Golf courses, instructors busy following May reopening
June 13, 2020 Updated Sat., June 13, 2020 at 11:05 p.m.
Indian Canyon assistant pro Michelle Grafos gives Gabriel Mitchell, 10, some basic pointers at a booth at the 2017 Spokane Golf and Travel Show. The annual event has been moved online this year due to COVID-19. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane golf courses have been busy since reopening May 5 after a six-week shutdown mandated by Gov. Jay Inslee in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tee times, especially on sunny days, aren’t the only thing in demand. Try lining up a lesson.
Business picked up for area instructors this spring with golf offering an ideal outdoor option that can be done safely by following coronavirus precautions.
“I actually just had a nice couple reach out to me,” said David Fern, who teaches at Downriver and coaches the Whitworth women’s team. “I was like, ‘Man, where am I going to get them in?’”
Fern isn’t complaining. It’s a nice situation for area teachers, finding room for customers on crowded schedules.
“I’ve been absolutely slammed,” he said. “I’m literally booked almost full until the end of August.”
Tim Connor teaches a couple of days a week at Liberty Lake and opened TC Golf Academy on Argonne Road in January, just before the coronavirus outbreak rocked businesses and the economy.
“It’s hard for me to know because this is my first year at this location, but it was going really well prior to the shutdown and March was off to an awesome start,” Connor said. “June has had a nice start.”
Instructors are seeing golfers across the spectrum – youths, retirees, couples, adults with new work schedules due to the virus. Some kids involved in sports put on hold by the pandemic are turning to golf.
Fern recently began instructing a sixth-grader who is usually involved with track and lacrosse in the spring.
“We definitely are seeing a lot more kids, which is great, but also a lot of working adults,” said Michelle Grafos, girls coach at Lewis and Clark High, assistant pro at Indian Canyon and owner of Grafos Golf Instruction and Performance Studio downtown at Steam Plant Square.
“I think that six weeks of not being able to play, they have a little more time, and their work days are a little bit different and they’re finding time to play golf. Parents are looking for some normalcy and something consistent, and I’ve had a lot of kids coming once a week.”
LC was a strong state title contender, but the virus wiped out the prep season.
“When I wasn’t coaching, I filled it with lessons,” Grafos said, “but man, I missed the kids (on her team).”
Fern primarily teaches kids, which can lead to parents eventually seeking out lessons.
“I’ve coached a fair amount of kids the last seven years and usually the parents come about two years after (their kids start lessons),” he said. “If mom or dad haven’t golfed in a while or in decades because life happens, they’ll come or at least reach out for golf advice, what clubs to buy.”
Golf and lessons have ample room to obey social distancing and other safety measures. Grafos typically uses her studio during winter months and foul-weather days, but she prefers teaching outside at Indian Canyon in warmer weather.
“I’m just keeping my place super clean and making sure everyone knows about general distancing. It’s everywhere they go, so a lot of people are educated about it,” Connor said. “Honestly, I have a low traffic volume business. It’s not Costco or Starbucks. Typically, I’m coaching one person one-on-one, and there’s maybe another person practicing.”
Fern held off on teaching until June 1 to feel completely comfortable it was safe. He’s clear up front about safety protocols.
“The first lesson before we get going, I say, ‘You’re not getting within 6 feet of me, and I’m not getting within 6 feet of you. You’re not touching my equipment and I’m not touching yours,’ ” Fern said.
Golfers are happy to comply with the guidelines.
“There was just a pent-up demand and (golf) was something to do,” Grafos said. “We’re taking all the safety precautions. It’s been fun. It’s been busy.”
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