By Ryan J. Ferguson
All of the 34 county-run golf courses in Suffolk County are staying open and their operations will continue in April, despite the rapid expansion of the COVID-19 pandemic on Long Island, which has already claimed 263 victims and has infected more than 15,000 in the area alone, as of April 8.
In the effort to cope with the novel coronavirus pandemic, New York State has extended the interval between tee times from eight to 16 minutes to avoid close contact between players who are not golfing together. Also, carts are limited to one driver, and have to be sanitized after each use.
“Staying home is the best option, but golfing in the open air by yourself should be safe,” Dr. Andrew Knecht, public health and preventive medicine physician at Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center, said. “If golfing with a partner, maintaining a separation of at least 6 feet is important. The CDC just issued guidance of wearing a mask when going outside, so if you do go, please cover your face.”
Other modifications include the elimination of bunker rakes, used to smoothen the sand along courses and ball washers, used to clean dirty golf balls. Foam has also been added into the cups on the greens so players will no longer have to touch the flags, reducing contamination.
“Since the virus outbreak, it’s been harder to reserve tee times since a lot of people have nothing left to do but golf,” Matthew Pacholik, who golfs and lives in West Sayville, said.
The clubhouse at the West Sayville Golf Course, located in Suffolk County, has been closed since March 14. However, golfers are allowed to access the course as reservations can be made online.
“I think the golf courses are responding well to the pandemic,” Justin Horowitz, who golfs and lives in Dix Hills, said. It’s not like golfers share equipment, we kept our distance as it was. Some simple changes to the way we play is worth it to continue to golf.”
Operations continue in county-owned courses as New York State classifies golf courses as parks. On March 14, the New York State Parks official Twitter and Facebook page released a statement: “At this time, NY State Parks are open and welcoming visitors during regular operating hours.”
“It’s scary to see how many people are casually playing golf during a time like this,” Elizabeth Barry, who lives in Oakdale, Long Island, said. “Now is the time to stay home, not risk your life or others to play golf.”
On March 24, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran announced on Twitter: “I announced yesterday that County golf courses & driving ranges were closed following state guidelines. After our announcement the state revised its decision & we’ll be following suit. On March 26 we’ll be reopening our golf courses & driving ranges for online reservations only.”
At this time, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has yet to release further comment regarding the topic of golfing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.