After a week or two of being able to play despite coronavirus concerns, golfers will now be turned away from courses in New York state.
A new guidance was issued Thursday morning by Empire State Development, stating specifically that golf courses are not “essential businesses" for purpose of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's pause order.
The closing of golf courses is effective through April 29 or until otherwise decided by the governor.
“We thought something might be coming down the pike because of Onondaga County closing their golf courses as of Monday," said Noel Gebauer, head golf professional at Town of Colonie. “That was a New York state county that took that step. We were all thinking that something could happen."
The Northeastern New York PGA, which oversees club professionals in the Capital Region and eastern Massachusetts, issued a memo to its membership urging “all golf course operations to stop to be in compliance with the new revisions."
“The fact that the governor addressed golf courses specifically in that new revision, it’s a bit of a relief because it’s more black and white than gray now for everybody," NENYPGA executive director Tracie Warner said. “Safety is definitely paramount for our members and everybody staff-wise at a golf course.”
Numerous Capital Region courses opened over the past two weeks or had planned to begin operating soon, although a few remained shut down because of coronavirus concerns.
Those open for public play were following strict guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control, which included social distancing, no rakes in sand bunkers, one person per riding cart and leaving all flagsticks in the holes.
"People here were behaving very well, so we were hopeful that golf could continue," Gebauer said, “but it looks like it won’t be now for at least a few weeks. That’s OK. It’s disappointing just because of the wonderful turf conditions that we’ve had, but certainly understandable.”
“I’m surprised that they’re doing this because I thought things were leveling off a little," said Gloria Jevons, who owns the Mill Road Acres executive course in Latham. “ I thought we might be OK. Our people have been good with six feet apart and riding in carts by themselves.”
The ESD guidance was issued at 8 a.m. Previous orders did not specifically address golf courses as nonessential businesses.
“The wording is awkward, but it’s there now," Warner said. “In the order, if you read it under the recreation, the bullets has a ‘however’ verbiage in there. I wish it would be super clear, but I do believe that the fact it is now called out, golf courses specifically, covers that.”
Under item 13 in the ESD release, it states that recreation areas are essential "except playgrounds and other areas of congregation where social distancing cannot be abided." As a bullet point, the guidance adds, "However, golf courses are not essential."
“Now it’s fairly clear that the maintenance can go on, which is good," Gebauer said. “The grass won’t stop growing, and hopefully we’ll get to see everybody out here soon.”
“We’re very blessed," said Jevons, whose course was among the first in the area to open, back in early March. “We’re thankful that we got what we had. We’ll have to deal with it.”
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