The Hermon Meadow Golf Club joined the list of golf courses to open for the season on Friday with 13 of its 18 holes available for walkers only.
Like other Maine course administrators, Hermon Meadow owner John Snyer has put precautionary measures in place to help protect golfers from the spread of the coronavirus.
“We don’t have any rakes or ball-washers on the course, we’re taking money outside and we have plastic inserts around the pin so golfers don’t have to reach down into the hole [to retrieve their ball]. We aren’t letting anybody inside the clubhouse,” said Snyer, who added that the opening-day turnout was good.
Governor Janet Mills on Tuesday ordered Maine’s public-facing businesses that are nonessential to close, but golf is an outdoor sport in which person-to-person contact is limited.
Mike Dugas, who is the golf pro at J.W. Parks Golf Course in Pittsfield and whose family owns the course, said Mills appears to be an advocate for parks and recreation as evidenced by her recent decision to allow people to fish through April 30 without having to purchase a recreational license.
“I’m not sure where golf falls in there. She hasn’t said golf courses can’t open. Most courses haven’t opened their clubhouses,” he said.
However, t he Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Bureau of Parks and Lands on Thursday announced the closing of coastal state parks to prevent the spread of the virus.
Dugas said he submitted a request to the state to have his course deemed an “essential business” but had not received a response as of Friday afternoon.
“I feel it’s an essential business because it provides exercise and mental relief in a very stressful time,” Dugas said. “This is when people want to play golf. They’ve been penned up all winter and they want to get outside and get some sunshine.”
Hidden Meadows Golf Course in Old Town reopened its driving range on Friday after closing on Wednesday and Thursday. It has special rules in effect, such as the need to purchase range balls online in advance and allowing only the buyer to use those balls.
Its pro shop and clubhouse are closed to the public.
J.W. Parks is still too wet to open, but Dugas hopes golfers can begin teeing off next weekend. When the course does open, there will be several safety measures in place.
“I am part of a national Facebook group and we monitor this all across the country. We look at all the measures in place to limit the touch points,” said Dugas, who is also the golf coach at Husson University in Bangor. “We won’t have ball washers and we’re going to lock up our porta potties.”
He believes golf is safer than a lot of other activities.
“Last night, I was watching people walk outside of my house. They were walking in groups of three and four. If they had golf bags on their backs and they were on a course, they wouldn’t be nearly as close to each other,” Dugas said.
As of Friday afternoon, there were no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Somerset County where the golf course is located.
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