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Private, publicly accessible golf courses beginning to reopen

Rock Hill Golf and Country Club in Manorville

Rock Hill Golf and Country Club in Manorville on Sunday, April 19, 2020. Credit: Randee Daddona

Privately owned, publicly accessible golf courses on Long Island started to reopen on Monday, though municipally owned courses remain closed. There is a glimmer of hope that some of the municipal courses might open before May 15, the date Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has set as the end of the “pause” on non-essential businesses because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following guidance from the state issued Friday that allows private clubs and privately owned courses to reopen under a number of restrictions, the bulk of privately owned clubs are ready for business.

Rock Hill, Swan Lake, Spring Lake, Mill Pond and Cherry Creek are taking tee times and Pine Hills is in the process of adopting a system that will allow it to reopen. All of these courses are in Suffolk County. Middle Bay Country Club in Nassau County is preparing to reopen with a target date of Saturday.

“The course is in great shape. Nobody’s been on it,” Rock Hill pro Mike Jacobs said of his Manorville layout. “Not a divot anywhere.”

Tee times at all courses must be arranged and paid for in advance, either through course websites or reservation phone lines. One person designated as security personnel will check for receipts on site and direct the tee times, which will be spread apart about 12 to 15 minutes.

Suffolk- and Nassau-owned courses remain closed. Suffolk Parks commissioner Phil Ber-dolt said county courses likely will remain closed until May 15, pending guidance from the state, which shut down all courses on April 10 and then allowed some to reopen Friday. State courses remain closed.

“We are basically following the state lead,” Berdolt said Monday. “When their directive came out and they shut down, a day later we shut down to be in line. As of now, they are not reopening. I am in talks with some people in the state so we can at least work in tandem on this . . . Nassau County, we try to keep in line [with them].”

Nassau Executive Laura Curran, in her media briefing on Monday, said: “Hang tight. We’ll tell you soon when you can get back to the greens and tee off.”

Suffolk operates courses at West Sayville, Timber Point, Bergen Point and Indian Creek. Nassau County operates the courses at Eisenhower Park, Cantiague Park, Christopher Morley Park, Bay Park and North Woodmere Park.

Berdolt, when asked if Suffolk would reopen its courses if the state did, replied, “More than likely, yes.”

Berdolt’s office overlooks the first tee at West Sayville and he said he thought there were social-distancing problems when the course still was open before April 10.

“As much as you try to do your best to keep the social distancing and get the word out there, it doesn’t always resonate with a lot of golfers,” he said. “Some do and some don’t. Once they leave the first tee, they will get together. We have been breaking up groups in the parking lot who, after they get done, congregate around the back of somebody’s pickup truck. So it is difficult.”

Under the guidance issued by the New York State Development Corporation on Friday, the following rules are in place:

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). Golfers either must carry their own bags or use a pull cart.

All golfers must maintain proper social distancing at all times. This is mandatory.

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