Peninsula golf courses once again open for play

Time to get back on the greens and fairways.

Gov. Jay Inslee on April 27 announced that golf courses throughout the state are allowed to reopen on May 5.

Golf courses must comply with COVID-19 worksite-specific safety practices, as outlined in Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” proclamation, and in accordance with the state labor and health recommendations and directives.

The announcement was part of a partial resumption of outdoor activities that includes fishing, hunting and use of state parks and state lands for day trips.

The re-opening of golf courses with more than 20 guidelines for play, including maintaining physical distance between players as applicable, limiting touching of equipment (sticks, bunker rakes, etc.), maintaining a log of all customers (with contact information), using online or phone technology to reserve tee times and limiting gatherings in confined spaces such as pro shops.

Golf professionals at The Cedars at Dungeness and Sunland Golf & Country Club in Sequim confirmed their courses will reopen — with modifications — this week.

Sequim’s SkyRidge Golf Course was unavailable for comment.

Port Angeles’ Peninsula Golf Club and Discovery Bay Golf Club in Port Townsend have reopened as well.

Garrett Smithson, head professional at The Cedars at Dungeness, said the temporary closure of late March and the month of April was difficult, but gave him a new appreciation for the public course’s reopening.

“When we got the word it was like a fire, super exciting,” Smithson said. “I woke up at 5 in the morning, ready for work. It was pretty crazy.”

Among the modifications at The Cedars are an increase in tee time intervals to 10 minutes, a limit of four people at a time in the pro shop, 10-foot separations at the practice range, and access to driving range, putting green and chipping green areas are limited to those with tee times from 7 a.m.-4 p.m. (guests without tee times can use the practice facilities after 4 p.m.).

Course equipment such as bunker rakes, on-course ball washers, practice green flags, sand/seed bottles and stands, token and range baskets, and scorecards and pencils have been removed from the course, golf officials said. Carts will be limited to single riders unless parings reside in the same household.

“Marshalling the course will take place on a consistent basis to ensure social distancing is in effect,” tribe officials noted. “Players are encouraged to leave the course immediately after play to reduce social gatherings.”

The Cedars opened to members a few days prior to the May 5 date, and Smithson said he found players have been observing a new rule that keeps players from being at the facility more than 30 minutes prior to their tee times.

“They’re listening; we don’t have (people) come in an hour before their time,” Smithson said.

Closing practice portions of the courser to those with tee times has been beneficial as well, he said.

“On a nice day we’ll have a ton of traffic (at the practice areas) that’s helped a lot,” SMithsaon said.

Most tournaments at The Cedars have been moved to July and August, Smithson said. He estimated about 85 percent of the tournaments affected, many of them fundraisers for local charities, have moved to later this year while the other 15 percent, many of those benefiting or organized by out-of-town groups, have canceled outright.

“We will continue to make the necessary strides to impart confidence in the general public that our primary emphasis is on health and safety for our patrons, team members, and our community,” said Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe officials, who own and operate the course.”

The governor’s move to allow golf courses to reopen drew praise from Troy Andrew, Executive Director of Washington Golf and spokesperson for Golf Alliance of Washington.

“With vast areas of open space containing green grass, ponds and trees, a golf course provides the ability for social distancing in a stress-free environment; the physical activity and mental wellness that golf provides can be a solution to improve the moods and reduce anxiety for many residents in our state,” Andrew said in a statement in late April.

“By golf courses being open, it will provide economic activity and jobs. The Golf Alliance of Washington has worked closely with the governor and the golf community in creating additional measures that are way outside the norm, to assure maximum social distancing and safety at all golf courses for the foreseeable future.”

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