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Golf on Long Island shut down as state deems courses 'non-essential'

Golfers hit the links through the rain on

Golfers hit the links through the rain on the Bethpage Blue Course on Thursday. Credit: Howard Schnapp

New York State added golf courses to the list of non-essential businesses on Thursday, meaning that golf on Long Island was shut down.

The state had taken the lead in keeping golf courses open at Bethpage State Park, Sunken Meadow State Park and Montauk Downs. The Nassau County and Suffolk County courses were open, as were several town courses and private clubs. Golf was the one sport that could be played together but at a socially acceptable distance apart.

The Empire State Development Corporation issued new guidance on Executive Order 202.6  on essential and non-essential business Thursday afternoon. Under item No. 13 it says that while parks can remain open, golf is not considered essential. Under the same item it also says boat launches and marinas are not considered essential. Non-essential businesses must remain closed through April 29.

“Don’t tell me, they closed?” said Mike Pomerico, president of the Nassau Players Club at Bethpage, when told that golf was shutting down. “While I disagree with Governor [Andrew] Cuomo, I completely understand. We look forward to being able to play when we can. I love the sport, but it is what it is. We've got to beat this thing.”

Following CDC guidelines at facilities across Long Island, golfers had been filling up the tee sheets. On a perfectly lovely Tuesday, Montauk Downs had 110 players, an extraordinary amount for April. A swing by Bethpage Park saw at least 100 cars in the lot with the Green, Yellow and Blue courses open.

Courses were spreading out tee times from eight-minute intervals to 15. Players were to keep social distances, which is pretty simple in the game, were not to touch flagsticks or ball washers. Bunker rakes had been removed.

While most people were walking, cart use was limited to a single rider and carts were being disinfected after each use. The cups were being packed with material so the ball wouldn’t go to the bottom and could be easily retrieved with a club.

Tee times had to be made online or by phone, no walkups allowed, and payment had to be a card transaction, no cash payments.

“There’s no way around it,” said Brad Matthees, general manager of the Rockville Link Club in Rockville Centre. “Luckily, our maintenance guys can still maintain the course because they are considered landscapers, and landscapers can be essential for maintaining.

Clubs are able to keep their kitchens open and Matthees said that Rockville Links would donate food to local hospitals. On April 5, the Nissequogue Golf Club donated 600 meals to staff at Stony Brook Hospital.

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