The tee is open at 90% of golf courses across Northeast Ohio. Just don’t expect to sit around the clubhouse when you visit.

To date, the vast majority of golf courses and private clubs throughout Northeast Ohio have decided to remain open, giving everyone who wants it a chance to enjoy a healthy outdoor activity with some “social distancing” inherently built-in.

But a host of precautions have been put into place to allow golf to remain an option against the many closings and cancellations caused by the spread of the Wuhan virus.

Combining two separate polls of private club and public course managers conducted by this websites and the Northern Ohio PGA, only seven public facilities and eight private clubs have completely closed all facilities. Most of those closures are set only until the beginning of April or “for now”, allowing for flexibility based on new information that certainly will come in the weeks ahead.

Those 15 closings reflect 10% of all golf courses in Northeast Ohio.

The managers of the many golf courses we spoke to made it clear that the health and well-being of their customers is paramount. Each is taking extra steps to ensure patron safety in regards to cleaning and sanitizing, the availability of hand sanitizers, rules against gathering in the clubhouse, and offering food and beverages exclusively to-go.

Carrie Lowry, PGA and Director of Golf at The Legends of Massillon, explained the steps they are taking to offer the safest environment possible — a list of operational items that was consistently stated from facility to facility.

“We have five hand sanitizer stations for customer and staff use,” said Lowry. “We will be sanitizing the clubhouse often and also sanitizing the carts before and after use.”

“Food and drinks will be available to take onto the course. The snack seating area and banquet room are closed during this time. We’re limiting the number of people in the Pro Shop at any one time, asking for spacing. If possible, we would like payment with a credit card vs cash,” Lowry stated.

“We appreciate everyone’s patience as we all deal with this pandemic together!” she said.

Most stand-alone practice facilities like Windmill Golf Center in Macedonia also remain open, while taking the same types of precautions as the golf courses do.

JUNIOR GOLF PROGRAMS PAUSED

The First Tee chapters of Cleveland, Akron and Canton recently began taking registrations for their spring programs. But for now, all of those programs are either canceled or on-hold.

First Tee of Greater Akron is hopeful we can return to programming soon, once state and federal officials deem it safe”, said Jeff O’Brien, Executive Director. “While we are away from the course, we plan to post educational videos to our YouTube and social media pages.”

“With kids out of school for the foreseeable future, we have a great opportunity to teach and impart our core values and life skills curriculum. Provided we can program safely, The First Tee can be a great outlet for kids during this unprecedented time,” O’Brien stated.

The annual Joe Haase Cup has been canceled, a match play competition held at Firestone Country Club in early May featuring top players from the region’s four biggest junior tours: North Coast Junior Tour; NOPGA Junior Tour; Southwest Junior Tour; and Lake Erie Junior Tour.

The events of those junior tours do not begin until late May or early June, so wisely no decisions have been made in regard to those schedules.

GET OUT AND PLAY GOLF

Brad Haynes, General Manager at Zoar Golf Club, knows what a big mental and physical release that the game of golf is playing at the moment. “Customers are begging that we stay open,” Haynes said. He also knows every player’s primary concern. “We have taken extra effort to clean EVERYTHING. Flagsticks, keys, steering wheels.”

Golf.com posted a story this week, Golf and the Coronavirus: How to Play with Confidence, According to an Expert. Dr. Kelly Cawcutt, associate director of infection control and hospital epidemiology and Nebraska biocontainment unit member at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, made it clear that golf is safe with common-sense precautions.

“Being in a wide-open, outdoor space is the least at-risk scenario,” Cawcutt said. “Precaution is the name of the game. It’s very reasonable to play if you are smart about it and follow the proper guidance.

“You’ll have to follow precautions that you normally wouldn’t have to, but I would play under that guidance.”

The story then lists seven specific steps to be safe and considerate towards others. Primarily: give space, don’t touch things unnecessarily, wash your hands.

Patty Gaston, Golf Operations Manager at Raintree Golf and Event Center, made it clear that as long as the state government deems it safe, golf will be played at their facility. “Raintree and the City of Green will do what the Governor says. We are open, and just today we began selling food and beverages,” Gaston said. “So, to be continued…”

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