Golfers like to joke they’ve been social distancing for years: They hit a weak slice that lands in the right rough while their playing partners hit pull hooks or, once in a blue moon, stripe it down the middle of the fairway.
Now as part of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s “strict safety guidelines,” social distancing will become mandatory on Illinois’ 683 golf courses.
Pritzker’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity laid out a dozen ground rules Friday afternoon to course operators, who can welcome golfers at 6 a.m. May 1.
Most restrictions mirror those from other states: Walking only (no carts), tee times spread out to 15 minutes with online or telephone bookings, no touching of the flagstick, foam in the cups for easy ball retrieval, no food service and clubhouses that will remain closed.
Illinois officials, though, have taken things further with this line: “Players shall be grouped in twosomes.”
So no threesomes or foursomes, the most common-sized group.
“It’s progress,” said Steve Skinner, the CEO of KemperSports, which manages Illinois public courses such as Harborside, Cantigny, Bolingbrook and Deerpath.
Earlier this week Skinner was quoted in the Tribune saying he believes golf should be permitted in Illinois despite the COVID-19 pandemic because “you’ve got 70 people spread over 200 acres.”
Now, he said: “It’s 35 people spread over 200 acres.”
Illinois’ new rules also prohibit the use of “practice ranges, chipping greens or putting greens to limit large gatherings of individuals.”
And if players want to use a pull (hand) cart, they must bring their own. No rentals.
Well more than half of the nation’s golf courses will be open by May 1, with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announcing Friday that the state has immediately lifted its golf ban, joining the likes of Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
“Please remember that If you choose to go to the golf course, take the boat out or (engage) your lawn-care service,” she said, “please stay safe and do everything you can to protect yourself and others.”
Illinois courses were open for two days in late March before the governor’s office reversed course and deemed them nonessential businesses. Some Illinois residents reacted by crossing state lines to play.
Golf in Illinois is big business, providing 50,466 jobs and $1.5 billion in annual wages, according to WeAreGolf.org.
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