CAPITAL REGION — The region’s golf courses can re-open as long as they follow strict social-distancing guidelines to minimize risk of golfers spreading the novel coronavirus.
Some private courses that are open to the public could open as soon as Sunday, and Eagle Crest in Clifton Park opened Saturday afternoon.
State Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-Halfmoon, announced new, clarified guidelines from Empire State Development, the state’s economic development agency. The agency has charge of determining what businesses can remain open, as New York battles the coronavirus pandemic. Golf courses were initially allowed to open when weather allowed, but then forced to close last month after being deemed “non-essential.”
Jordan, along with state Assembly member Mary Beth Walsh, R-Ballston, and Jake Ashby, R-Castleton, wrote to Empire State Development and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo last week at the request of the Capital Region Golf Course Owners Association, seeking a policy that would allow courses to re-open, if rules to keep the virus from spreading are followed.
“Now, golfers can once again enjoy a healthy outdoor recreational activity and our golf courses will be able to maintain a semblance of their operations,” Jordan said. “I am hopeful that this is the beginning of a larger, necessary effort to re-open New York, especially upstate.”
The guidelines require that golfers remain at least six feet away from others, not shake hands before or after the game, leave the flagstick in the hole, not share clubs or other equipment, and limit golf cart use to one person. Courses are also prohibited from charging on-site for play, and must accept payment electronically. Bars and restaurants can’t be open except for takeout business.
Rich Scott, the owner and pro at Fox Run Golf Course in Johnstown, said his course will open at 9 a.m. Sunday, and meanwhile his phone has been ringing off the hook.
“This is a business where people can practice social distancing and enjoy themselves,” he said. “I think this is great. It gives everyone a little direction and people can come out and take their mind of the worries.”
No everyone, however, is jumping to open immediately.
At Stadium Golf Club in Schenectady, owner Greg Hennel said he finds the state’s new guidelines vague, and he’s going to wait longer before opening. I’m going to give it a few days and see what transpires, so I’m being cautious. Once we open up, we’re busy,” he said.
The new state guidelines allow for groundskeeping and security staffs to be on a club property, though no other employees can be present.
“There is no access to the clubhouse, and that includes the bathrooms, and I have a problem with that,” Hennel said.
The phone line at Eagle Crest Golf Club in Clifton Park was busy Saturday afternoon, but on its website it said it is opening, and made clear the rules need to be followed. “Social Distancing is NOT optional. If six foot distancing is not followed you will be asked to leave the property, no excuses or refunds,” the post said. “If these guidelines are not strictly adhered to we will not be able to remain open.”