From ‘Tiger King’ to Tiger Woods: Golfers get up off couches and flock to links

WESTFIELD – While many people have been sheltered-in-place watching the likes of the Tiger King, one recent decision from Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker likely even had another “Tiger” jumping for joy.
On Thursday, Baker officially announced the immediate re-opening of state public and private golf courses under a strict set of rules and regulations.
Under the new guidelines from the state, all golfers must maintain proper social distancing of at least six feet at all times. Groups of players are restricted to no more than four players at one time. The Tee Time Policy must be 15 minutes between groups, and golfers must stay in their car until 15 minutes before their tee time and return to their car immediately following play. No golf carts, caddies or rental/sharing golf clubs is allowed.

Jim Merati tees off while Mark Consolini and Greg Strycharz look on at Shaker Farms Country Club Friday. Golfers returned to area golf courses after Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker lifted the ban on golf in the state Thursday. (Photo by Marc St. Onge)

“We’re ecstatic – our members have been calling all day,” Shaker Farms Country Club owner Nancy Kotowicz said Thursday. “If any of the sports can easily social distance, it’s golf. It’s a worry-free workout.”
Kotowicz said she was already booking tee times for the next week-and-a-half.
“Luckily we are all mowed and ready to go,” Kotowicz said. “We didn’t get caught with our pants down.”
When golfers approach the course, they will first be required to visit the service window next to the golf pro shop as course facilities such as pro shops, clubhouses, bag rooms, locker rooms, and restaurants must remain closed according to current state guidelines.
Kotowicz said one of the biggest challenges facing golf course owners will be making up for lost revenue due to the absence of beer sales. If restrictions are not eased or scaled back even further, it could be tough to offer golf carts for everyone at future tournaments, she also acknowledged.
East Mountain Country Club owner Mark Perez agrees.
“There are a lot of restrictions but we are not complaining,” Perez said. “At least we have something now.”
East Mountain CC is currently offering an 18-hole round of golf for $26 on weekdays and $29 on weekends.
“It’s going to be a slow process, but we want to do it as safely as possible,” Perez said.
Tekoa Country Club, located on Russell Road, is now open daily from 7 a.m. to dusk.
“There’s a bunch of different restrictions, social distancing in place.” Tekoa CC golf pro Rick Leal said.
Leal said flags remain in each of the holes, but cups have been turned upside down to keep golfers from spreading germs. Rakes have also been removed from bunkers.
With stay-at-home orders set to expire May 18, Leal said he is hoping that the state’s governor will loosen restrictions surrounding golf courses even further.
Said Leal: We’re ready to rock … but then we can really get rolling.”

Golfers head out for a round of golf Friday at Tekoa Country Club. (Photo by Marc St. Onge)

1. Security personnel can be delineated by each club (ex. A pro and the head starter) and will be present to enforce social distancing. There can be no other employees working at the recreational component of the golf operation.
2. All staff must wear face coverings while on property.
3. Course facilities including but not limited to the clubhouse, golf shop, restaurant, bag room and locker room must remain closed.
4. No caddies allowed.
5. No golf carts allowed.
6. Push carts may be used. Players must either carry their own bag or use a push cart.
7. All golfers must maintain proper social distancing of at least 6 feet at all times.
8. Groups of players are restricted to no more than 4 players at one time.
9. Members-only clubs can allow guests as determined by the security personnel on the golf course.
10. Private clubs that allow non-members to make reservations can do so at their discretion.
11. Maintenance personnel are permitted to work on the golf course.
12. Tee Time Policy must be 15 minutes between groups.
13. Golfers must stay in their car until 15 minutes before their tee time and must return to their car immediately following play.
14. Online and remote payment options must be utilized.
15. All golfers must use their own golf clubs. Sharing golf clubs or rental golf clubs is not allowed.
16. Flagsticks must remain in the hole. Hole liners must be raised so picking a ball out of the hole doesn’t occur.
17. Bunker rakes must be removed, and ball washers must be removed or covered.
18. Practice putting green, driving range, and chipping areas must be closed.
19. Facilities must have readily accessible hand sanitizer. – Guidelines for Golfers and Courses Courtesy of Mass Golf

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