So here we are. Spring is in bloom, and optimism is peeking her sunny face from out behind the COVID clouds. We are slowly, tentatively, and with sincere caution starting to awaken to the pleasures we once enjoyed in a time which predates needing to be mindful of social distancing, face masks and hand sanitizer. Golf is one of those treasured pastimes which we are beginning to ease into—perfect timing, since the weather is improving and the days are becoming warmer and sunnier. Mayfield Golf Club in Caledon East is a family business, and the de Laat family treats the health and safety of its golfing guests with as much importance as though each one was a member of their clan. In our post today, we speak with Christopher de Laat, director of golf and food services, to find out what measures Mayfield has put in place to make golf as safe as it is fun.
All about Mayfield
Christopher’s father, a private golf club pro, bought the land on which Mayfield is situated in 1955. Growing up, Christopher remembers always being around golf clubs. “Dad was a very good athlete,” he says. “His lifelong dream was to build his own golf course because he felt it was a good family business.” But the golf course he envisioned wasn’t the prestigious retreat of the elite, it was a golf course that would be for everyone. Construction started in 1972 on the original six holes. Over the years, more holes were added until 2004, when the final nine holes were added to complete the 27 which the club offers today.
Christopher himself turned pro as a golfer when he was 19 years old. With respect to the direction of his career, he made his choice relatively early. “It’s not an easy lifestyle to have,” he says of the competitive golfer. “As a golf pro, I was wired to be a club professional, not a tour professional. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to play, but with a family business to run, I found that I really enjoyed working with people and I enjoyed the organizational development. It seemed to be a natural fit for me and for my career.” Upon graduating university, Christopher returned to his family’s business on a full-time basis, and has worked with junior programs, programs for seniors and programs for new golfers.
Today, Christopher carries on the tradition of an everybody-minded family business which his father established, with his brothers and sisters. He says, “That is the sort of community base that [my father] instilled in me as a young professional coming in… I have continued to work on that exact same model—where the regular person in the community is always welcome. We transcend that whole idea of exclusiveness because that really isn’t what the game itself is about. We have been open for 43 years, and we find that that has been a great hallmark to live by in all that time.”
What makes Mayfield different from other golf courses is the level of service it offers, when one remembers that it is a public course. Let’s face it: golf is expensive, both for club and course operators, as well as for those who want to play it. “When [golf courses] get into construction and they start thinking about the club house, the amenities, and the quality of their offerings, it gets very expensive very quickly,” Christopher says. “Unless it is a municipal course that is owned by a city, there are very few public golf courses at the level that we are. They often need to start charging green fees, which can lead to it becoming very expensive for families to play. If there is anything that we can hang our hats on, it’s that we represent a part of the marketplace that most people would not enter. That is one of the things of which I am most proud.”
How Mayfield has responded to COVID-19
As we mentioned, we are now moving into a period where we are beginning to see an easing of restrictions and an opening back up of our businesses. But no business—especially golf—is resuming without new processes and guidelines. “COVID has absolutely had an impact on us, and if you tour the facility, you can see it,” Christopher says. “I have a lot of senior clients during the week, so if I’m not serious about how I am controlling crowds, I would be putting them at risk, and that would be very irresponsible.”
New measures to keep golfers safe and healthy at Mayfield Golf Club and other courses in YDH include:
- cleaning washrooms regularly
- enforcing social distancing
- disinfecting carts
- managing the number of guests within the pro shop at any given time
- raising flags in holes to keep hands out
- moving to debit and credit payments only
- cart sharing for same household golfers only
Christopher notes that, while COVID-19 is taken with sincere caution, the silver lining to this new way of operating means that he is better able to teach people to be better golfers at the same time that he is out on the course teaching them to be responsible golf citizens. He says, “Back at the end of February when we started our planning, we knew that, if we were going to do this right, we were also going to be able to implement business systems that would streamline a lot of our operations, too. While it has been challenging to put these new systems into place and teach people about them, I tend to look at this as an opportunity to really make some positive changes for the business long-term.”
Of course, the one thing every golfer wants to know about is power carts. It is easy, one might think, to ensure social distancing. Just go get more power carts to ensure guests don’t have to share. It’s not quite that easy, unfortunately. “Carts are $6,000 a piece,” Christopher points out laughingly. “That adds up pretty quickly.” Mayfield’s solution to this challenge is to manage their inventory on a blend of a first-come-first-serve basis and customer needs. This means that some carts are kept aside for people who cannot physically walk a course so that assistance is there if they should need it.
For everyone else, it is time to use those leg muscles, and enjoy the walk from hole to hole. It is a small thing, after all, that we can do to support our public golf courses like Mayfield, and to keep our fellow golfers safe and healthy.
For more information, visit Mayfield Golf Club’s website at www.mayfieldgolfclub.com or call (905) 843-1626. Mayfield Golf Club is located at 12552 Torbram Rd., Caledon East.
Story by Katherine Ryalen
For more information on how to stay safe and play safe please visit Ontario Golf Association