Is Colorado Golf Allowed Amid Coronavirus Stay-At-Home Orders?
Colorado golfers eager to break quarantine during the coronavirus pandemic face uncertainty as there are no clear guidelines on whether the sport is an approved outdoor activity or a prohibited non-essential activity .
Many of the state’s top private clubs – such as Colorado National (Erie), Pelican Lakes (Windsor), Saddleback (Firestone), and TPC Colorado (Berthoud) – have remained open with the social distancing policies recommended by the CDC. But about 70 golf courses in the state were closed at the end of last week, according to the Colorado Golf Course Coalition website, including all public courses in the city and county of Denver.
Even those who intend to gamble wonder if they should be.
Danny Lynch, 36, is an avid golfer from Denver who plays more than 100 rounds a year on courses across the state. He has planned to play golf this week with his uncle and cousin at Riverdale Dunes in Brighton, but with his seven years of healthcare experience he is well aware of what is at stake.
âI always have the urge to golf,â said Lynch. âIt’s my mental outlet and what I do to not think about reality for several hours. You don’t care about anything other than hitting your next shot. It seems even more important now, but that’s what makes it such a huge conundrum for me.
âIs it selfish? Or is mentally playing the right thing for me? “
The split between open and closed Colorado golf courses exists because of different interpretations of Governor Jared Polis’ stay-at-home order, which does not specifically address golf. The ordinance broadly maintains that outdoor activities including, but not limited to, “walking, hiking, backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, biking or running” are permitted if you “maintain a distance at least six feet with other people “.
Other states have more clearly defined golf as part of the pandemic. Arizona considered the operation of its clubs to be an essential activity. Pennsylvania recently took steps to close its last open golf courses. Ohio reversed the course, changed its original order, and then included golf as an approved outdoor recreation.
So what does this mean for golf in Colorado?
A spokesperson for Polis made the following statement to the Denver Post: “Recreation is only allowed if it can be done in accordance with social distancing requirements, which means most operations in any private (golf) club would be closed or severely restricted. It’s not about what you can get away with, it’s about protecting your friends, family, and community.
Ed Mate, executive director of the Colorado Golf Coalition, has spent the last few days in regular contact with golf operators across the state. He observed that most of the public clubs still open are privately owned. Courses managed by municipalities or parks and recreation districts are more likely to be closed.
A dozen states have ordered the temporary closure of all golf facilities, according to the National Golf Foundation. Governor Polis’ lack of specific guidance on how golf operators should proceed in Colorado, however, has created a healthy debate within the industry about whether to continue to operate.
âUltimately, it will be up to each golf course to make a decision,â said Mate.
Firestone’s Saddleback Golf Club is among the courses in Colorado that have not closed their doors amid county and state stay-at-home orders. Whitey O’Malley, the club’s owner, changed his business plan instead. O’Malley’s restrictions reflect many other Colorado golf courses contacted by The Post that remain operational.
Golfers playing Saddleback must book tee times online or over the phone with virtual recording. Public spaces where people usually gather – the pro shop, restaurants, etc. – are forbidden. Carts are available for singles only (unless they are sheltered with another rider) and are immediately disinfected after use. Cups in the holes are turned upside down so golfers avoid the flag and dig for the balls.
âWe basically have the same number of hits as when you go out and circle the block,â O’Malley said. âFour or five times a day, we will have groups side by side and thanks to our sound system, we ask them to separate, even if they are sheltering together, because not everyone knows that. “
The greens and fairways of the Colorado Golf Club in Parker are empty, however. It closed when Tri-County enacted its original shelter-in-place order, which named golf specifically as a prohibited activity, then CGC refused to reopen days later when the governor’s order took precedence – not to mention golf.
âThat left a real question, that by its omission was golf exempt? You are flying blind, âsaid Tom Farrell, a spokesperson for the CGC. âThe primary concern for us and for any facility is the health of its members, staff and society in Colorado. What we are looking for is a clarification. All of the places that have opened have done so with strict social distancing guidelines. But is it enough?
âSpeaking for the Colorado Golf Club, we don’t want to be out there setting our own policies. “
There is one area where all golf operators in the state can come to an agreement. They are grateful that Polis allows the courses to continue to maintain their properties during the pandemic – even if they are closed to gambling. This means that Colorado’s 242 golf courses covering nearly 20,000 acres of irrigated turf will not be invaded. by vegetation when golfers return to play.
Meanwhile, the industry faces an uncertain economic future.
The Colorado Tourism Board reported last fall that ‘resort / golf travel’ in 2018 was the second highest income behind ski / snowboard travel. April is the start of the Colorado golf calendar, but the pressure to resume business during the generally busy summer months is sure to increase.
âWe are entering a critical month for the financial viability of our golf facilities,â said Mate. âThe longer golf is not allowed, the greater the impact. The coalition shares this concern, but obviously we want to be part of the solution. Now is the time to be citizens first and then golfers.
Lynch, the Denver resident crazed for ties struggling with the decision to play golf, is hoping that a possible slowdown in the coronavirus will bring normalcy back to his favorite pastime. Golf, by design, requires players to respect a competitor’s personal space.
Someday, it could serve as the perfect antidote to pandemic blues.
âWith social distancing almost built in, I could see golf becoming even more popular,â Lynch said. âAnother thing that fascinates me is that the courses will be in the best condition they have ever been. Nobody hardly plays.
“Can’t wait to see what they look like.”