Joe Fremling hoses down used golf carts.

Changes are abundant at Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge’s golf courses these days due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the last month, Ruttger’s PGA pro Dave Sadlowsky has seen a lot of things change at Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge.

So, when asked recently if it was business as usual with the golf courses opening, he answered, “Not even close.”

Ruttger’s two golf courses – the Alec’s 9 and the Jack’s 18 – have been open since Gov. Tim Walz allowed courses to reopen last month. But while the courses are open, it’s far from normal.

“Nothing is normal, and every day brings about new changes and indecision and questions,” explained Sadlowsky recently.

While Ruttger’s will officially opened Thursday (see article on page 15), the golf courses have been bringing in guests now for a month.

“It’s something they can do,” Sadlowsky said. “They can spend a few hours and forget about everything else.”

Sadlowsky said that Ruttger’s two golf courses have seen wildly varying numbers. Some days it is as low as 20 people golfing, and when the weather has been nice, as many as 100.

“Certainly based on weather, weekdays and weekends,” he explained. “Generally, those numbers would be higher across the board, because we’d have guests at the resort.”

Sadlowsky said the resort typically has groups coming in “golf packages,” people who come in May and September to golf together when there are better rates.

There are changes on the course, though, as evidenced by the signs in the window at the golf course.

Check in can be done remotely by phone, “so they don’t have to come into the building if they don’t want to,” Sadlowsky said. In-person check-in can be done, but just two people at a time with social distancing. When it comes to golf carts, they must be single player unless it is a situation where those living together are sharing a cart.

On the course, it’s easier to keep up with the changes. Like other courses, Ruttger’s has removed numerous “touch points” – ball washers, benches, and bunker rakes.

“Because we hadn’t opened yet, they weren’t out anyway,” Sadlowsky explained.

No concessions are being sold, and there are no drink carts or water stations. Snack food and soft drinks are available at the clubhouse.

There is also a big change on the greens. While the flags are in the holes, players are encouraged not to touch them. Players can hit the ball into the hole, but thanks to the innovative use of a pool noodle, the balls will not drop all the way down.

The section of pool noodle put in the bottom of each hole fills the majority of the hole.

“The ball drops in, at most, an inch,” Sadlowsky said.

The driving range at Ruttger’s is also open, off of synthetic mats, spaced 12 feet apart. However, club rentals are not available.

There are silver linings, though, even in the midst of the pandemic affecting the golf course. Due to the cancellation of spring sports, Sadlowsky said he’s seeing more youngsters in the course.

“We have seen more kids this time of year than we ever have,” Sadlowsky said, adding that the influx is likely due to baseball players not being able to play their sport.

“It’s one of the few things they can do,” he said.

There are other new golfers out on the course, and with the lodge opening this week, chances are the courses will stay busy.

Sadlowsky did caution that the changes that have been made might be here to stay.

“Some of these procedures, and maybe we don’t know all of them yet, we may continue with,” Sadlowsky said. “We’re going to do more things electronically ... and that in the golf business is different.”

He said that is a change, as golf is a social business.

“I would welcome anyone to come out,” “We’re here for our communities.”

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