A cart is driven down the fairway at Smithtown Landing...

A cart is driven down the fairway at Smithtown Landing Country Club. Credit: Newsday/Morgan Campbell

Golfers who require a cart to play have largely been shut out of the reopening of Long Island’s golf courses, and they aren’t happy about it.

Golf carts are not available for rent, ostensibly because the state doesn’t allow it, The New York State Golf Association, seeking clarity from the state, said on its website that "no golf carts (except pull carts)" are allowed, language it says was approved by the state.The state is not renting them at its courses at Bethpage, Sunken Meadow and Montauk Downs. 

That situation could change, though how soon remains to be seen.

“We are currently developing plans and criteria for disabled cart use," said Nassau County deputy communications director Michael Fricchione. "We are speaking with other municipalities and working quickly to put a plan in place.”

“We are currently following the New York State Parks Department’s lead by not allowing the use of golf carts on municipal courses," Suffolk County communications director Derek Poppe said. "We are, however, working with our town and village partners to implement a regional plan for the safe use of golf carts for single-use riders in Suffolk County."

Newsday has received considerable reader feedback from handicapped and senior citizens about not being able to play without a cart.

“I can go to a supermarket and push a cart; I can go to Home Depot and push a cart; I go to B.J.’s and Costco and push a cart, but I can’t rent a cart from Bethpage State Park, or Island’s End or Middle Island,” according to Dan Nikola, 73, of Bethpage, who is a disabled veteran and an avid golfer who needs a cart to play. “The ruling on carts for disabled veterans, just disabled people doesn’t make sense.”

Dan McKillen, 68, of Bayville, said he had one knee replaced five years ago and the other isn't in great shape. He said he plays about 30 rounds a year at the Glen Cove Golf Course with the help of a golf cart.

“It doesn’t seem to make sense for the golf club or the people that need a cart not to be able to rent them,” McKillen said. “It’s a big revenue stream for golf clubs. And it’s freezing out seniors and handicapped people that need carts. Riding single carts, it could be safer than walking down the fairway together. That’s what really bothers me.”

When Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Executive Order 202.6, which sets out guidance for businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, was amended to allow golf to be played beginning on April 17, there was no specific mention of golf carts under Item 13 dealing with recreation. Single rider carts had been allowed before the state shut down golf on April 9. In a news conference last week Cuomo said that golf carts were not allowed.

But last Friday, when Newsday discussed the cart issue with a spokesperson for Empire State Development, through which the executive order emanates, there seemed to be a clear indication that carts could be rented, at least by municipally-owned facilities.

The spokesperson, who did not want to be named but spoke on the record, cited the third paragraph of the executive order, which reads:

“State and local governments, including municipalities, authorities, and school districts, are exempt from these essential business reductions, but are subject to other provisions that restrict non-essential, in-person workforce and other operations under Executive Order 202.”

That was followed by a question on what municipalities who own golf courses such as Suffolk County, Nassau County, and towns could do with respect to renting golf carts.

The response, on the record, was this:

“Municipal courses, a city course or county-owned, they are exempt from the guidance altogether. They are completely exempt. They can hire as many employees as they want. If they want to do carts, they can do carts.

If they want to open up their golf course, and run business as usual, they have that prerogative. Golf carts would have to be sanitized after every single use.”

This past weekend, Westchester County Executive George Latimer opened four of the county’s courses and allowed single rider golf cart use for all players, under these regulations:

- Golf carts are washed and sanitized after each use.

- Mandatory one person per cart. Two bags permitted per cart, with one person driving and the second person walking, alternating driving/walking.

Bobby Callioras, the pro at Suffolk County-owned West Sayville Golf Course, runs the golf cart concession there, as do many pros across Long Island.

“Our point of view as the golf professionals and owners are I go to Target, I go to the grocery store and watch the cart kids put 30 carts together and they just put in back in line and somebody takes them,” Callioras said. “But we spend thousands of dollars on disinfectant to do the right thing and we are ones getting hurt by it. Our view is single rider golf carts enhance the social distancing.”

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