Baker changes course, lifts golf ban

Vineyard courses rush to prepare for openings.

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A ban on golf courses has been lifted, but with a list of strict rules. — Lexi Pline

While golf courses are not considered “essential businesses,” a new update to the state’s COVID-19 essential services page Thursday morning is allowing golfers to hit the green.

“Private operators of golf courses may permit individuals access to the property so long as there are no gatherings of any kind,” the page reads.

The new rules also require that social distancing of six feet between individuals is “strictly followed.” Groups are limited to four golfers.

Municipal golf courses would also be allowed to operate, but a set of restrictions such as a ban on caddies and golf carts have to be followed. Hand sanitizer must also be readily available.

Golf courses will be allowed to have staff serve as security personnel and enforce social distancing, but no employees can work the “recreational component” of the golf operation.

Players must wait in their car until 15 minutes before their tee time, and courses must keep practice greens and driving ranges closed. 

Players must use their own clubs, and flag sticks must remain in the hole at all times. Once the round is over, players must immediately return to their cars. Clubhouses, pro shops, restaurants, and other facilities must also remain closed.

Allan Menne, golf professional at Mink Meadows in Tisbury, said they were preparing for an opening in the next few days. “I got that blurb this morning, and the phone’s been ringing off the hook,” Menne said.

Mink Meadows is focusing on keeping the course sterilized. “Our No. 1 focus is extremely oriented toward safety,” Menne said. “Everything’s about just making sure everything is sterilized and clean; it’s a new world.”

Speaking to The Times by phone on Tuesday, Menne said the course was now open to general nonmember play. The course has lost about 22 percent of its tee times due to the state’s rule that tee times be staggered by 15 minutes, but Menne said he hopes that is a temporary measure. “We’ve been getting some play,” he said.

Edgartown Golf Club is back open to members. General manager Mark Hess said the course opened after the club implemented several safety measures. “We’re open, and we’re following the strictest of guidelines,” Hess said. “Everyone is being responsible.”

Hess said he hopes other Island businesses will be open soon, too. 

While both clubs are back open, neither has been especially busy, due to inclement weather.

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