Some California counties are cautiously reopening golf courses

Influential counties like Orange and Riverside are welcoming back golf, but resorts are further behind.

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SAN JOSE, Calif. — Every day, twice a day, I walk my dogs past my local Santa Clara County muni, staring longingly at its green, empty fairways.

The course has been closed since the Bay Area's March 16 shelter-in-place order mandating the closure of all non-essential businesses. These days, I usually see a couple jogging or somebody walking a dog on the grass. On occasion, a golfer or two can't help themselves.

The entire state of California followed the Bay Area's lead March 20 to "flatten the curve." To date, there have been more than 1,500 deaths and 39,000 cases in California, according to the L.A. Times.

While golf wasn't specifically shut down statewide by Governor Gavin Newsom, many local officials at the city and county level required courses to suspend operations. The tide may be turning back in the favor of local golfers like me as long as the courses and their customers follow "social distancing" guidelines.

Three counties surrounding L.A. - Ventura and San Luis Obispo to the north and Orange County to the south - were given the green light to reopen courses earlier this week, while San Bernadino County to the east will reopen courses this weekend. The April 21 reversal in Riverside County has the potential to unlock the gates of at least 100 more golf courses in the Coachella Valley before the peak desert heat arrives. Riverside's "social distancing" mandate for golfers is unique, requiring all players wear masks.

"The trend is clear," the Southern California Golf Association noted on its blog. "Golf’s strategy in positioning itself to be among the early reintroductions post flattening of the pandemic curve turned out to be a wise one. Patience paid. Now, it’s important that wisdom prevail. If golf can execute the social distancing mandates we trumpeted, if our social distancing game is as good as our social distancing talk, we can earn the trust of a watching public and not suffer a second disruption when the inevitable second wave of the Novel Coronavirus strikes later this fall."

Around the state update

The Golden State has always been fragmented, and that's reflected in when and how courses are opening back up. GolfNow data shows that 77 percent of the state's courses were closed as of April 23. Much of the Bay Area remained on lockdown until Napa County announced that courses could open April 23.

Kern County, the location of Bakersfield in the Central Valley, started the trend April 6. Sacramento County, anchored by the state capital of Sacramento, followed the next day with nearby Placer County joining April 16. Stanislaus County gave the a-okay to courses April 22, according to the Modesto Bee. That's 10 of California's 58 counties open for golf. It's not much, but at least it's a start.

Monterey County could lift some of its "shelter in place" restrictions when its order expires May 4, which would benefit popular public golf facilities such as Pacific Grove and Bayonet & Black Horse.

Finding an open course these days is no easy trick, but Table Mountain has managed to remain so and seems to be thriving in it. They have the “social distancing “ routine well-managed: individual carts, raised hole-cups, missing bunker rakes, etc. Watching the carts being cleaned/disinfected prior to our use was a comforting sight as well.
Steven23, review of Table Mountain Golf Course on April 16
A view of a green at Morro Bay Golf Course.

Whether courses open is on a case by case basis. In San Luis Obispo, for example, two county munies - Morro Bay and Chalk Mountain - are open but not a third, Dairy Creek, since the El Chorro Regional Park is "to help provide shelter to our homeless population" according to the course website. "Closing the golf course was necessary to best control/limit the traffic into the park."

California golf resort updates

California's fairways aren't ready for out-of-state visitors yet. Many of California's top resort hotels are closed, as are their courses. Scheduled reopening dates from their websites are listed in parentheses. Those opening in May include:

- The Lodge at Edgewood on Lake Tahoe near the California/Nevada state line (May 1)
- Silverado Resort in Napa (May 4)
- Omni La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad (May 15)
- Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, Golf Club & Spa (May 16)
- Quail Lodge & Golf Club in Carmel Valley (May 31)

Notable California golf resorts scheduled to open in June are:

- Fairmont Grand Del Mar (June 1)
- Pebble Beach Resorts on the Monterey Peninsula (June 1)
- Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa (June 1)
- Ojai Valley Inn & Spa north of L.A. (June 8)

The Barona Resort & Casino announced that it furloughed all staff April 20 with no firm reopening date. The Rosewood CordeValle south of San Jose, Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula and the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines have yet to commit, at least publicly, to any reopening dates as well.

Tom Fazio's Pelican Hill is one of California's best courses overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

SoCal standouts like The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach, Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point and the Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, along with the desert trio of La Quinta Resort & Club, the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage and the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa in Palm Desert, are open with restrictions such as carry-out only restaurants and no spa or fitness services.

The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay and the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa on Del Monte Golf Course are the only major golf resort hotels currently open in NoCal.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 1,000 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfadvisor and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
45 Comments
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Commented on

Lake Chabot Golf Course in Oakland, California, is now open for business. The course is quite large and will allow considerable social distancing. Hey, it may be an advantage: Now my bad shots will have no observers! Anyway, I look forward to seeing you guys out on the course, in the beautiful sun and fresh air.

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Any conversation about courses in Contra Costa?

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Hello I’m the executive chef at coyote creek golf course in Morgan Hill ca I’m dying to get my staff back we all need to make a living right any idea when we will be opening up we are in the Santa Clara county TY

Staff
Commented on

It appears the Bay Area is now permitting golf again but unclear at this point what that means for restaurants. https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/04/29/breaking-bay-area-to-allow-construction-some-outdoor-activities-under-new-shelter-in-place-order/

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Let me play Golf. The weather is Perfect. 75 Degrees, slight Breeze. Not Golfing is what is Killing Me. I never heard anyone say " It's a beautiful day to be indoors". This is a bunch of Mularkey. I survived the 80's , you think this so called flu can do more damage to me? I think not. Open the Gates & let US Play the most frustrating & most rewarding Game in the World.

Commented on

Played Sunday at Creekside golf course in Modesto, Ca. Course was in PREMO shape. I myself and all my friends have not known anybody with the virus. Every 4 years when we have an election, something comes up, H1N1, Swine, Ebola, or something. Hospitals are getting funding for virus deaths, no one is dying from heart attacks, cancer etc. I'm sorry for people who are infected, but I think it's gone a little too far. Open the courses, Please

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Open so this man can golf! Please let this man golf.

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Wondering when the Fascist governor of NJ will allow courses to open.

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These conversations posted make me sad and give golfers a bad name. Yes they can golf, but with responses like these, will anyone obey the new rules for safety. I bet not. The highest number of deaths from all other viruses is in one year is 62,000. In two months we will have hit that number. Golf, enjoy yourself, but be responsible.

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I realize that golf at the highest level is infected with the liberal mania controlled by the democratic party. This has been true for quite some time. This is true even though Donald Trump is one of the best friends of golf ever to be in the white house. Shame on the Golf Establishment.

This mania about the virus is controlled by democrats who are willing to destroy the economy in order to destroy Trump. Disgusting. Over half of the deaths in the entire US are occurring in the New York metropolitan area. This is not a pandemic around the country. Furthermore, in California, travelers from China were coming in from November through January. The virus had already been present here in California. Yet, not crisis.

Regarding transmission, it is not transmitted through the open air unless in a confined space. Outdoors, a person must sneeze directly on you. Can you believe that liberal politicians actually want to restrict your freedom to the extent that you need to wear a mask when walking your dog?

The United States is founded on the principle of individual freedom and a minimum of government power. And yet we have willingly accepted this massive intrusion into our individual rights. We must fight back by saying NO to the excessive restrictions and unreasonable business shutdowns.

So, go out and play golf. Enjoy the fresh air. Exercise your freedom in a free country. Frankly, I always feel a bit guilty when I use a golf cart. I need the exercise.

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I'd love to play golf but refuse to wear a mask outdoors, this is ridiculous

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What a bunch of propaganda. A person doesn't need to sneeze directly on you. It helps to be outside but if you think you can't get it from someone because you're outside, you're misinformed.

The Democrats have ordered people to stay at home to save lives. But the reality is that thousands of people dying is going to destroy the economy regardless of the stay at home orders. When there is a deadly disease going around, intelligent people stay home regardless of any order.

But go ahead and exercise your right to be infected.

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Please inform us as to where you have found evidence for this being a "deadly" disease. As I am sure you are aware, over 60-70 thousand people die each year as a result of the common flu. Please present us evidence for why this Covid-19 is more deadly? Please identify where the deaths are occurring in this country, which cities, which states. Of the people who died, how many are in nursing homes already, how many have serious underlying diseases, and how many are over 65 years old. Once you have provided this information, then we can talk seriously and intelligently about this so called pandemic. However, if you get your news from CNN, NBC, and the democratic party, you will get only biased news and propaganda. They have a political agenda. Namely, anything to get Trump, even kill the economy. They have lied about Russia, they lied about Ukraine, they lied about impeachment, and they lied about Kavanaugh. Now are we supposed to believe them about this Covid-19 virus? At minimum, we need to investigate their claims with scrutiny. The best evidence is that thousands of people were coming to California from Wuhan and China in November, December, and January. As a result, recent studies show thousands of Californians have already contracted Covid-19 and have already developed antibodies. These people got the so called "fatal" disease and never even knew they were sick. The panic in California has been severely overblown. Please present us with some facts.

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Please go out... get close to people... breathe deeply

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Amen brother!

Can everyone stop being so damn selfish so we can get out there and golf! I wish these losers would stop being selfish and let us play our game!

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Hi Craig,

I am afraid that the issue is not so much selfishness as political motivation. The far left democratic establishment has lied about Russia, lied about Ukraine, lied about Kavanaugh. They are unscrupulous. Now they are closing down even the golf courses to accomplish their goal of disrupting the economic miracle inspired by Trump in the last three years. Our best information is that the virus could be spread in closed rooms, with confined spaces, not out in the open air on a golf course where people maintain social distance.

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There were no lies about Russia or the Ukraine except the lies that Trump put forward. I can't speak to Kavanaugh as that was a he said, she said situation. The so-called economic miracle was a continuation of the economic growth started under Obama. Everything was trending in that direction before Delusional Donald took office. The only growth that accelerated was the market and that was a product of reckless Fed actions.
As for the virus, it spreads everywhere that viruses spread. That includes outdoors. Keep your distance from the people you golf with and take hand sanitizer. Or you'll like become part of the statistics.

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Please be specific right here. List every lie that Trump told about Russia? About Ukraine? About impeachment? Just list the lies so we can examine exactly what lies you are addressing. Are you willing to list at least five lies? Thanks for engaging in an intellectual discussion of the issues.

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I have a better challenge. List five things truths that Trump has told. Good Luck

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OK, the truth is that you have NO significant examples. Just as the media and Dems have lied about Trump, just as you have no examples, these same people are lying about this Covid-19 virus. And those lies are keeping you off the golf course, and those lies are damaging all of those hard working people who make our golf courses run. The best truth which President Trump is speaking at present is that he is voicing the opinions and hopes of the great mass of working people who want to get back to work. It was the hard working people of this country who elected Donald Trump, and it is the intellectuals on the East and West coasts that could care less. President Trump is the voice of all of us hard working people who have a responsibility to our families. The best truth he has spoken is that CNN, NBC, NPR, etc., are FAKE news. And I could give you examples of this daily, and you know it. They distort the news in order to create propaganda.

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Great. Hope there is a Huuuge Trump rally. No masks allowed.

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ARIZONA IS OPEN AND PLAYING GOLF. WALK OR TAKE YOUR OWN CART. FLAGSTICKS STAY IN AND NO RAKES IN THE TRAPS. COURSES ARE IN AMAZING SHAPE. LOAD UP YOUR BAG WHEN YOU ARRIVE AND PUT IN YOUR CAR WHEN YOU LEAVE. TAKEOUT FOOD AND LIQUOR....SOME COURSES HAVE THE SNACK BAR OPEN. PLAYED YESTERDAY AND MOST OF THE PEOPLE WERE FROM CALIFORNIA. PLEASE TIP GENEROUSLY. THE PEEPS ARE HURTING AND SUMMER IS COMING.

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How are they going to do golf carts??? 2 people in a cart or only one?

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depends on the course (and county). most I've seen are doing 1 per cart. some are allowing 2 per cart if both from the same household, which makes sense but may open the door to abuse. Most have removed rakes and ball washers and have (no flag touching) rules. one I've seen is doing 4 tee times per hour also. going to be interesting to see what playing with a mask is like.

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I refuse to use a mask outside, this has nothing to do with health and everything to do with control [period]

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Hi Dave. Has anyone given you medical advice regarding the effect of wearing a mask? Have you read any medical literature based on a scientific study? My investigation suggests that its main job is to keep you from touching your face. And, the virus is not spread in the out of doors if you keep some degree of social distancing. I don't bother with a mask out of doors. It is unnecessary.

We need to open up the golf courses. Think of the great people who work in the courses who are being put out of work. These people are not on the upper rungs of the economic ladder. They need their jobs, and their incomes. They work hard for their living. We need to put them back to work.

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I am in love with Pelican Hill. Definitely right up there with the best.

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