SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Bay Area golfers anxious to hit the links will be in luck Monday as some golf courses plan to reopen following a modification of the region’s shelter-in-place order due to the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties and the city of Berkeley announced an extension of the regional order Wednesday morning with modifications allowing for the continuation of construction projects and some businesses that primarily operate outside, such as landscapers, gardeners and retail nurseries.

The new order, which takes effect Monday and will run through May 31, also allows golf courses in those jurisdictions to resume operations, provided they strictly enforce public health policies like physical distancing to prevent the spread of the virus.

At Boundary Oaks in Walnut Creek, the tee boxes, fairways and greens are empty, but they won’t be for long. The loosening of the Bay Area shelter in place order includes a re-opening of golf courses with appropriate social and physical distancing measures.

The process isn’t simple.

“A golf course needs to make a proposal to the city that it’s in and then to the county and then to the state and then get approval to be able to open up and have play come in,” says PGA golf professional John Abendroth.

At Boundary Oaks, the rules include no cash, one person per cart and no ball washers and not exactly a regulation game.

“No touching of the flag stick, competition will be interesting because under the rules of golf, the ball has to go into the bottom of the cup. Now they’ve got either foam or there’s gonna be a little plastic liner where they put the cup in upside down so the ball will hit it and bounce out,” Abendroth told KPIX 5.

“We ask that all of our customers assist in strict adherence to these standards as violations could result in the closing of the golf course,” Boundary Oak’s management and staff said in a statement announcing the reopening. “Any customer not following the rules will be asked to leave the course immediately.”

Other golf courses have transitioned to public use while closed due to the pandemic. The 145-acre Presidio Golf Course has been open as a public park for about a month, allowing visitors to practice physical distancing while getting outdoors.

“We’ve been trying not to publicize it too much,” Presidio Trust spokeswoman Lisa Petrie said, noting that pedestrian crowds have begun to swell toward unsafe levels and bring their dogs, which is prohibited, in recent days. The course will remain open as a public park over the weekend.

The Presidio Trust, the federal agency that operates Presidio National Park, plans to reopen the course and its driving range for golfers Monday. Golfers will be required to book and pay for tee times over the phone and various oft-touched items around the course like flags, rakes and golf carts will be removed or unavailable.

“There won’t be anything to touch,” Petrie said. 

In addition, every other stall at the driving range will be open to allow golfers to distance themselves. The course’s clubhouse, restaurants and pro shop will remain closed. Some additional safety protocols for the course’s reopening are still being worked out, according to Petrie.

Riverside and Napa counties have already modified their shelter-in-place orders to allow golf course activities, albeit in more limited numbers and with strict health and safety guidelines.

While golf is not explicitly permitted in the state’s shelter-in-place order as a vital industry, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state plans to continue evolving its guidelines to allow for low-risk industries to gradually resume operating.

“There are a number of other parts of the state that do provide for low-risk golfing already so that’s not completely inconsistent,” Newsom said during his Wednesday afternoon briefing on the virus. “What (the six counties) put out today was very broadly consistent with the state guidelines and they’ve been incredible partners.”

The new rules won’t be a problem for Connor Mauzey of San Francisco, who’s excited to putt somewhere other than his living room.

“Recently we’ve just been using a water bottle, so anything is better than a water bottle. Just as long we can get a golf cart and be able to drive around. It’s kinda tough walking the whole thing sometimes,” Mauzey told KPIX 5 at Lincoln Park Golf Course in San Francisco.

Golfers are excited to be a test balloon for re-opening.

“I think golf’s a game where people are able to kinda keep their distance and stay safe and I think it’ll be a good thing for people but I think we just have to remember to be careful,” said golfer James Boyd.

TPC Harding Park, located adjacent to Lake Merced in San Francisco, did not respond to a request for comment on whether it would reopen in light of the revised order.

However, the city’s Rec and Park Department later tweeted that its public courses would reopen “sometime next week.”

Harding Park was originally scheduled to host the 102nd PGA Championship golf tournament May 14-17. The tournament has since been rescheduled to Aug. 3-9.

Comments (7)