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FORT WALTON BEACH — Hey, Fort Walton Beach, grip it and rip it.
The 36-hole Fort Walton Beach Golf Club reopened Thursday following its March 30 closure due to social distancing concerns. Yet those have altered how the municipal course will operate moving forward amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The precautionary measures include removing sand trap rakes, water coolers on the course and water from the ball washers and flipping the cup in the hole so the ball is easy to retrieve and doesn’t require a tug of the flag stick. There’s also been amped-up cart cleaning, groups are being limited to a max of four golfers and carts are being mandated to single passengers unless pairs have been quarantined together.
Another precautionary measure is only one course will be open daily — the Pines Course Thursday through Sunday and the Oaks Course Monday through Wednesday.
"At first we wanted to err on the side of caution, so that’s why we initially closed," Fort Walton Beach pro David Trimm said. "But then the outbreak in the area has not been huge by any means, so reopening made sense.
"The golf courses are in fine shape right now, the weather is beautiful and there’s no reason not to be out there with the precautions we’re taking."
Taking advantage of the reopening Thursday were plenty of locals, including Tomm Meilbeck for an 8:08 a.m. tee time.
"I’ve been a regular here for 20-plus years," said Meilbeck, who works at National Golf Outlet in Destin. "David’s done a wonderful job in getting the course back up to where I believe it should be. The course is in immaculate shape right now, beautiful shape. I absolutely missed it."
Beverly Coyn, a member for two years who plays around twice a week, also missed her home course.
"I think it’s fabulous," she said of the reopening. "It’s great for exercise, to get some vitamin D and to be doing something besides sitting in the house watching TV. We’re running out of shows."
Rates for 18 holes and a cart are $43 before 1 p.m., $35 between 1 and 4 p.m. and $23 after 4.
"We need something out there at this point," Trimm said. "We’re happy to provide this outlet."