As of Tuesday evening, country clubs and golf courses still were holding out hope to remain open with appropriate provisions to the golfing experience during the executive order by Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers.
The governor’s executive order mandated that Wisconsinites stay home beginning at 8 a.m. Wednesday until 8 a.m. April 24. Within the mandate, team sports such as “basketball, ultimate frisbee, soccer or football” are prohibited “as they do not comply with social distancing requirements.”
The order will keep open state parks during the “shelter at home” period of time. Golfers argue that prohibiting golf—which complies with social-distancing requirements given recent provisions—is inconsistent with allowing state parks to stay open.
The Wisconsin State Golf Association was requesting clarification from Evers on Tuesday afternoon, but no announcement was made to alter the closed status for Wisconsin courses.
Koshkonong Mounds Country Club, Lake Ripley Country Club and Janesville’s Riverside and Blackhawk courses all fully intend to comply with the order as it stands. The clubs had implemented strategies to stay open while adhering to center for disease control and department of health and human services guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Before the Governor issued his order, Jefferson County already had closed due to a public emergency. Four people in Jefferson County have contracted the disease, and five people in Wisconsin have died from it while 457 have been confirmed to have the disease. There are a total of 219 confirmed cases in Milwaukee County and 72 in Dane County, according to the Wisconsin DHS update Tuesday.
Management from the Janesville courses said in an email Tuesday night that the courses “will be closed as directed by Governor Evers” and directed players to www.golfjanesville.com for any future updates.
Around the country, more than 650 people have died from the disease and almost 63,000 have contracted it.
In the meantime, courses are minimally requesting to be allowed to maintain the condition of the course through mowing. During the season, greens and fairways are mowed on a daily basis with tee boxes and roughs getting less frequent attention.
Koshkonong Mounds golf professional Evan Wartgow said the course would probably be fine if they were able to mow on a less-regular basis. Asked if that was on a every third day basis, he said, “That would probably be pushing it.”
Bottom line: If they can’t maintain the course during the order, 2020 will be a difficult year to maintain the product.
The Mounds had removed bottles of sand on carts typically used to repair divots, outlawed coolers on carts and limited patrons to one person per cart. After use, the carts were disinfected with “hospital-grade disinfectant,” according to Wartgow.
As for the pro shop, golfers were encouraged to walk instead of using a cart. To ensure safety within the pro shop, the door handles were disinfected “methodically” regularly and the bathrooms were cleaned hourly.
Golfers were allowed to play the course this week. It’s customary at both The Mounds and Lake Ripley Country Club for the courses to open in on a day-by-day basis in mid-March.
On the course, the pins were modified so that the ball couldn’t fall into the hole and any ball that made it within a foot was considered a made shot.
“There were a lot of birdies out there if you were having a hot day,” Wartgow said.
One golfer came in with a 71 at The Mounds despite having a knee-replacement surgery canceled since the World Health Organization upgraded the spread of COVID-19 to pandemic level.
If all of those provisions are made to greater increase the likelihood of safety for golfers, it’s possible they could carry on business. However, considering the dangers of Covid-19 from coronavirus are more deadly for the older population and more males are dying from the disease than females, it remains unlikely the state will make an exception.