.

“We had to take down the online booking when we were under the restrictions,” Rainone said. “With as busy as we’ve been and as valuable as the tee times are, we’ve stayed away from opening up the online bookings so we can control it better, so right now the only way to make a tee time is to call the (pro) shop.”

Rainone is very welcoming of golfers of all levels, from well-seasoned golfers to people just wanting to pick up the game.

“The golf course is a very good, solid golf course,” Rainone said. “It’s a chipping challenge for the better player but it’s also user friendly. It’s not overly long, you’re not going to lose a lot of golf balls out here. It’s pretty flat, an easy walk, the rates are very affordable and it’s in tremendous condition. It’s very enjoyable to play because of the condition of it also, so it’s good in a lot of respects like that plus we also have a full size driving range. We have lessons available, so we’ve got everything right here to get you started.“

For booking tee times at the North Kingstown Municipal Golf Course, call (401) 294-0684. Check our more details on the course by visiting their page on the town’s website, northkingstown.org/golf-course.

Beyond the North Kingstown Municipal Golf Course, South County has plenty of offerings to satisfy golfers. In addition to the town course, North Kingstown is also home to Kings Crossing Golf Club, Rolling Greens Golf Club and Quidnessett Country Club. South Kingstown is home to Laurel Lanes Country Club and Rose Hill Golf Club, while Narragansett has the Point Judith Country Club.

Elsewhere in the area are the Exeter Country Club in Exeter, the East Greenwich Country Club, Goddard Memorial State Park Golf Course and Potowomut Golf Club in East Greenwich the Jamestown Golf Course in Jamestown. Richmond is home to several courses including the Beaver Ridge Golf Club, Pinecrest Golf Course and Meadow Brook Golf Course, while the Shelter Harbor Golf Club in Charlestown and Weekapaug Country Club in Westerly also have strong local offerings.

For more information of golfing throughout the Ocean State and for updates regarding re-openings and any other changes, check out the Rhode Island Golf Association’s website, rigalinks.org.

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