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Golf course charged for opening and players fined

May 7, 2021   ·   0 Comments

When it was announced that golf courses were among the businesses that must close during the current provincial stay-at-home order, it didn’t go over very well with the golf industry.

Golf Ontario released a statement that they are lobbying the provincial government to allow courses to remain open.

Golf, they insist, is a safe activity due to the inherent physical distancing that takes place on the course as well as a form of physical exercise.

They also stress that the sport promotes mental health as people like to play for the challenge of the game as well as the serenity of getting out on the course.

At least one golf course in Ontario has decided it won’t play the by the rules.

The Bridges at Tillsonburg, in Tillsonburg, ON, announced they were opening on Saturday, April 24.

In a statement, the course said: “We have implemented the necessary protocols to ensure our golfers are able to play safely. We are excited to be open and the course is in fantastic condition.”

The course had also put into place protocols that were used during last season. That includes removing rakes and tools from the greens, inverting the cups so players don’t have to reach into the hole, and encouraging walking rather than using a golf cart.

In reply, Golf Ontario said, “We are obviously aware of the opening today of the Bridges at Tillsonburg golf course in contravention of government regulations. Please know we do not, in any way, condone this action.”

The local detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police did not take any direct action during Saturday’s opening, but they were there and observing from a post across the street.

When asked by a news outlet if there was any word on charges or fines, a police spokesperson said, “It’s under investigation.”

The stand-off at the Bridges of Tillsonburg took a turn over the weekend when police started ticketing golfers after they left the course.

The local OPP stationed officers around the course and were taking photos of people on the 9th and 17th holes on Sunday, May 2. After leaving the course, drivers where stopped and photos matched with the driver, who were then issued a $750 ticket.

The golf course itself was charged on Thursday, of last week with failing to comply with the Reopening Ontario Act. As a corporation charged under the act, it faces a fine of up to $10 million if convicted, however it is very unlikely that can of fine would be levied.

The matter is scheduled to be heard at the Ontario Court of Justice in Woodstock on June 3, 2021.

In spite of the charges, the course has said it plans to remain open.

One golfer took a photo of a sign that was posted in the Course’s Pro Shop telling golfers not to pay the ticket.

The sign said “If you receive a ticket from OPP DO NOT PAY. Write across ticket with sharpie RESCIND date it and sign it, not on line slotted for signature But under your date mail the ticket back.”

However, legal experts are warning you shouldn’t be taking legal advice from a golf course, and this is a regulatory offence which means you won’t be able to renew your license sticker driver’s license without paying.

The golf course is still booking tee-times, but if you decide to take the chance and play 18 holes, you should be prepared to pay a lot more that the course fee for hitting the links.

Ontario is the only jurisdiction in North America that has cancelled the sport.

Many golf club owners are getting worried as they head into their busy season.

Some industry experts said that if courses are not allowed to open by June, it could result in some course going out of business permanently.

By Brian Lockhart
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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