Golf Is Open in All 50 States, But It’s Not Business as Usual
Golf courses are allowed to be open in all 50 states, but that doesn't mean it's back to "business as usual."
Operational rules and safety protocols vary from state to state and, in some instances, from county to county.
In Illinois, New Jersey and Washington, only groups of two are permitted to play at a given tee time, with some exceptions provided for families or those that live in the same household. Tee time intervals themselves can vary widely, with gaps between groups of as much as 15 minutes in Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Mexico, Massachusetts and Illinois. There are 16-minute spreads in New Jersey, meaning only eight new players might be on a course in a given hour.
Illinois and Massachusetts still have restrictions on the use of golf carts except in the case of those who have a physical disability, while many counties throughout New York state have similar limitations on the use of carts. The inconsistencies can be a point of frustration for golfers, but for now they're realities that courses have to adjust to as operations are phased back in in places where golf had been shut down completely.
"People are generally just very happy to be back out on the golf course," said Rex Fullerton, the General Manager at Legion Memorial Golf Course, an 18-hole municipal facility in Everett, Washington. "There may be some gripes about the twosomes, but we try to impress that golf is back for now and if people get out of line, it could quickly go back to 'zero-somes.'"
In many cases, and places, it's a period of adjustment for operators and golfers alike.
One rider per cart is increasingly commonplace in states where golf operations had been shut down. Food & beverage operations are frequently limited to take-out only. Driving ranges may still be shut down or have limited capacity due to social distancing spacing requirements. Golf instructors are often not permitted to give lessons. Golf outings, and the revenue they provide, are on hold.
Based on the guidelines they've given us, if the weather is anywhere near decent, we're filled every day. But 'filled' is somewhere between 90 and 105 people," said Dennis Johnsen, the Club Manager and head professional at Pine Meadow Golf Club in Mundelein, Illinois. The 18-hole daily fee course is less than an hour northwest of Chicago. "On weekends, normally we'd do 220, so that's where you're taking it on the chin. We're losing rounds, plus the range and restaurant isn't open, outings have been pushed back and I just had to pull the plug on our PGA Junior League program for the year. And I've been a big backer of the program; we were the first 13U team in Illinois and I started the 17U team in Illinois."
"Other than that, we're doing the best we can with what we've got," Johnsen added. "The encouraging this is that even with everything that's happened, I've run as many rounds of golf at this time as we did last year, when the weather was god-awful. And since we've been open, I've had only one minor complaint. The biggest thing we get from golfers is that they don't understand (the limitations). But we're getting nothing but compliments – how we're doing it, the condition of the golf course – and that's nice to hear."ere ...