Many golf courses remain open, implement new guidelines amid COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 10:05 AM, Apr 13, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the shutdown of gyms and other fitness studios across the country, leading many people to resort to at-home workouts. But for those seeking exercise outside, parks and even many golf courses are still open.

“At least half of the United States governors have not shut down golf courses,” said Jay Karen, the CEO of the National Golf Course Owners Association (NGCOA). “In fact, some have outright said that they are good, essential places for people to be right now, just like public parks. In about 10 states, there have been executive orders to shut down golf facilities."

The NGCOA proves education outreach, holds conferences and more for owners of golf courses across the country. Adhering to the Centers for Disease Control's recommendations, it has issued guidelines for golf courses that have decided to remain open.

"The intent is that a person could literally drive their car to the parking lot, get out, make their way up to the first tee and around 18 or nine holes and back to the parking lot in a socially distant, safe manner,” Karen explained. “That truly is what this is about. It's literally a check list that golf courses use with their staff and their customers."

The NGCOA calls the recommendations "Park and Play: Make Your Course Social Distance Ready."

Some of the guidelines include:

-Encourage golfers to pay in advance online or over the phone

-Place signage around course and shop outlining social distancing guidelines
-Increase tee time intervals
-Do not provide rental clubs
-Eliminate food sales
-Sanitize each golf cart after use
-Ensure players use separate golf carts, unless they are family quarantined together

The guidelines were vetted by a doctor at the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

"The game has been adjusted. So, the superintendents of golf courses are raising the cups out of the hole so if you hit the raised cup it's as good as hitting it in the hole,” Karen explained. “Flag sticks don't get touched, or in some cases, they're removing the flags altogether and just putting the hole in the middle of the green, on every green."

Steel Canyon Golf Club in Georgia has put up signs and changed its answering machine in order to advise patrons of the new "Park and Play" rules.

"We realize golf is unique in this conversation of what stays open and what stays closed because,” said Karen. “We like to say we are basically a 150-acres park and we let four people on at a time, every ten minutes."

He adds while golf may seem trivial during the current coronavirus pandemic, golfing may not be much different than heading to the local park and can be good for mental health.

"I just think there’s a whole populous out there that cannot sequester themselves for weeks at a time without going outside and at least walking around, getting fresh air and exercising,” Karen said. “If people are allowed to get outside and exercise, then there’s a role in the golf course, as long as they can maintain that safety.”

There are some people who are golfing right now that really weren’t golfers before but right now they’re finding that they’re craving that physical activity and they’re joining up with this sport. Despite the increased interest, NCGOA says golf courses across the country are suffering. The golf courses that have stayed open have seen business plummet by up to 80 percent. This comes during what is usually the busiest time of year for the sport.