Popular Golf Course and Event Center Defies the COVID-19 Hazards
~ by Rick Langenberg ~
The coronavirus epidemic has ravaged the sports world both nationally and locally.
However, one pastime that is defying the odds, even though it must endure a difficult patch of rough, is golf. On a professional basis, golf is back with the PGA tour resuming play on June 11. On Sunday, sports fans were treated to the first real live sporting event, featuring a friendly and competitive links square-off, pitting the teams of Tiger Woods/Peyton Manning versus Phil Mickelson/Tom Brady. It was dubbed as a COVID-19 charity relief event, combining probably the most intense rivalries of football and golf over the last two decades. The real winner: Athletic Trash Talk among four sports legends.
Even Governor Jared Polis, not known as a links advocate, has declared golf courses as essential recreation areas.
Locally, this trend has served as a big plus for the region’s sole links haven, the Shining Mountain Golf Course and Event Center in Woodland Park. SM is booming these days, despite the threat of the coronavirus epidemic.
“Things are going very well,” said Joe Babin, the Shining Mountain pro shop manager. He has seen no letup in the droves of players who enjoy the championship-layout, regarded as one of the toughest shorter courses in Colorado. In this writer’s opinion, the course’s back nine rates as probably the finest nine-hole stretch in the Pikes Peak region.
The regular leagues, including Men’s Ladies and Senior clubs are back in action. And SM bustles with many discount packages during the week, such as the “The Three Tee” special on Tuesdays, with $30 (for 18 holes per player with a cart) for three golfers.
The course features a full lineup of charity tournaments, with some delays in scheduling due to the COVID-19 restrictions. For example, the annual sheriff’s tournament, which often showcases record numbers of lost balls and foul shots, (especially when TMJ participated) will be held in August.
Sure, a few adjustments are in order. Rakes are gone from all sand traps; flags are supposed to remain in place; and carts usually feature one rider per vehicle. And until recently, players dealt with cups positioned several inches above the regular hole placements as COVID-19 precautions.
Shining Mountain, though, prides itself as one of the few public courses in the area to offer riding carts, almost a necessity for older players at SM. “Two people can ride together at their discretion,” said Babin. For families, there are no restrictions. A full realm of sanitation precautions are used by the course operators.
Currently, the putting green and chipping areas are open, while the driving range is still under renovation to become better equipped with nets.
The course, according to Babin, also will soon feature a Colorado Springs-based teaching pro on a part-time basis to help players with their ailing swings and to head up their Junior clinic. Babin, himself, is regarded as an A-plus player, who has starred in several sports for Woodland Park High School. So, if you need a few tips, ask Joe for advice. The pro shop also serves as the home of the Panther Den.
More than Just Golf
But as in the past, Shining Mountain is more than just about golf
This year, the facility features a new management team, with April Babin, serving as the general manager, and several members of her family playing a helping hand. “It is a real family team,” said April Babin. “We hold everyone accountable. We really want this place to succeed.”
April Babin has been a familiar face at Shining Mountain since 2015, and is well-versed in all of the facility’s operations. She has helped run the restaurant and bar, worked as a cart/beverage host, performed marketing and promotional stints, overseen their Facebook page, and headed up their weddings and special events.
“I am an open book,” said Babin. “We want to make this place to be accessible to everyone.”
And once the COVID-19 restrictions are fully lifted, the general manager wants to open up their adjacent event center to a plethora of groups. “I want like to see us do yoga and exercise classes and really open this place up to groups in the community. We really have a lot of potential here.”
The SM general manager also would like the facility to host events, aimed at helping those impacted by the COVID-19 epidemic. “There are a lot of people hurting right now,” said Babin. “We want to give back to the community.”
Another noticeable change is the restaurant, now featuring the name Turn and Burn. “We try to take that extra step and make regular items more exciting,” said Babin. Some of their highlights have included Pikes Peak Nachos, the Tower of Rings (featuring an unprecedented combination of enticing onion rings) shrimp cocktail, and many of their acclaimed favorites, such as Fish and Chips, Chicken Alfredo and their often their under-rated burgers. Their main entrees feature special golf-oriented nicknames to give the place extra color.
Unlike some previous years, the restaurant will remain open every day of the week from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Babin also hopes to feature music on the weekends, once more of the restrictions end.
Heading the restaurant reins is Tyler Davis-Babin. ”We make everything fresh,” said Davis-Babin.
The head restaurant chef also said he is open to suggestions from the public.
And in the COVID-19 era, Shining Mountain has become a good place to obtain a meal and drink. The outdoor deck is often a prime meeting area, and is a familiar 19th hole hangout.
This week, many of the restriction have been lifted because of the granting of the variance request for Teller County. This should provide Shining Mountain another way to avoid the restaurant rough that has plagued many local eateries (see related story).