COVID-19 update: New state and local government mandates escalate golf course shutdowns

United Kingdom closes all golf courses, but many facilities across the U.S. remain open with precautionary measures.
Orlando's Marriott World Center hotel is currently closed, but on March 24 Hawk's Landing Golf Course is still taking tee times.

We're another week into the COVID-19 pandemic response and various state and local governments are escalating measures as their case counts rise. How this is impacting local golf courses and destinations widely varies.

Amidst the ongoing global rise in COVID-19 cases, two large items of news pertaining to golf and sport surfaced early this week. The first is the International Olympic Committee has agreed to postpone the Tokyo games to a date no later than the summer of 2021. This will impact the pro golf schedule for both 2020 and 2021 when competition resumes.

On the recreational front, on the evening of March 23, United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered new government mandates strictly limiting travel to essential purposes only. This was interpreted by the golf clubs of the U.K. to halt operations indefinitely as the country works to flatten the curve.

Most of the news surrounding golf courses in the U.S. has been of government mandated suspensions to non-essential operations. Two of the latest statewide mandates on March 23 came from Michigan and Maryland. Elsewhere, some resort properties have determined they can't safely or effectively serve their guests with new social distancing safety measures in place. The two most prominent golf resorts out West - Bandon Dunes (closed until April 7) and Pebble Beach Resorts (closed until April 17) - have announced they would suspend hotel and golf operations.

Some golf destinations remain open for business

Our internal numbers show that over 1,200 golf courses in the U.S. as of March 24th have suspended operations. The virus outbreak has come at a particularly unfortunate time for certain southern destinations where March and April is a peak season. One destination that stands to be hit very hard is Myrtle Beach, whose immensely popular peak season starts around mid-March and goes through April. Alan Blondin at the Myrtle Beach Sun News reports that courses have stayed open but there have been a lot of cancellations.

“It’s the best season I’ve seen on the books in years and it’s going away rapidly,” said Chip Smith, managing partner of Atlantic Golf Management, which operates two courses in the market – Whispering Pines Golf Club and Brunswick Plantation & Golf Resort – and more than 100 rental condos.
Myrtle Beach Sun News

Meanwhile in the Carolinas, Pinehurst Resort is home to 10 of its own golf courses and has a large membership and local community of golfers in addition to golf travelers from around the world. As of Monday they have closed their lodging operations and F&B has been reduced to takeout, but you can still play golf. They are taking precautions on property and encourage walking and have modified their cups for less surface contact. (Latest Pinehurst COVID-19 updates here).

Out west, one seriously hard-hit tourist destination is Las Vegas, whose hotels were mandated to close by state order. Like Myrtle Beach, March is a huge time of year for both sports betting and playing golf. The American Hotel & Lodging Association is projecting over 80,000 jobs lost in Nevada alone as part of over 1 million across the U.S. as a result of what appears will be a longstanding disruption to travel. The good news for golfers is that over the weekend, the Governor clarified that golf courses may remain open so long as the clubhouses are closed and other social distancing measures were enacted.

Nevada isn't the only place where the governor's mandate created some confusion pertaining to golf. Larry Bohanan at the Desert Sun reports some local courses in the Coachella Valley have remained open despite the Governor's mandated closure of essential businesses.

Meanwhile, Florida golf courses that were set up for PGA Tour events only to have them cancelled are booking tee times. You can book tee times online currently at TPC Sawgrass' Stadium and Valley courses. On Monday, March 23, Innisbrook Resort, which was supposed to host last week's Valspar Championship, announced it had suspended operations at the resort.

At Golf Advisor, we continue to receive reviews of golf courses coast-to-coast and many reviewers are detailing measures being taken by the course staffs to facilitate a safe environment. Some golfers have complained that they have booked a tee time online only to arrive at a closed golf course. If you do manage to book at tee time, it is still a safe bet to check with the course before you leave to confirm they are open as policies are changing rapidly at facilities across the country. Nevertheless, some groups are still finding the game is a fitting and safe escape.

"Having the ability to get out to a course and play golf was the highlight of my day and WEEK," wrote reviewer verlindar at Cimarron Golf Resort in Cathedral City, Calif. "The staff was working diligently to ensure our safety by wiping off the carts and staying at the required distance. The opportunity to be in an open air environment and playing the sport I love was appreciated and won't be forgotten."

If you're interested in playing golf and courses are open where you live, the Golf and Health Project, a non-profit organization supported by the World Golf Foundation, released guidelines earlier this week for safe play during this time.

Meanwhile, one popular golf company is stepping up to help during the crisis. Seamus Golf, based in Oregon, has closed its website to orders and has begun manufacturing masks to combat the shortage in the medical community. The masks are free for frontline responders. A statement at Seamusgolf.com reads:

Over the past few days we received inquiries from primary care physicians, nurses, and first responders for our masks. Prototyping began last week and ended with our first production run on Friday. We are using our materials and constructing them in a way that each of these individuals are requesting to use as a last resort. They have confirmed that what we are making is better than what they are resorting to use.
Seamus Golf

Seamus Golf is another example that, even during a pandemic, you can count on the golf industry to step up to support worthy causes in a time of need.

What is the status of golf in your community? Let us know in the comments below.

Brandon Tucker is the Sr. Managing Editor for GolfPass and was the founding editor of Golf Advisor in 2014, he was the managing editor for Golf Channel Digital's Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and nearly 600 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at @btuck34.
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All ClubCorp properties are available for golf, and opening to tournaments in a limited 'phase-style' approach based on current standards set forth by GA Governor

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Here on the Monterey peninsula, we are focused on the 4th of May. All courses in Monterey County have been closed since about March 21st. An announcement of opening or remaining closed is due the first week of May from county officials. No golf outlet wants to be the first location to report a coronavirus outbreak large or small and have that become part of their identity. The decision to allow re opening will bring with it thorough preparation from all our county courses to follow all guidelines and requirements properly and passionately!

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can you walk on the golf path...it is easier on your feet. Plus since there are no golfers, don't see the problem it is same and fun.
our HOA said we can not walk on the course, but we don't own it, so I don't see why they have any say what soever.
Thanks

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Carmel Indiana update- our club pro worked with our mayor to reopen golf courses (we didn’t miss a day on the course).

Golf shop, Clubhouse and all restrooms must be closed.
Take out service only with no entry into clubhouse by members.
Walking only. No riding carts or push carts unless the push cart is privately owned.
No rakes in bunkers.
Driving range closed.
On course restrooms closed.
No tee markers on golf course.
No water coolers.
No flagsticks (Pin sheets available)
Staff cannot assist with handling bags/clubs.
Holes must be filled so players don’t reach into hole for ball.
No more than 4 in a group
Maintain social distancing

Playing into a green with no flag has been interesting to say the least!

Staff
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Thanks for forwarding! We'll update our landing page.

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Rather than close down, there are ways to pay on line and allow walking only. Golf is probably the most social distance friendly sport I can think of. Our season is just getting started and it's been a long winter, give us a chance to enjoy some time on the course.

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I’m surprised that that golf courses that are open are not promoting or even offering golfers the ability to have their own golf cart, especially when your pared up with individuals you may not know.

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It is quite wrong to leave decisions to individuals. Here in the UK self distancing and panic buying advice was ignored. Everything should be by government mandate.

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I just finished my last round with my regular foursome at Woodhaven Country Club in Palm Desert, CA. Only owners and full Country Club members were allowed to play. What a joy it was to be on one of the best conditioned golf courses in the palm Springs area and play unhindered by slow play. We all had our own carts and observed safe distancing. We had flags but no cups. To score we had to hit the flagstick. Our putting improved .
Everything changed when we got back to the clubhouse and were informed that Riverside county had ordered ALL golf coursed closed indefinitely.
I'm an eighty two year old veteran and world traveler. The edict makes me feel like a well cared for little child.

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All courses in Wisconsin closed for the next 30 days

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Fla public courses are open... for now

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COVID-19 update: New state and local government mandates escalate golf course shutdowns