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It is a difficult time for everyone as people take precautions to deal with COVID-19.
Hunkering down in your home and limiting your social contact has been one of the primary ways people are trying to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
One of the outlets Mainers are starting to use to combat cabin fever and coronavirus concerns is golf.
An unusually mild winter with little snow in some parts of the state has paved the way for early golf course openings.
The 18-hole Dunegrass Golf Club in Old Orchard Beach opened March 8. The Bucksport Golf Club, a nine-hole course, has also been open for two weeks.
The driving range at the Hidden Meadows Golf Course in Old Town opened on March 14 and its nine-hole course is slated for an April 1 opening.
Caleb Mathers of Bradley hit his first bucket of range balls on Sunday at Hidden Meadows.
“It’s great to get a lot of fresh air and some sunshine and get back to a sense of normalcy. It is definitely needed,” Mathers said.
Bangor Municipal Golf Course, which features 18-hole and a 9-hole layouts, is not open, and golf pro Rob Jarvis said there isn’t a timetable for doing so.
Unlike most golf courses, which are privately owned, Bangor Muni is operated by the City of Bangor and must adhere to the recent regulations put in place to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. The city on Sunday expanded its emergency regulations, effective at 6 p.m. Monday, which include only allowing businesses that provide “necessary goods and services.”
The order states that “no auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, theater, gymnasium, fitness center, private club, movie theater, museum, dance club, music venue, adult entertainment facility, casino, gymnasium, fitness center, yoga studio, or indoor cycling studio is allowed to be open while the city’s state of emergency remains in effect.”
One common theme for all golf courses is they are taking stringent steps to protect their golfers.
Mikka Pelletier, general manager at Bucksport Golf Club, said they are promoting “social distancing” and are constantly cleaning everything.
Social distancing refers to avoiding large groups of people and staying at six feet away from other individuals.
Joe Perdue, the co-owner and golf pro at Hidden Meadows, said he is disinfecting all the high-touch areas such as doorknobs, the counter in the pro shop, sinks, railings and the handles on the range buckets carrying golf balls.
In addition, after he retrieves the range balls, Purdue disinfects them before another golfer takes them out.
“We allow just one person per golf cart,” said Danny Pugliares, the director of golf operations at Dunegrass. “And after they finish their round, we disinfect the cart before someone else uses it.”
Flagsticks remain in the hole for putts to prevent golfers from touching the flag sticks.
“And we have elevated our cups a few inches out of the hole,” said Pugliares, adding that it prevents golfers from reaching into the cup to retrieve the ball.
If a putt hits the cylinder, it is considered a good putt that would have gone in the hole.
Perdue is going to do the same thing.
“We are trying to eliminate as many touches as we possibly can,” Perdue said.
He said Hidden Meadows will permit only one rider per golf cart unless they are family members living in the same house.
“Golf, by nature, encourages social distancing,” Perdue said. “There are pretty big areas on golf courses except on the tee and on the greens. And even there, you don’t have to be that close to anybody.”
He discourages people from congregating in large groups and said he allows only five people at a time in the clubhouse.
“We’ve removed all of our indoor seating, and we aren’t offering any food and beverage business at all,” Perdue said. “We encourage people to wash their hands and keep up with their personal hygiene, and we are constantly telling people if they don’t feel well, stay home.”
Pugliares said Dunegrass tries to keep the doors to the clubhouse open so people aren’t touching the doorknobs and that they have been able to accept payments outside.
“It’s the busiest I can remember it being this early in the season,” Pugliares said.
“People are anxious to get out,” Perdue said. “Every person who has walked through our doors [to go to the driving range] has thanked us for being open. The constant message we receive from folks is they are glad to be able to get out of the house.”
Jarvis said the Maine State Golf Association recently had a productive teleconference call with golf pros outlining steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of golfers catching or spreading COVID-19.
“Everybody is trying to be creative and make the right decisions at the same time,” Jarvis said.
Bangor Muni isn’t ready to open at the moment, the pandemic notwithstanding.
“We know people want to get out there. But we have to be patient. We have to do what is best to keep our community healthy,” Jarvis said. “There are some serious issues in our country right now and golf isn’t one of them.”
He said if the course was open and we had a 55-degree day in Bangor, he would expect at least 150 people, which could present problems. Golfers often congregate in the parking lot to catch up early in the season.
“We’re going to get through this. We have a lot of fun stuff planned at the course. But we have to be patient. I feel like we’re going to have a great summer,” Jarvis said.
Golf pros are monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely to see whether any further measures might need to be taken.
“It changes hourly every day,” Pugliares said. “We have to adjust and do what we need to do.”
Watch: What older adults need to know about COVID-19