Birdies, bogeys and pars are back in play for Vermonters.
Golf courses and some other forms of outdoor recreation can reopen for Vermont residents beginning May 7, Gov. Phil Scott announced Wednesday. The “Play Smart and Play Safe” decision is the latest phase of his administration’s phased approach to reopen the state amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vermont had begun the day as one of three states still prohibiting golf — hard-hit Massachusetts and Maryland were the others. Last week, New Hampshire revealed its plan to allow play beginning May 11.
Scott also announced that, starting Wednesday, small gatherings of 10 people or fewer will be allowed with precautions.
“The change of seasons and warmer weather also means folks want to get outside, take in some fresh air, and safely enjoy the beauty of Vermont,” Scott said. “The good news is, because of everything we’ve done and the sacrifices Vermonters, have made we can now take some steps to restart social visits and enjoy some recreation — as long as we continue to follow important and simple guidelines.”
The amendment of Scott’s standing “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order includes outdoor recreation and fitness activities that “require low or no direct contact” — such as skate parks, ball fields, trail networks, golf courses and tennis courts, according to Julie Moore, secretary of the Agency of Natural Resourses.
Residents over the age of 65, as well as Vermonters with pre-existing health conditions, are recommended to continue to stay home in the interim, per the executive order, Scott said.
Organized sporting events like rec leagues and other spectator events still remain off-limits, Moore explained.
Moore said the state is encouraging an “arrive, play and leave” mentality for recreation.
“It’s equally important not to gather in groups before or after activities,” she said.
What does the news mean for how golf courses will operate?
The Vermont Golf Association collaborated with the state to develop a plan for its courses that includes many changes from the norm. Among the restrictions:
- Courses can only permit players currently living in Vermont.
- Walking is encouraged; golf carts must be sanitized after use and will be limited to single riders.
- Practice areas can open if staffed to enforce social distance guidelines and hitting areas must be spaced to exceed social distancing requirements.
- Driving ranges must sanitize golf balls between use.
- Remote reservation, payment and check-in procedures are required.
- No touch points on the course such as ball washers and rakes.
- Tee times spaced 15 minutes apart.
- Clubhouse, locker rooms and retail facilities are closed; online, pre-paid items may be available for curbside pickup. Restaurant/bar facilities may do takeout only.
- No youth activities, organized club events or rental equipment will be permitted.
“All courses and players are expected to adhere to these restrictions (until) further notice. Please do your part to keep us all safe,” the VGA wrote in an email to its members shortly after the announcement.