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Gov. Janet Mills and her staff have outlined restrictions for the opening of golf courses on Friday as part of Stage 1 of the plan for restarting Maine’s economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mills on April 2 had shut down golf courses but announced Tuesday that they are among the businesses that may open on Friday with numerous safety rules in place.
One of the guidelines allows golfers to play only at courses located in the county in which they live. However, someone who lives in one county but is a member at a club in another county may play there.
The mandate was one sentence in a lengthy COVID19 Prevention Checklist Industry Guidance document released Wednesday by the Department of Economic and Community Development.
“That was a surprise. I wasn’t expecting that,” Bangor Municipal Golf Course pro Rob Jarvis said. “That is going to be a problem. That’s going to impact every single golf course in Maine.”
Jarvis said he did expect some geographic limitations because Maine doesn’t want golfers from Cumberland County, the state’s hot spot for COVID-19 cases, dispersing to other parts of the state to play. There is a large disparity in reported cases among the different counties.
Also, out-of-state golfers wouldn’t be able to play in Maine until completing the state-imposed, self-quarantine period of 14 days.
Jarvis pointed out that the adjacent towns of Dedham and Holden are in different counties. That means golfers from Dedham, in Hancock County, won’t be able to play in Holden, which is in Penobscot County, and vice versa, unless they are a member at the other course.
Lucerne Golf Club in Dedham and Traditions Golf Course in Holden are both located on Route 1A, less than eight miles apart.
“I have no idea how you would enforce a thing like that,” said Joe Perdue, the co-owner and golf pro at the Hidden Meadows Golf Course in Old Town. “You can ask people where they’re from and depend on them to be forthright. I would never question anyone’s integrity.”
Jarvis agrees that monitoring will be difficult.
“It will be a challenge if the golfers aren’t self-policing,” he said.
Jarvis said he did expect some geographic limitations because Maine doesn’t want golfers from Cumberland County, the state’s hot spot for COVID-19 cases, dispersing to other parts of the state to play.
Out-of-state golfers wouldn’t be able to play in Maine until completing the state-imposed, self-quarantine period of 14 days.
Jarvis and Perdue are among the golf pros who hope the state will revise its county-based policy.
“We have members [from other counties] who want to play here. Maybe they can’t afford to play the course [in their county] that is closest to them,” Jarvis said.
“I know, for a fact, there are going to be a lot of people contacting the governors’ office about it [Thursday],” he added.
Jarvis said he would like to see golfers who are members at a particular course be allowed to play there, regardless of where they live in Maine.
On April 16, the Maine State Golf Association canceled all of its tournaments through May 15. The county restriction would wipe out the others scheduled for the rest of the month.
The sixth annual Downeast Metro Amateur Golf Tournament is scheduled for June 13-14, in which golfers play at Bangor Muni one day and at Kebo Valley Club in Bar Harbor the other day. With no adjustments, the event could not be held because of rules now in place.
Most of the other golf guidelines were anticipated.
Clubhouses, driving ranges and practice greens will be closed and greens fees must be booked and paid for in advance through phone or electronic methods. Bunker rakes, water coolers, ball-washers and trash cans will be removed. If the flagstick is left in the hole, the cup must be raised one inch so the ball may not enter.
Tee times must be separated by 12 minutes and only one golfer will be allowed per riding cart.
“What if you have a husband and wife? And what would you do with a child?” Perdue asked.
Golfers must remain in their vehicles until 10 minutes prior to the tee time and are asked to leave the course immediately completing the round to eliminate congestion. Congregating on the course or in the parking lot will not be tolerated.
Club rentals are not permitted and scorecards, pencils, markers and tee holders will be removed from starter areas. Golfers should be encouraged to use their phones for scoring.
Courses must provide sanitizing wipes and spray bottles of disinfectant and golf carts should be sanitized by course staff after every round.
Social distancing, maintaining at least six feet between individuals on and around the course, also was also stressed by Mills.
Jarvis and Perdue said it is important that golfers remain patient as everyone negotiates these unchartered waters. They praised Brian Bickford, executive director of the Maine State Golf Association, for his work in getting the golf season underway.
Hidden Meadows will open on Friday, but the Bangor Municipal Golf Course won’t open until next week. Hermon Meadow, Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono, Kebo Valley and Rockland Golf Club are among the courses scheduled to open Friday.
“We will definitely make it work,” Perdue said. “They have made it work in 40 other states. We have the benefit of seeing everything they have done and see what mistakes they made.”
Perdue and Jarvis are thrilled that golf is back, despite the challenges Maine’s government and people face during the COVID-19 crisis.
“I’m glad we have the restrictions,” Jarvis said. “Things are just going to be a little different for us.”
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