Golf Is Open

All 50 states set to have golf courses reopened by May 11

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The Henebrys/Courtesy of Old Sandwich GC

Just a day after essentially cautioning his state’s golfers that playing golf would be breaking the law, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker immediately opened the state’s 377 golf courses on Thursday, making the Bay State the last of the 50 states to schedule the reopening of golf in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Massachusetts’ golf restrictions (no clubhouse operations, walking only, 15-minute tee times, driving range and putting green closed, golfers must remain in their cars until being called to the tee) are similar to those instituted at 16 states that have gone from closed to planned openings in the last last two weeks. With all 50 states allowing play in some or all of their cities and counties, the National Golf Foundation estimates that more than 90 percent of courses will be open across the country by May 17.

Officially, New Hampshire will be the last state to fully open for golf when it hits the restart button on May 11. Prior to that while the majority of the states in the country had kept golf courses open, for several states that have been hardest hit by the pandemic golf courses had been shuttered since late March. At best, only restricted crews were allowed to stay on at courses to maintain minimal maintenance.

Golf groups at the national, state and local levels have been well organized in presenting to lawmakers how golf courses can operate while maintaining social-distancing guidelines and other safe practices like the removal of on-course touch points, flagsticks staying in the hole and online reservations and payment. Massachusetts golf organizers have been patient, albeit persistent in presenting golf’s message, including delivering an operations packet to the governor’s office April 20 outlining coronavirus adaptations for golf.

“We are thrilled with the announcement this morning to re-open golf in the Commonwealth, effective immediately,” said Jesse Menachem, executive director and CEO of Mass Golf. “This is a welcomed opportunity for golfers to enjoy a safe recreational activity and for facilities to operate in what is an important month golf operations in the Northeast.

“We have been in constant communication with our member clubs and golfers to make sure they prepare themselves in advance of opening under the guidelines confirmed by Governor Baker’s administration. We must all do our part to keep the golf community safe as we resume play under these strict guidelines.”

The enthusiasm in Massachusetts almost got away from itself on Wednesday when a course operator threatened to open her two courses in defiance of state guidelines. Gov. Baker responded succinctly: “Let’s hope and anticipate that people don’t start breaking the law, that would be a bad thing.”

While all 50 states are moving to reopen golf, that does not mean golf is going to be open in every community. Case in point is Chicago, where because of the mayor’s stay-at-home order, city courses were ordered to close “until further notice.” Also, the District of Columbia’s three courses are still waiting to reopen, but are pointing to May 16, which is currently the end date for Mayor Muriel Bowser’s stay-at-home order.

The only downside of the reopening of courses in Massachusetts: A gale watch and temperatures in the 40s on Saturday, with a 100 percent chance of rain or wet snow.

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