A flatter curve doesn’t mean earlier tee times for Vermont golfers

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The grass gets greener by the day — and the wait continues for the Vermonters longing to play golf on it.

Despite the state’s success flattening the curve of new coronavirus growth, concerns about the spread of COVID-19 will keep tee boxes closed for the time being. Gov. Phil Scott confirmed as much during a news conference Wednesday.

The sport is among the outdoor recreation activities prohibited until at least May 15 under Scott’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order. Neither the gains in slowing the spread of the virus nor the favorable spring weather have yet to change that. 

“I don’t know about the timelines,” Scott said. “I know that the golf course associations have been advocating for this but we’re trying to prevent the spread and that means staying home, it means not gathering.”

More: What can Vermont golf courses do under COVID-19 restrictions?

Vermont is one of 12 states where golf is temporarily banned due to COVID-19 mitigation efforts, according to the National Golf Foundation. 

Thirty-six states currently allow golf to be played in some form. Another, Wisconsin, is set to resume on Friday. Course maintenance work is permitted in every state.

Since Vermont imposed restrictions on the sport last month, Vermont golfers have gone over the border to play in New York — or further than that. The Empire State allowed golf for a time, then banned play only to reopen last week. Connecticut has allowed golf throughout the pandemic.

More: Golf courses, marinas allowed to open in New York after all

The Vermont Golf Association said Tuesday that it has been collaborating with the associations from New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts to craft a regional approach to reopening their courses. 

“We all feel the timing is right and it is appropriate to get the message in front of the officials who are empowered to make this decision,” wrote John Goodchild, the VGA executive director.

The issue, Scott said, isn’t Vermonters as much as the potential impact of opening ahead of neighboring locations with more substantial COVID-19 infection rates. 

“In speaking with other governors again, throughout the northeast, Maine, New Hampshire are very concerned about opening up their courses too soon because of what we’re seeing in Boston, for instance,” Scott said.

“Last week alone there were about 1,000 deaths in Massachusetts,” Scott said. “If they open up too quick it might led to more people traveling, coming into their states, bringing some of the virus with them.”

More: Coronavirus in Vermont: News and impact on your community

More: Personal pandemic: Short stories of Vermonters facing life in the coronavirus era

Massachusetts added 13,036 confirmed COVID-19 cases from April 14-21, increasing its total number of positive test results by 46%, according to the state’s Department of Public Health. In the past seven days for which data is available, Massachusetts had 870 coronavirus deaths.

Vermont, by contrast, has seen a significant drop in the number of infections and deaths reported each day.

The facts are likely little consolation for Vermonters who only see straightforward solutions, with safety precautions in place, to letting golf begin for the season: Let clubs open to members only; don’t allow out-of-state bookings.

But state officials continue to preach patience.

“We hear the folks that are passionate about the game of golf and other recreational opportunities, it just has to be really well thought out and we will get there,” said Lindsay Kurrle, secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. 

“If we do it at the wrong time, as the governor said, we draw people into our state and arguably open ourselves up to going backwards in terms of all the work that we’ve done limiting the spread,” Kurrle said.

Contact Austin Danforth at 651-4851 or edanforth@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @eadanforth.

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