If you are looking for a tee time to play golf this weekend on Long Island, good luck.
Late Thursday morning Peter Cowan, director of golf at Swan Lake Golf Course in Manorville, took a look at his tee sheets for Saturday and Sunday. He was sold out: 254 players on Saturday, 240 on Sunday.
“Everyone’s craving golf,” Cowan said.
There’s been some pretty horrid weather since the state allowed courses to reopen last Friday, but when it is decent, Long Island golfers have been coming out in droves during the coronavirus pandemic that has shut down other recreational sports and professional sports.
A quick survey of Long Island’s largest golf facilities show them packed for this weekend with a decent weather forecast. The three courses at Eisenhower Park have filled their capacity of 476 slots a day. At Bethpage State Park, where five courses will be open as of Friday, there was nary a tee time to be had for the next six days, thousands of them already sold.
The Golf Club at Middle Bay in Oceanside is showing sellouts of 216 players a day on Saturday and Sunday. The West Sayville Golf Course, one of Suffolk County’s four courses, is showing sellouts of 140 players a day.
Under social distancing mandates, tee times have been spread out anywhere from 12 to 16 minutes on average, up from the usual 8 to 9 minutes, meaning there are fewer of them. Everyone must walk, no carts are allowed, and all tee times must be made and paid for in advance. You can’t just walk up and pay a greens fee. Clubhouses and pro shops aren’t open.
None of these restrictions appear to keep Long Islanders from playing the game. There is a starkness to it now, but also a return to its purity.
"Everybody has been really great,” said Mike Jacobs, pro at the Rock Hill Golf and Country Club in Manorville. “Everybody as been following the rules. Everybody has been respectful of the course, of the rules, of each other. Just to see the course in it’s natural state without golf carts on it is unbelievable.”
And without carts, the pace of play has picked up.
"The rounds are faster now that people are walking rather than riding in carts. Averaging under four hours,” said Cowan, who has been scheduling 10-12 minute tee-time intervals. “Myself or security will call them to the tee. Everyone stays back in their own group. By the time the last person of the group hits onto the first green, we call the next group to the tee. Barely two groups on the same hole ever. Everyone is complimenting how smooth it’s running.”
Bobby Callioras, pro at West Sayville, says he still has to be mindful of people keeping their social distances in the parking lot and first tee area.
"People are out there with buddies and family members and we have to be the bad guys and say you need to separate or this is going to get shut down again,” Callioras said. “It’s working out well. Overwhelming response that we are back open.”
NASSAU COUNTY PUBLIC COURSES
Bethpage State Park (5 courses)
Eisenhower Park (3 courses)
Glen Cove Golf Club (opening Saturday)
Harbor Links Golf Club
Merrick Road Park Golf Course
SUFFOLK COUNTY PUBLIC COURSES
Brentwood Country Club (opening Friday)
Crab Meadow Golf Course (opening Friday)
Dix Hills Golf Course (opening Friday)
Gull Haven Golf Course (opening Friday)
Heartland Golf Park (opening Saturday)
Holbrook Country Club (opening Friday)
Island’s End G&CC (opening Friday)
Northport GC at VA Hospital
Pine Hills G&CC (opening Saturday)
Sandy Pond Golf Course
Sumpwams Creek Golf Course (opening Friday)