Golf courses reopening Monday after shelter order modification

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.

Walnut Creek’s Boundary Oak Golf Course announced it would reopen Monday with “appropriate operational and sanitary practices,” including limiting golf carts to one rider, reducing driving range capacity by half and removing ball washers from the course to reduce opportunities for viral touch points.

“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.”

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. 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.

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