Golf courses allowed to remain open for play

Published 10:28 am Thursday, March 19, 2020

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

DOWAGIAC — Sports fans got a little bit of good news on Tuesday when Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office clarified that golf courses could remain open for play throughout the state.

Whitmer ordered that no more than 50 people could gather together last week, which was followed by the Center for Disease Control lowering that number to 10 on Monday, leaving the golf industry in Michigan questioning what it should do.

With approximately 650 clubs and courses throughout the state, and more than a half-million recreational players, the golf industry generates nearly $4 billion annually. The golf industry also employs tens of thousands of people, according to the Michigan Golf Alliance.

The alliance consists of the Golf Association of Michigan, PGA of Michigan, Michigan Golf Course Association, Michigan Golf Course Superintendent’s Association and the Greater Michigan Chapter of the Club Managers Association of America.

That group quickly contacted the governor’s office for clarification of her recommendations.

Because golf is an outdoor sport that by nature often practices social distancing and small groups, usually made up of four players or less, the alliance felt that the sport could continue.

Here is what the governor’s office told the alliance:

“Golf courses are allowed to stay open for play. Indoor facilities like clubhouses or restaurants must close for on-premises consumption, but may continue to offer food and beverage through walk-up service and other means expressly permitted by the executive order.”

That came as good news to area golf courses. Some had already opened for off-season play due to the mild temperatures. Others are just preparing for the upcoming season, while at least one, Plym Park Golf Course in Niles, had shut down due to the original order.

According to Jamie Moody, executive assistant to the public works director, the city would be revising that decision due to the clarification.

Of the courses that could be reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, Diamond Lake Golf Course in Cassopolis, Four Lakes Country Club in Edwardsburg and Orchard Hills Country Club in Buchanan were all open for play.

Indian Lake Hills Golf Course in Eau Claire has also been opened for play.

“It is just a day-to-day thing, so you have to stay tuned,” said Susy Vanderburg, of Indian Lake Hills. “Open spaces right now are not a big deal in Michigan because it is still cold out. Not everybody is technically affected by it, but it seems silly to knock the few people out who want to get out in the cold weather and golf.”

Vanderburg said that golf is the perfect fit for the current guidelines.

“If there is an activity where you can go out in a group of four or less and walk and meander around a couple of miles, why close that down?” she said. “With golf, it is pretty spread out.”

All the area courses are making sure that if they do half customers, they are making it as safe as possible by continued cleaning of the carts and surfaces that a golf playermight touch. They are also recommending that golfers leave the pins in.

“They really don’t know how long this thing sticks around and what it sticks to,” Vanderburg said. “It just takes diligence.”

Bill Loux, of Diamond Lake and Orchard Hills Country Club, was also happy to hear the news.

“We are trying to give people something to do,” he said. “That might have been the idea, to give people an open space activity. It is a blessing.”

To help keep people a safe, Loux said the plan could include giving people separate carts.

Senior PGA Championship

With the PGA of America announcing it was postponing the PGA Championship in San Francisco, California in May, eyes turn to Benton Harbor and the Sr. PGA Championship scheduled for Memorial Day weekend at Harbor Shores Country Club.

“Throughout our evaluation process, we have been committed to following the guidance of public health authorities, and given the coronavirus shelter-in-place order in effect in San Francisco, postponement is the best decision for all involved,” said PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh.

The PGA is hoping to reschedule the event in San Francisco for later in the summer.

More information about the Sr. PGA Championship, which is scheduled to be May 19 to 24, is coming soon, according to a statement released Tuesday.

“We hope to have an update in the near future and sincerely appreciate the patience of our wonderful volunteers, fans, supporters and our partners at KitchenAid,” the statement read. “The health and safety of all involved in this prestigious championship is our highest priority.”