The Aroostook Valley Country Club is inching closer to normality, but there is still a long way to go.
The golf course that straddles the Maine-Canadian border is open for the season, but Americans will still have to go through a Canadian port of entry and produce a passport to play the course.
The golf course and clubhouse are in Four Falls, New Brunswick, while the main entrance, parking lot and pro shop are in Fort Fairfield.
Prior to the pandemic, Americans could access the club through Fort Fairfield.
The roadblock is one of the few that remain from the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, as mask mandates have largely been lifted and the United States’ COVID-19 public health emergency has ended. It’s unclear when, or if, the Canadian government will change the process.
Because of the difficult accessibility, American membership is “down significantly” just over a week after opening, according to club pro and general manager Steve Leitch.
“Things are a lot better than they were two years ago. The restrictions have eased quite a bit. But Americans still have to be willing to make an effort to get to the golf course. I certainly hope they will and we will do anything to take care of them,” Leitch said. “It’s a slow process but, hopefully, that will change over time. Right now, this is how we have to operate.”
The Canadian government ended access to the course for Americans in July 2020 several months after the border between the U.S. and Canada closed, and Americans were unable to play there for two years because of it. The border reopened a year ago, allowing Americans to play at the course under a variety of stipulations.
Americans had to pass through a Canada Border Services Agency port of entry and submit health information through ArriveCAN within 72 hours of entering a port of entry. They also had to have a passport and proof of COVID-19 vaccination and had to be processed by immigration and customs.
The good news for Americans this season is that there are no COVID-19 restrictions, according to Leitch.
Leitch noted that the restrictions have hurt the club’s business drastically.
A year ago, there were 141 members, of which 113 were Canadians and only 28 were Americans. Before the pandemic, Americans usually made up at least 50 percent of the membership.
Leitch said it is too early to tell exactly how the membership will be divided up this season but early indications are that the numbers will be similar to a year ago.
“This isn’t something Aroostook Valley has done by choice. It has been dictated by the Canadian government. So we have to put our best foot forward and try to make the best out of a bad situation,” Leitch said. “It’s a slow process but, hopefully, that will change over time. Right now, this is how we have to operate.”
The club’s annual St. John Valley Open, which is held on Labor Day weekend, will return for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
“We’re excited. A lot of golfers from southern Maine are going to make the trip up here,” Leitch said.
The 6,305-yard, 18-hole golf course first opened in 1929 as a nine-hole course.