Golf is a game of rules, and there are more rules than ever. But, with those rules in place to protect people from the contagious coronavirus and to allow courses to reopen, golfers are more than willing to comply.
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity provided its rules to courses statewide under the Illinois governor's renewed coronavirus-prevention orders in effect throughout May.
Course owners are preparing to open Friday, May 1, and there are a lot of steps for them to follow.
Jesse Cavanaugh, general manager of Deer Park Golf Club, which is under new ownership, said he's glad that the state is making allowances so courses can reopen and that golfers can get out to play. He appreciates the reason for the rules, too. The rules, he noted, are less than ideal for business profits.
To prevent the spread of contagious disease, the state does not want anyone to touch the pins. No rakes will be left out for use for smoothing the sand traps. No gatherings are allowed. Don't expect to find a ball washer, either, so bring a damp towel. Bars and clubhouses are to be closed, and all tee times and payments are to be taken over the phone. Pull carts will not be rented out, though golfers can bring their own.
The state does not want golfers to reach into the hole to retrieve a ball, so Deer Park and many other courses will leave the cups elevated to prevent that.
Courses are supposed to post signs about what players should do.
The state will not allow golfing in groups of more than two people, and tee times must be at least 15 minutes apart. Deer Park plans to take tee times for twosomes only or to pair golfers up, as the number of tee times is limited and having a bunch of singles in a row would quickly book the whole day.
Riding carts, the state says, should only be rented to people with a disability or a physical limitation that prevents them from finishing a round without a cart.
"Most of these guys can't walk nine holes," said Lee Stanbauer at Edgewood Park Golf Club in McNabb. He said he's 70 and has COPD and is one of them. He said he said he believes the members will have to go out in their own carts, one player only to a cart. The state says the golfer must have a physical limitation, or walk the course He said the manager was going to put up health- and distancing-reminder signs around the course and they would temporarily storing the rental pull carts (which they usually provide for free, he said).
At Deer Park, Cavanaugh said members will get the first crack at tee times, allowed to book seven days in advance, and others can start booking five days out.
At Spring Creek, co-owner Jack Potthoff said the course, which traditionally has taken cash or check and avoided credit fees, will be taking tee times and payments over the phone. When the course was allowed to open for one day in March, he removed the pins and had the cups protruding out of the ground, allowed only one player per cart and sanitized carts after each use.
This time, trimmed-down foam pool noodles will be fitted into the cup at Spring Creek to allow a putting target without requiring the golfer to put his or her hands into the cups.
Muff Travelstad at Eastwood Golf Course in Streator said the safety rules ban a lot of actions that are second nature to golfers, such as pulling the pin for another player (USGA and PGA rules changed in 2019 to allow players to leave the pin in while putting). Golfers also must stay more than 6 feet apart. Other customary occurrences that are banned include gathering around while scores are tallied and shaking hands before and after rounds.
"You're going to have to think about not doing it," Travelstad said.
"You're only touching all of your own equipment," said Travelstad, a member of the Pflibsen family that has been in the golf business for 45 years in the Streator area. The family has endured drought years, overly rainy and muddy seasons and years with major declines in business because of plant closings, but nothing has come close to the impact of the April and late March shutdown.
She said it has been weird (and difficult for the business) to be out on the course and mowing and not seeing the golfers. She said it's a great line of work to be in because most of the people you come across are there because they want to be there, getting away to have some fun.
Travelstad said she respects the doctors and state rules and hopes people comply and wants the players to comply, too. She noted that many of them do have physical limitations, whether it's heart or past surgeries, that mean they need a cart to finish a round.
State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) told the NewsTribune the state shut down all Illinois courses after allowing a brief reopening in March after the governor's office learned about a Chicago North Shore club having a gathering of about 300 people during Stay-at-Home orders.
THE LIST OF RULES FROM DCEO IS LENGTHY AND FOLLOWS:
With the precautions and operational restrictions outlined below, golf shallbe permitted as a recreational activity, effective 6 a.m., May 1st, 2020. In addition to the general social distancing standards set forth in the Stay at Home Order, golf courses and golfers need to abide by the following controls.
Golf Clubs and Management restrictions:
•Require onlineor telephone bookings•
Players shall be grouped in twosomes.
•15 minutes between tee-times:oAverage tee-times are roughly12minutes apart. Spreading out bookings would ensure people do not congregate at tee boxes. Spacing out the tee times would also limit the number of people at the golf course.
•Signage describing operational changes including: no congregating, increased frequency of cleaning, no handshakes, and maintain social distancing between players
•No practice ranges, chipping greens, or putting greens to limit large gatherings of individuals.
•No golf cartsmay be used on course (either owned by golf club or privately owned), except individuals with a physical disability or physical limitations that prevent them from walking the course may rent a cart from the golf club. •Only privately-ownedpull carts may be utilized, rental of pull carts from the course will not be allowed
•Elevate the “bottom” of the cup: This can be done by placing the cup upside down so that the new bottom is roughly an inch below the lip of the hole. Golfers could retrieve their ball without having to put their hand in the bottom of the regular cup. Alternatively, place Styrofoam in the bottom of the cup
•Flags cannot be removed from the cup
•Clubhouses, halfway houses, and pro shops shallremain closed.
•Prohibit beverageand snackcarts
•Courses shall operate at a minimum basic operations level of staff to limit customer and staff contact; i.e. “starter”, “course manager”, “maintenance crew”, “kitchen staff to prepare to-go only food service. ”217.782.7500 Springfield |312.814.7179 Chicago |www.illinois.gov/dceo217.782.7500 Springfield |312.814.7179 Chicago |www.illinois.gov/dceo
•Remove drinking water jugs and prohibit use of water fountains that are permanently affixed with signage
•Elimination of on-course and practice facility touchpoints (i.e. bag drop, benches, ball washes, bunker/sand trap rakes, rental equipment, and water coolers)
•Hand sanitizer and soap in all restrooms, including those on the course. Restrooms shall be sanitizedregularly
•No indoor events or outside tournaments
•Restaurants can remain open for takeout only; all tables and chairs removed or flipped upside down to prohibit use
•Indoor facilities may be open for minimal operations for use by golf course workers to facilitate the outdoor recreation footprint and activity
•Any players with any symptoms of COVID-19, should not play
•In addition, any players from a household with someone with symptoms of COVID-19 should not play
•Golfers must walk and carry own clubs; no caddies.
•Bring your own supply of balls, tees, ball markers, and any other equipment needed to play golf.
•Insist on social distancing on tees, greens, and throughout the round
•Players shall maintain adequate physical distancing betweenother twosomes.
•Golfers should pick up their own ball
•Handle your own scorecard
•Bring your own water/sports drink, towel, and snack
•Do not use the public drinking fountain or ball cleaner
•Leave the flag in place while putting
•Sort out the sand in the bunker with a club
•Put on your golf shoes at your vehicle
•Bring hand sanitizer with you and use during your round and at the end
•No handshakes at the beginning of the round or at the 18th hole