PRESCOTT, ONT. -- A popular outdoor game can finally be enjoyed again now that one regional golf course has opened for the season almost two weeks early.

The Prescott golf club opened on March 27, and tee times have been booked full since.

"Turned out to be a really good decision for Saturday," said general manager Steve Martineau. "Sunday was a little but iffy but we still had some golfers out.

Martineau said approximately 160 people golfed on Saturday, and Tuesday's forecast high of 18 C saw another day booked solid.

"They're loving it. Any golf in March is a bonus and especially when you consider all of the people that would have gone south and done some golfing in the winter and the fall weren't able to do so, so there's a lot of bent up energy there. It's been very positive," Martineau added.

The club usually opens around April 10, but Mother Nature helped speed up the snowmelt during the warm spell last week.

"This would probably be the earliest I've been playing in this area," said Brockville golfer Dale Watts.

"Usually I get my golf fix in early March, mid-March down in Florida, come home, and the golf course usually opens in three or four weeks and we're good to go," Watts added.

Ottawa resident Ron Canon usually golfs overseas during the winter.

"I'll ship my clubs to Asia and I'll go play over in Asia," Canon said. "It's been a long time coming for us. It's great to be outdoors. It's been a long winter."

Martineau said people have been booking from Kingston and Ottawa, and even Quebec. Only two other courses are open in the area: Iroquois Golf Club, only 20 minutes east of Prescott, and Calabogie Highlands golf resort, northwest of Ottawa.

"We have spaced out our tee times to give ourselves lots of room on the golf course so we're not jamming people up," Martineau said.

"We sanitize our golf carts after every use; we sanitize our bathrooms, the handles on the doors. We do the physical distancing in the building; a limit of two in the Pro Shop; everyone is wearing a mask; our restaurant is at 50 per cent capacity currently," he added. "We register everybody coming through the door so we're able to do any contact tracing required."

Considered of the safer outdoor activities during COVID-19, Martineau says he is excited for the season.

"We had a really good year last year and we're expecting to have another really good year this year," Martineau added, saying if the area goes into the grey zone it's likely they can stay open.

"We've been told by Golf Ontario that there are plans in place to stay open in the grey. We may have to limit even further our access in the building, but we'll have to cross the bridge when we come to it. Right now, the plan is to stay open," he said.

In the Pro Shop, head golf professional Mill Minkhorst says the budget has been increased and more products will be available.

"From the day we opened, we put some things on Facebook and our website and our phone has been ringing non stop since then," Minkhorst said.

"Clubs have been selling off the rack, really. We brought in Titleist clubs this year and they've been selling well. People weren't willing to drive the hour to pick up something so they're coming in and our sales are up big time, just like golf in general. Golf is booming right now," he added.

Even with snow in the forecast on Thursday, Martineau doesn't expect it to be a big problem.

"Now that the ground has melted it's really no worse than one or two days' worth of rain. It definitely won't stay. It'll be one or two days to let the snow to melt but it's really no different than cold rain," he said.

The club is open to everyone but members can book their tee times in advance.

"Our members have two different days of advance booking. They can book eight days in advance and our green fee-ers can book six days in advance. So, we are heavy member usage at this point but the green fee-ers do have access," Martineau said.

For Watts, he's just happy to be out of the house.

"For the last month-and-a-half I've done nothing, so it was starting to wear on me a little bit in the house," watts said. "My wife will tell you! When I told her I was playing golf today, she was ecstatic too!

"The sun is shining; it's 18 degrees in March, who wouldn't want to play golf today?"


A previous version of this story said that the golf course at Calabogie was the only other course in the region that was open. The Iroquois Golf Club is also open.