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Private golf clubs given OK to open courses, but with severe restrictions

The Nissequogue clubhouse on the golf course.

The Nissequogue clubhouse on the golf course. Credit: Barry Chandler

Members at private clubs on Long Island (and throughout the state)  will be allowed to play golf again after the New York Clubs Association obtained a clarification on Friday from the state on access to courses during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a possibility that public courses could reopen, too.

All golf was shut down on April 9 after the New York State Development Corporation issued guidance on Executive Order 202.6, Item 13, that deemed golf “non-essential.” Many Long Island private clubs opened on Saturday.

While golf is still considered non-essential, private clubs now can allow members to play under expanded guidance in Item 13:

“However, golf courses are not essential and cannot have employees working on-premise; notwithstanding this restriction, essential services, such as groundskeeping to avoid hazardous conditions and security, provided by employees, contractors, or vendors are permitted and private operators may permit individuals access to the property so long as there are no gatherings of any kind and appropriate social distancing of six feet between individuals is strictly abided.”

According to the memo issued by email on Friday by New York State Clubs Association president Charles Dorn, golf at private clubs can be open for play under the following mandates which were arrived at in talks with the state:

• There can be no employees working at the recreational component of the golf operation with the exception of security personnel.

• Security personnel can be delineated by each club (example: A pro and the head starter) and will be present to enforce social distancing rules.

• No access is permitted to club facilities including but not limited to the clubhouse, pro shop, bag room and locker room.

• No caddies.

• No golf carts (except personal pull carts), you must either carry your own bag or use a pull cart

• All golfers must maintain proper social distancing at all times, this is mandatory, no exceptions.

“If there is decent weather on Sunday, I’m sure the members will be at club,” said Nissequogue Golf Club general manager Barry Chandler on Saturday. “There will be no operation. They will just come and park and walk. We’re going to tell them they can play anytime after nine o’clock in the morning.

“We did this before the governor changed his mind about walking. When the state courses were open, with golf carts, we were only allowing walking.”

“I spoke to all the area clubs and everyone is opening up,” said Brad Matthees, GM of Rockville Links in Rockville Centre. “We don’t need the personnel like a public course does in order to operate. Just have one security person at the first tee monitoring from inside and that’s it. No range, no practice facility. All the stuff we were doing before.”

"We’re open for play with twosomes walking only,” said Meg O’Connor, GM of the Nassau Country Club in Glen Cove.

“Municipal and other government run courses can be open if the municipality or other government agency allows them to,” Dorn said. “Public courses owned by a private operator can reopen as long as they do not have a recreational transaction. No cash or credit card can be taken on-site. This is the one caveat.”

On Long Island there are a number of privately owned, publicly accessible courses that charge daily greens fees and also have season-long “membership” passes paid for in advance. Most courses have online tee time bookings with credit card transactions that allow players to show a printed receipt to what the course designates as security personnel before teeing off.

Publicly owned courses such as Bethpage State Park and Eisenhower Park and all county and town owned facilities remain closed at this time, but the new guidance might allow some to reopen. Recreational marinas, yacht clubs and tennis clubs also remain shut down.

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