When the Aroostook Valley Country Club in Fort Fairfield and Four Falls, New Brunswick, opened for the season in May, it was the first time in nearly two years that Americans could golf the 18-hole, 6,305-yard course.
And while they have to go through a complicated process to do so, that isn’t keeping all of them away.
After having to close its doors to Americans in July 2020 due to its unique location that straddles the border of both the U.S. and Canada, the 92-year-old highly regarded course feared its business was in jeopardy. Now the course is experiencing a minor resurgence as travel requirements between the two countries become more lenient.
The Aroostook Valley Country Club has 141 current members, just 48 fewer than before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Of those members, 28 are Americans and 113 are Canadians. Normally, at least 50 percent of the members are American.
“We’ve been doing OK. More and more [Americans] are coming over every day. We certainly haven’t returned to our normal business [numbers],” said club pro and manager Steve Leitch, who added that the course has been “busier than we would have anticipated.”
The problem began due to the fact that the golf course and clubhouse are in Four Falls, New Brunswick, while the main entrance, parking lot and pro shop are in Fort Fairfield.
Americans have to pass through a Canada Border Services Agency port of entry and submit health information through ArriveCAN, a free mobile app, within 72 hours of entering a port of entry. They also must have a passport and proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
They have to be processed by immigration and customs.
“Some find it doable and others find it inconvenient and don’t come,” Leitch said of the border-crossing requirements.
“We certainly long for a solution so we can return to normal but we will continue to play with the cards we have been dealt. That’s how we approach every day.”
Fort Fairfield High School girls basketball coach Larry Gardner, a member of the course’s board of directors, said the Canadian golfers have “really stepped up” to help the course offset the loss of the American golfers.
Leitch said the club has lost a lot of American corporate business so he has had to replace canceled tournaments with other events, such as scrambles.
In a scramble, you have multiple golfer teams and after each golfer hits a shot, the team determines which was the best of the shots and then each golfer hits the next shot from that chosen spot. That continues until the team holes out.
“We certainly miss our old events. But like anything else in business, you have to make the best of an unfortunate situation,” Leitch said. “You try to keep your head above water.”
Gardner said the board has arranged some fund-raising activities to help the course.
The 24th annual Fort Fairfield High School Athletic Boosters Club fundraising tournament is going to return to the Aroostook Valley Country Club for the first time since 2019 on Aug. 20.
The money goes to the school’s athletic department.
They will have three-member teams in the scramble format. They will tee off at 9 a.m. with a shotgun start.
A shotgun start means that each hole will have a different team start on it at 9 a.m.
“It is too nice of a course to have it just sit there,” Gardner said. “It is in fantastic shape.”
He said the tournament will honor the memory of four prominent men with strong Fort Fairfield ties who have died over the past two years: Keith Mahaney, Chappy Clark, Lloyd McLaughlin and Rod Doody.