Fairmont set to open golf, BCC, ‘Muni’ to follow

Fairmont set to open golf, BCC, ‘Muni’ to follow
Ella Prigge of Butte watches her chip shot onto the No. 8 green June 10, 2019 during the SWMJGT's Lee LaBreche Kick-Off Classic at the Highland View Golf Course. (Butte Sports file photos)

By Bill Foley

As the populous goes stir crazy amid the COVID-19 pandemic, golfers in the area will soon be able to find some release on the course.

Fairmont Hot Springs will open its course on Tuesday, and plans are in the works to open the Butte Country Club and the Highland View Golf Course.

Initially, Fairmont will be open to members only, as will the Butte Country Club when the course is ready.

“We are waiting for the ground to thaw at this time and are hopeful that will happen and grass will start to grow by the middle of the month,” Country Club pro Josh Walsh said. “As of now, we do plan to open when mother nature allows us.”

When issuing a stay-at-home order, Gov. Steve Bullock exempted golf — with very limited conditions. Abiding by those conditions is a bit trickier for the municipal Highland View Golf Course, which is affectionately known as the “Muni.”

So, the opening of the Highland View will be delayed. Gallagher said he is not sure how quickly the Muni will open, but he said the county is working to resolve their issues as soon as possible.

“We have to operate without having contact with staff, essentially,” J.P. Gallagher, the county’s parks and recreation director, said Monday. “We’re trying to navigate how that would look.”

Steve Luebeck, the general manager at Fairmont, said the Fairmont golf shop will be closed at all times. His golf staff will have no contact with golfers.

Walsh said the Country Club will have similar restrictions.

“The pro shop, clubhouse and bar will remain only open for pickup options,” he said. “No one will be allowed in those areas.”

Since it is a public course, the Highland View Golf Course has to be open for more than members. How the course will accept greens fees and membership dues is not certain.

Gallagher said the county is not sure how to safely protect staff of the club house. He said he is looking into putting some kind of protective glass around the counter of the pro shop, among other options.

“We’ve got to figure out a way to take transactions,” Gallagher said.

While the county has two groundskeepers working to ready the course for play, Mark Fisher, the club pro and manager of the Ridge Waters Waterpark, is currently the only employee at the clubhouse.

“We’ll maybe bring on a seasonal staff, but we’re at a freeze right now because of the unknown,” Gallagher said, adding that the county could possibly hire one staff member or just operate around Fisher’s schedule.

Once play is open, Gallagher said golfers will not be allowed to knock the ball into the hole. Rather, the cups will be raised to stick out above the cut of the hole. Bouncing the ball off the cup will count.

“It’s like croquette,” Gallagher, himself a golfer, said with a laugh. “You just bounce it off. We’ve got to make sure we’re abiding by the governor’s orders.”

Raising the hole means golfers will not have to all put their hand in the same holes.

Fairmont’s holes will be filled with foam tubes to prevent the balls from falling in, Luebeck said. He said touching the flagstick will not be allowed.

Only one rider will be allowed in a cart at a time, unless two riders live in the same household. Fairmont, which will only accept online transactions, credit card by phone or checks sent in the mail, will not allow food on the course. (Click here to see Fairmont’s COVID-19 membership policies.)

Fairmont members must book tee times online. Tee times will be every 15 minutes to space out golfers.

“People just need a release and to get outside,” Luebeck said. “I’m glad we are going to be able to help in that. The weather looks really promising for this week.”

Luebeck said Fairmont is still accepting membership applications. He said they will likely limit the number of members to 200.

The waterpark, is whole other problem for the county, Gallagher said.

Once the quarantine is lifted, the county might not have enough lifeguards to operate. Currently, Gallagher said he has 15 certified lifeguards ready to return for this summer.

“That is about 15 less than what we need,” he said. “We can’t train anybody because no pools are open. Even if (the stay-at-home order) gets lifted, we’re going to be in a pickle to run it. We can fast track them, but that will be a challenge.”

Last summer, the waterpark had to close earlier than planned because so many of the lifeguards were college and high school students who had to return to class. This year, Gallagher had a plan to make sure that did not happen again.

“We were going to be prepared because we were going to advertise to get more senior citizens and people who can be onboard to stay,” Gallagher said.

Also, Gallagher said he thinks social distancing rules will still be in place when things start to open up.

“The pool itself is a nice disinfectant,” he said, “but there is no way to social distance there.”

Tennis courts around town remain open, with the exception of the courts at Stodden and at West Elementary School. West will be closed until the county can repair a fence that was ran through by an automobile.

Stodden will remained closed because of the basketball hoops. Playing basketball is not advised under the stay-at-home order. Playground equipment in the parks is off limits.

In the meantime, Gallagher said he is happy to see people taking advantage of the county’s trail system, both paved and unpaved. He said trails in Stodden Park are also open.

“I’ve never seen the trails so used,” Gallagher said. “The dog park has always been highly used. It’s crazy how many people have been using that as well. It’s good that they’re seeing what is out there.”

Gallagher said is thankful to be living in the Mining City during the pandemic.

“We are so fortunate to live where we do,” he said. “Can you imagine living in New York right now?”

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