Aspen Golf Course opens Saturday with COVID-19 protocols in place

Aspen Golf Course will open this Saturday, but will follow strict COVID-19 protocols to avoid spread.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Albeit with very strict protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Aspen Golf Course begins its 2020 season Saturday.

Pitkin County earlier this week signed off on the municipal course’s safety plan, which is designed around sanitizing and social distancing, including mandatory face coverings while playing, one person to a golf cart and 15 minutes in between tee times. Out on the course, there are no ball washers, rakes in the bunkers or water containers.

Saturday’s opening is limited to walking only and green fees are $45 for either nine or 18 holes.

With word getting out in the golf community that the course is opening this weekend, tee times available online are few and far between.

Steve Aitken, director of golf, said pass sales Thursday alone brought in $50,000.

Pass prices will remain at the early season pricing all season, he noted.

Carts and practice facilities will be available later in the week, said Aitken, adding he is staffing up and workers are being trained on the new protocols.

“Everybody is trying really hard in an extremely challenging time,” Aitken said. “I feel fortunate to be where we are and be open (Saturday morning).”

Golf carts will have to be disinfected before and after each use, and there will be no scorecards, pencils, coolers or sand bottles in the carts.

The cup will be modified on each hole, so players are easily able to pick up their golf ball without touching the flagstick or the cup itself, and golfers must always leave the flagstick in during play and not touch it.

The clubhouse and pro shop are closed, and there will be no rental clubs or pull carts. Players also will not have access to the locker rooms.

Purchases from the pro shop must be made through the payment window or over the phone, paid for via credit card and made available for pickup at a location outdoors.

Check in will occur at a window of the golf shop and credit cards are the only means of payment, outside of membership.

Tee times can be made over the phone or online, and two-person groups can be paired with one another to make a foursome, however, singles have to call first and ask for a slot to join a group.

Golfers may only arrive 15 minutes prior to their tee time.

Only residents of the Roaring Fork Valley, from Aspen to Glenwood Springs, are allowed under the county’s rules. Proof of residency can be a driver’s license, club membership or utility bill.

The Red Mountain Grill is open for take-out for food and beverages, as well as at the turn for the back nine holes.

Bathrooms on the course also will be open, Aitken said, adding the one located at hole 5 may take another week or two to open based on the weather.

There are dozens of other protocols, which apply to not only Aspen but also the private courses — the Snowmass Club, the Roaring Fork Club and the Maroon Creek Club — all of which are located within Pitkin County.

Restrictions may ease over the course of the season, based on the speed in which the highly contagious disease spreads.

“As with most COVID-19 guidance, these requirements are based on the most current information and best practices we have and may change in the future,” said Jordana Sabella, the county’s planning, prevention and partnerships manager, who approved the courses’ safety plans.

Aitken said tee times are currently available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and those hours will be extended as the weeks progress.

Aitken said he is bracing for a decline in revenue, since tee times are being spaced 15 minutes from each other; normal procedure is nine minutes between players.

“We don’t know when the restrictions are going to ease up,” he said, adding the club is losing two tee times an hour. “We hope this 15-minute thing doesn’t last forever.”

With fewer golfers on the course and wide-sweeping cuts across the municipal government in nearly every department and fund, Aitken has deferred all capital projects and will have fewer employees.

Despite the challenges, Aitken said the course is shaping up and he is looking forward to a good golfing season.

“Although our community is challenged by this difficult time, one great resource for physical and mental health has always been our community gem consisting of golf, Nordic and open space,” he said.