Gov. Cuomo adds NY golf courses to list of non-essential businesses
Over the past two weekends, local golf courses were enjoying promising April days that don’t come around often.
Local golfers won’t be able to enjoy them any more in the near future.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., announced Thursday that golf courses have been added to the list of nonessential businesses in New York state effective immediately as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ve been open for about a month,” Pinehurst Golf Club owner Nolan Swanson said Thursday afternoon. “Unfortunately for Pennsylvania, they were closed down before us. We were getting some people from there coming up and using our place. We had people all the way up until Wednesday night just before sunset.”
Currently, the governor’s New York State on PAUSE campaign runs through April 29 and thus far has been extended in two-week increments.
“I don’t know where the evidence came from that this was harmful to anybody,” Swanson said. “I think people who don’t golf complained and (the governor’s office) just gave up on it.”
“A lot of my members were enjoying having some sort of normalcy and something to do,” said Chautauqua Golf Club pro Troy Moss. “It was a nice break for them.”
Previous orders did not distinguish whether or not golf courses were essential, so clubs had taken advantage of the unseasonable warmth to open while adhering to social distancing protocols.
“We sanitized the carts when they came in and wiped them down before they went out,” Moss said. “We were playing no-touch, single riders per cart and staying 6 feet away from each other. We didn’t have any rakes or tee markers out there that they could touch or use.”
Just last Friday, Pinehurst posted to Facebook anticipating a busy weekend. The posted social distancing guidelines included:
¯ Only two carts per foursome or threesome
¯ Only one rider at a time, so be prepared to do a little walking
¯ You cannot come inside the shop, please read sign on door, be prepared to use Venmo, have exact change (cash or check) or we will take your credit card info over the phone or our intercom system
¯ Stay at least 6 feet from anyone
¯Do not touch the flagstick
¯ No more than ever, gimmes are in style!
“I think we were doing fine. You can still go to a park for a walk, but a lot of our members are retirees and this is how they get their walk in,” Swanson said. “I think we were doing just fine with keeping people at social distances that were recommended. Our sanitizing went up 10 times more than normal and everything was cleaner than it’s ever been.”
Pinehurst also reduced its usual fee of $13 for walking nine holes to $10 to encourage walking versus riding in a cart.
“If it lasts longer, we’re going to have to do something for these people. We won’t take their money and say ‘tough luck,'” Swanson said of club members. “At a minimum we’d offer a significant discount next season. It’s something we’ll all get through together and find some common ground.”
Thursday morning, Pinehurst posted again to its Facebook page.
“As of today, we will be closed until further notice. We will continue to follow the orders passed down by the state. We will be in touch with our leagues and we hope this passes by May 1. Stay safe everyone.”
Leagues at Pinehurst usually begin the final week of April.
“If they were keeping parks open, that’s kind of the way we were viewing it,” Swanson said. “Just because you carry a bag on your back, I don’t know why it’s treated differently.”
Chautauqua Golf Club also posted to its Facebook page Thursday afternoon saying “The Chautauqua Golf Club is closed until further notice in accordance with the updated NYS Executive Order as of April 9th, 2020 at 8 a.m.”
The post was commented on by one user who said “Seriously!!!! Glad I just paid for a membership.”
“We’ve been trying to think of budgets with 1,000 scenarios that could happen. We don’t play a lot of golf in April so it’s not a panic point yet,” Moss said. “The longer this stays, people are going to ask for memberships back or reimbursements, pro-rated fees, something. It’s probably inevitable. … I’m hoping by May 1 we are back playing golf. … I’m still trying to be optimistic.”
Leagues at Chautauqua GC generally begin during the first week of May.
“I’ve already kind of encouraged my leagues to start a week or two later to give us the best chance to make it happen,” Moss said. “Leagues are more of a group gathering, so I don’t know how that will be looked at.”
The Chautauqua Institution’s summer season is scheduled to run from June 27 through Aug. 30 and thus far remains intact.
“The Institution is a big part of it,” Moss said of the golf course, “but a lot of people who stay in cottages around the lake, they are the ones who play my place the most. I’m worried about all of that. The Institution, people vacationing up here this summer … I’m in the same boat as places in Bemus Point like The Casino and the Italian Fisherman, all those places. Are people going to come this summer?”