Golf In A Plague Year – March 17
My favorite local muni — Green Oaks in Ypsilanti Township — has closed for the foreseeable future. The township that runs the course decided to suspend golf operations along with other non-essential municipal operations.
I was lucky to get in a final round on yesterday. I did not realize that a closing was imminent, and had nearly passed on the 40 degree temperatures.
I played well, considering the cold, wind and occasional rain. I still have serious issues with my chipping and pitching, though.
It was weather only a duck could love. There were in fact, more ducks on the course than humans.
As I was walking around, it seemed to me that a golf course is a good place to practice social distancing. I walk, so transmission through a power cart is not an issue. And if you avoid handshakes and fist bumps, there’s really no reason to get within a yard or two of fellow competitors.
On this particular day, the course was nearly empty, so other than passing my money over the counter to the pro, I didn’t come within a couple hundred yards of another human.
Later on Monday the 16th, a scare hit the Michigan golf world when it appeared that an order from Michigan Governor Whitmer closing places of public accommodation also applied to golf courses. The Golf Association of Michigan posted a notice on their website confirming the Governor’s order.
The order read, in part:
Acting under the Michigan Constitution of 1963 and Michigan law, I order the following:Executive Order 2020-09 (COVID-19)
Beginning as soon as possible but no later than March 16, 2020 at 3:00 pm, and continuing until March 30, 2020 at 11:59 pm, the following places of public accommodation are closed to ingress, egress, use, and occupancy by members of the public:
Restaurants, food courts, cafes, coffeehouses, and other places of public accommodation offering food or beverage for on-premises consumption;
Bars, taverns, brew pubs, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, tasting rooms, special licensees, clubs, and other places of public accommodation offering alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption;
Hookah bars, cigar bars, and vaping lounges offering their products for on-premises consumption; …
Another section of the document reads
Place of public accommodation” means a business, or an educational, refreshment, entertainment, or recreation facility, or an institution of any kind, whether licensed or not, whose goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations are extended, offered, sold, or otherwise made available to the public. Place of public accommodation also includes the facilities of private clubs, including country clubs, golf clubs, boating or yachting clubs, sports or athletic clubs, and dining clubs.Executive Order 2020-09 (COVID-19)
My reading of the document was that it applied only to the clubhouses, where you would have “ingress, egress, use, and occupancy by members of the public” related to serving food on the premises. Several paragraphs in the order allow business to still offer food and beverage for off-site consumption (take-out and delivery)
Finally, the Detroit News reported that the Governor’s spokesperson clarified that the limits applied only to the clubhouses. The Golf Association of Michigan — no doubt driven by its lawyers — amended its advisory to read simply:
Today Governor Whitmer placed temporary restrictions on the use of places of public accommodation through an executive order which can be found here.
Golf courses and country clubs are referenced specifically.Golf Association of Michigan, March 16, 2020
The GAM is clearly adverse to making any statements which in any way shape or form could make them liable, even if courses misinterpret it and shut down. I am frankly disappointed. In times like these, golf needs its players, and players need golf more than ever.
It occurs to me that it would be possible for courses to remain open, even if the clubhouses are completely closed. Players could pay online, or over the phone, and a starter could greet them — at a safe distance near the first tee. No one needs to touch anything. To further reduce the chance of infection, courses could go to walking only, or require players to pay for separate carts. An additional cart fee could go to giving the buggies a good powerwash in Odoban (Amazon link) after each round.
The title of this post, Golf In a Plague Year, is a reference to Journal of A Plague Year, a novel by Daniel Defoe (Robinson Crusoe) written in 1722.
The story follows the protagonist’s experiences in 1665, the year of the Great Plague that struck the city of London. The novel likely is based on the experiences of his uncle, Henry Foe.