N.H. golf courses to reopen May 11 with new health and safety guidelines

  • Glen Shattuck of Beaver Meadow Golf Course collects golf balls from the driving range on Tuesday, April 3, 2018. Like all golf courses in New Hampshire, Beaver Meadow will be allowed to re-open on Monday, May 11. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Like all golf courses in New Hampshire, Beaver Meadow will be allowed to re-open on Monday, May 11. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Pembroke Pines Country Club in Pembroke, like all golf courses in New Hampshire, will be allowed to re-open on Monday, May 11. Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 5/8/2020 2:48:31 PM

When New Hampshire golf courses open on Monday, players will have to follow new health and safety guidelines before, during and after golfing that were put in place by the state government due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“If golfers want the courses to stay open for the rest of the season, and we know they do, they’re going to need to strictly follow these new policies,” said Ben Stone, the head golf pro at Pembroke Pines Country Club in Pembroke. “I think they’ll do that because they want to golf.”

One of the main reasons Gov. Chris Sununu kept the New Hampshire courses closed in was fear that open courses here would attract people from other states where courses were closed (especially in neighboring states like Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont). Those out-of-staters could potentially spread COVID-19 and worsen the situation here. That’s less of a concern now because courses throughout New England are open – Maine courses opened May 1 while Vermont and Massachusetts courses opened on Thursday. Still, New Hampshire courses are, for now, only open to state residents or course members.

The new guidelines start before golfers arrive at the course. Since pro shops and clubhouses are to remain closed, all tee-time reservations and check-ins must be done online or over the phone. Once players do arrive at the course, they must stay in their car until 15 minutes before their tee time, and those tee times will be 12 minutes apart.

“We’re going to have a starter out there to help facilitate people staying in their cars until that 15 minutes before their tee time,” said Taylor Simpson, head pro at Canterbury Woods Country Club in Canterbury. “And then we’ll make sure they’re starting at the right tee time, too.”

Golfers will also notice changes on the course. Cups will be raised or flipped over so people don’t have to reach into the hole to retrieve their ball. No bunker rakes or flags will be placed out, and there will be no on-course amenities like water stations, ball washers and benches.

There will be no caddy services, and players must handle their own bags at all times. Walking the course is encouraged, but carts will be permitted for single riders or family members who live in the same house. The course will be responsible for cleaning and sanitizing the carts after each use.

“We’re going to put more staff on for things like disinfecting the carts,” Simpson said. “There’s going to be a lot more golf carts going out, and we have to quickly clean them and get them going back out. The bathrooms, too, we’re going to need a staff person to clean the bathrooms and stuff like that.”

Clubhouses will be open so golfers can use the restrooms, but that’s it. All food and liquor services in clubhouses will have to follow rules for restaurants with no sit-down dining, and to-go orders only, Outside food and beverage carts will be allowed on golf courses as long as the employees are wearing cloth face coverings and they properly clean and disinfect hard surfaces between sales. All other amenities like pools, locker rooms and spas will remain closed.

Signs will be posted asking golfers if they are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, or if they have been in close contact with anyone who has or is suspected to have COVID-19. If the answer is yes to either, they should leave the course and return only after the are feeling better or have undergone quarantine.

All golfers, and employees, must stay six feet away from each other. And there will be no gathering permitted either before or after play, even if the gathering is socially-distanced. Golfers are not required to wear masks.

“I think the biggest difficulty is going to be maintaining their distance. So many of them haven’t seen each other for so long and once they get back to the golf course it’s going to be hard to just get in your car and leave after you play and not stick around and talk to each other,” Stone said. “But like I said, in order to keep courses open, we’re all going to have to follow these policies.”

Golfers are certainly being encouraged to follow the new rules by the New Hampshire Golf Association.

“The NHGA will be working with our member clubs and all of you to ensure that we are in compliance with state policies and procedures in order to open safely. It is imperative that we as golfers take this responsibility seriously and abide by all social distancing guidelines that are in place,” a statement on the NHGA website reads. “Please remember that state mandated guidelines have been established as the minimum required in order for a course to safely open and you may find that you club has instituted stronger measures in order to keep players and staff safe. We urge you to comply with all individual club policies and procedures.”

Other policies will be in place for employees. Hand washing stations or hand sanitizer must be readily available. Employees must be trained in the proper way to wear cloth face coverings and must wear those coverings when they are on the golf course or in public locations. All restrooms and other public areas must be cleaned and sanitized regularly throughout the day. All instruction must be done virtually. Practice areas like putting greens and driving ranges must remain closed. All clinics, camps and organized activities, for both adults and kids, must remain suspended.

For a complete list of golf guidelines, go to governor.nh.gov, click on the “Stay At Home 2.0” banner and then click on the link to the golf guidance document.

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20)

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