Golfers have the green light to return to Riverside County greens and fairways — provided they follow social distancing rules to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
- – Play shall be limited to foursomes that will be required to observe social distancing (six feet separation between players at all times)
- – No caddies
- – No large gatherings, including fundraisers or tournaments, will be permitted before June 20, 2020
- – Face coverings, such as scarves, bandanas and neck gaiters, shall be worn by players and workers
- – No in-person dining will be allowed at clubhouses
Riverside County officials on Monday, April 20, issued a revised public health order permitting golf courses across the county to reopen Tuesday, April 21, with conditions, a news release states.
The conditions include limiting play to groups of four players, requiring 6 feet of separation between players, mandating that players wear face coverings, barring caddies and prohibiting in-person dining in clubhouses, the release states.
Large gatherings, including tournaments, won’t be allowed until at least June 20.
Riverside County spokeswoman Brooke Federico said the county also clarified an earlier order, permitting parks and trails to be open — including parking lots — while mandating social distancing and face coverings at all times.
County officials said these activities are allowed: hiking, biking, horseback riding, tennis, pickleball and golf.
But the county still isn’t letting people sit at a picnic table, frolic on a playground or play a team sport.
Taking effect immediately, the orders were signed by Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the county public health officer, and county CEO George Johnson, who is serving as director of emergency services for the county.
“Play is being cautiously reopened for observation,” Kaiser said.
The change reverses an April 2 order that shut courses from Temecula to the Coachella Valley in response to fears that the virus could spread among golfers, and then to those they come into contact with.
That earlier order sought to clear up confusion over whether golfers could continue playing their beloved sport.
At the time, Kaiser made it clear: “Unless you’re the gardener, stay off the greens.”
But now they can play.
And golfers are welcoming the decision.
“I’m excited that they are being opened back up,” said Harrison Kingsley, a 2018 graduate of Murrieta Valley High School who plays for the University of San Diego golf team.
His spring season was canceled and he’s been staying with his family in Murrieta.
There, Kingsley said, he’s been practicing in the backyard, slamming golf balls into a net.
“It’s definitely not the same as being on the course,” he said.
At the first opportunity Kingsley plans to head to his favorite course, Bear Creek Golf Club in Murrieta, which has “the best greens I’ve played on in Southern California.”
It makes sense, he said, to let people to play because of the nature of golf courses. They are outdoors and spacious, where people can spread out.
“It’s not hard to social distance on the golf course,” he said.
Chris Jensen, an attorney and member at Riverside’s Canyon Crest Country Club, said he understood why officials earlier closed golf courses, given the hordes of people that were gathering too close to each other at a variety of recreation areas around Southern California.
But Jensen said he views playing a round of golf much like riding a bike along the Santa Ana River, hiking in Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park or walking the dog in one’s neighborhood.
“I can play a round of golf without getting within 10 feet of anyone,” he said, as long as one doesn’t share a golf cart. “I can hold a conversation with you 10 feet away as we’re walking down a 500-foot fairway.”
And, he added, “I think my odds of not getting too close to someone else are greater on a golf course than in a grocery store.”
That said, Jensen is fine with following the county’s restrictions for playing in the coronavirus era. The game of golf has many rules to begin with, and it won’t be troublesome to follow a few more, he said.
“Can I go out and walk in my neighborhood? Yes,” he said. “But I’m ready for a change of environment — nice green grass and trees.”
Matt Silver, program director for First Tee of the Inland Empire, said it’s unclear how the change will affect the youth organization. The group teaches golf in four sessions that typically enroll a combined 75 to 100 kids at a time.
“That’s a really good sign as a first step,” he said of the revised order.
But Silver said the program may fall under the category of large gatherings that aren’t allowed yet. In any event, he said, leaders will move cautiously toward bringing the program back because “the health and safety of our kids and our families is paramount.”
And changes likely will be made.
“We teach golf etiquette and shaking hands is a part of that,” Silver said, adding that won’t be part of the program for a while.
By David Downey
This article originally appeared on PE.com.