With the government recommending people minimize the amount of time they spend outside of their homes due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus, individuals are now more than ever in search of ways to spend some time outside and distract their minds from the constant reminders of a global pandemic.
Fortunately for the golfers of the state, the Connecticut State Golf Association received word from the office of David Lehman, Commissioner of Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, that golf courses are allowed to remain open under very strict guidelines.
Golfers and course employees are still expected to maintain the expected social distancing mandate of six feet and are restricted to the outdoors portions of the course and may not enter the clubhouse. People are encouraged to walk the course if they are able, but are allowed to ride a golf cart by themselves if needed.
All payments must be made online or over the phone to prevent the spread of germs and “commonly handled items” such as flag sticks, ball washers and rakes should be removed if possible so they remain untouched. Players are not allowed to have caddies or anyone else handle their equipment and should not pick up stray golf balls they find along the course.
Despite these heavy restrictions, golf courses and their employees are ready to be open and finally have clarity on the situation so they can give people a sense of relief.
Chippanee Country Club in Bristol already had people on the course hours after the news was announced.
“People are chomping at the bit to play golf,” Chippanee General Manager Juan Rodriguez said. “We expect to see 100 people play in a day. We’re sending out a blast to all of our members telling them we’re open for business. It’s going to be different. There’s certain rules that they have to follow.”
Chippanee had been shut down since March 17 when the state announced all non-essential businesses had to be closed, but Rodriguez is happy to finally have a definitive ruling. He was frustrated with having to continuously update the members of the club about being open and is happy to have revenue coming into the club.
“This is new territory for all of us,” Rodriguez said. “I understand how things change, it’s a moving target. We need to adjust and do our best and protect our members and let them go out and enjoy themselves.”
Unlike Chippanee, Indian Hill in Newington, a private club, did not close its doors to its members until Monday and is already able to be open again. With the lack of clarity currently facing golf courses, they expect an influx in players as their members already paid their yearly fees.
“It’s been pretty busy” Wayne Smyth, the course professional at Indian Hill said. “[Golf] is one of the only ways people can get out of the house, get outside and pretty much safely take their mind off things.”
“I expect the amount of play to continue to increase as people are stuck at home,” Smyth added. “We’re a private course so it’s all member play, they’re not paying on a per-play basis, they pay membership dues. They can play all the golf they want any day of the week that they want so I expect it to continue to be pretty busy.”
Smyth said Indian Hill will not be making its golf carts available to any players to avoid putting the course employees at risk by cleaning every cart after each use. He added many of the members already walk when they play golf under normal circumstances so they did not see the need to allow cart usage for another week or two and once they do open up the carts, they will only allow one user per cart.
Southington Country Club will open starting Thursday, but General Manager Aaron Chafin said they had not seen much difference in turnout because the recent weather was not conducive to golf anyway. The course’s restaurant remained open for takeout only and with the weather expected to warm up in the coming week, he expects a greater turnout of people suffering from cabin fever.
“It’s nice to know that we can be open again,” Chafin said. “I think being out in the sunlight and being out in the nice weather can be good for people, it’s a good outlet, as long as people abide by the rules of being six to eight feet apart. I think it can be a safe, fun environment for people to get out and enjoy a bit of outside weather.”
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org