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Fore! Massachusetts golf courses get green light to open from Gov. Charlie Baker

View Photo Gallery
  • Northampton Country Club pro and manager Jim Casagrande removes a log that had been placed on the first tee to temporarily block access to the 9-hole course in Leeds on Thursday, May 7, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton Country Club golf course superintendent Ross Dominique cuts a new hole in the 9th green of the course in Leeds on Thursday, May 7, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton Country Club pro and manager Jim Casagrande removes a log that had been placed at the first tee to temporarily block access to the 9-hole course in Leeds on Thursday, May 7, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton Country Club golf course superintendent Ross Dominique sets the pin on the 9th hole of the course in Leeds on Thursday, May 7, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton Country Club golf course superintendent Ross Dominique returns to his cart after setting the pin on the 9th hole of the course in Leeds on Thursday, May 7, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton Country Club golf course superintendent Ross Dominique sets a pin on the 8th green of the 9-hole course in Leeds on Thursday, May 7, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton Country Club golf course superintendent Ross Dominique holds a reversible cup and pin holder at the course in Leeds on Thursday, May 7, 2020. As play resumes during the COVID-19 pandemic, the shallow end will be placed upward so that players will be able to retrieve their ball without touching the cup itself. Also, to minimize the touching of surfaces, the pin will remain in the hole at all times, even during putting. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton Country Club golf course superintendent Ross Dominique demonstrates the use of a reversible cup and pin holder at the course in Leeds on Thursday, May 7, 2020. Each cup has a traditional deep end and also a shallow end. As play resumes during the COVID-19 pandemic, the shallow end will be placed upward so that players will be able to retrieve their ball without touching the cup itself. Also, to minimize the touching of surfaces, the pin will remain in the hole at all times, even during putting. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Sports Editor
Published: 5/7/2020 2:53:04 PM

While the golf industry is still considered a nonessential service, the state allowed golf courses to reopen for business on Thursday.

Other nonessential businesses remain closed until at least May 18, but with other New England states open for golf, Gov. Charlie Baker, the Department of Public Health and the Reopening Advisory Board allowed golf courses to open, with restrictions.

“We basically took a model that has been used in several states around us that we felt was consistent with what our concerns were about it in the first place and applied it,” Baker said at his press conference Thursday.

Among the restrictions in place is a ban on golf carts.

“I feel bad because a lot of our members and golfers in the area are seniors,” Northampton Country Club professional and manager Jim Casagrande said. “Many of them have to take carts, so they are still not able to play.”

Courses had been closed since March, although maintenance of the courses was allowed.

The Reopening Advisory Board met with the Alliance of Massachusetts Golf Organizations (AMGO) on Saturday to share plans on reopening in a safe and healthy way.

Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle is on the 17-member Advisory Board that is co-chaired by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy.

“Part of this is about making decisions that make the most sense for Massachusetts based on the facts on the ground in Massachusetts,” Baker said. “We also want to make sure that as we make decisions we are not doing stuff that is wildly out of line with what is going on in other states if we believe it can be done safely.”

Golfers are encouraged to follow the social distancing guidelines of staying 6 feet apart with no large gatherings. Private, semi-private and municipal courses all must follow these course guidelines:

■All staff must wear face coverings while on the property.

■Club facilities including but not limited to the club house, pro shop, restaurant, bag room and locker room must remain closed.

■No caddies and golf carts. Players must either carry their own bag or use a push cart.

■Groups are restricted to no more than 4 players at one time.

■Members-only clubs can allow guests as determined by the security personnel on the golf course.

■Private clubs that allow nonmembers to make reservations can do so at their discretion.

■Maintenance personnel are permitted to work on the golf course.

■Tee times must be 15 minutes between groups.

■Golfers must stay in their car until 15 minutes before their tee time and must return to their car immediately following play.

■Online and remote payment options must be utilized.

■All golfers must use their own golf clubs. Sharing golf clubs or rental golf clubs is not allowed.

■Flag sticks must remain in the hole. Hole liners must be raised so picking a ball out of the hole doesn’t occur.

■Bunker rakes must be removed, and ball washers must be removed or covered.

■Practice putting green, driving range, and chipping areas must be closed.

■Facilities must have readily accessible hand sanitizer.

Northampton Country Club opened Thursday afternoon.

“We can’t survive much longer without being open,” Casagrande said. “We need the 19th hole and banquet facility at least at some level to be open. That’s a huge part of our revenue. Golf, the expenses are so high, everything’s been going out and nothing has been coming in. Our cheeks are puckering, put it that way.”

Wyckoff Country Club in Holyoke opened on Thursday.

“We’ve been ready to go from the beginning,” general manager Patrick Murphy said. “The past couple of weeks we’ve been anticipating this day would come, so we did as much prep work as we could to be ready, once the governor signed off, to be ready that day. Today we got the regulations that we need to do, so we’ll be ready.”

Murphy said the course was as green and healthy as it has ever been due to the lack of use.

“It looks fantastic,” he said. “We’re excited about the condition of the course. Now we just have to get the golfers out there to start playing on it.”

Murphy said Wyckoff, like most places, has struggled being closed.

“We’re like everybody else in the golf industry,” he said. “We’re only open six months a year for golf and we needed this time to be open and running and having some revenue come in. We were under the gun a little, but like everyone was.”

Amherst Golf Club, Beaver Brook Golf Course in Haydenville, Orchards Golf Club, a private course in South Hadley, and Cold Spring Country Club in Belchertown all opened on Thursday. Southampton Country Club is scheduled to open on Friday.

Cherry Hill Golf Course in North Amherst is closed this week. Amherst Leisure Services director Barb Bilz said the course plans to open early next week.

The Ledges Golf Club in South Hadley will open on Friday. General manager Mike Fontaine said the municipal course is in good shape, but it has a U.S. Open-type rough at the moment.

“We cut back to a skeleton crew just to maintain what we can,” Fontaine said. “This is one of the things when you get surprised that you’re opening in 18 hours that now we’re going to scramble.

“I don’t think our guests are going to mind. I think they are going to be happy to be out there. If the bunker’s not raked or if the golf path is washed out a little bit from the last storm and the rough is a little thicker than they are accustomed to, I think they’ll take it with a grain of salt.”

The Ledges has struggled financially in the past, so to open “brings energy” to the club. Still, the course will operate with a small crew for now.

“The key for us is we have to get those golf carts out there as far as a revenue source,” Fontaine said. “This is a baby step to moving forward. We just need some more income to justify bringing in more labor.

“The team we have assembled now is committed to doing whatever it takes. We need to get that cash register ringing and it’s going to be tough because the days of the large outings are probably over this year, and golf is going to struggle financially, not just here but everywhere.”

Despite being closed, Northampton Country Club has helped during the pandemic by brings meals to the Northampton Veterans Affairs Medical Center and to essential workers. Club members paid for the meals to both help the course and the community. On Thursday, the club planned to deliver 28 meals to veterans.

“We’re trying to survive and help out the community with the generosity of our members,” Casagrande said. “It’s been great.”

Massachusetts was the only state closed for golf or with no plans for reopening as of Wednesday. Maryland and Vermont both announced Wednesday that courses could open Thursday. New Hampshire said its courses will reopen Monday to in-state residents and club members only.

Rhode Island has been open for golf, but not for out-of-state golfers. Connecticut has been open for all golfers.

Mike Moran can be reached at mmoran@gazettenet.com. Follow on Twitter @mikemoranDHG.




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