Golfing During A Pandemic? New York, Florida Courses Stay Open Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

By Carli Porterfield, Forbes

04 April 2020

Topline: As states increasingly crack down on “nonessential” business operations during the coronavirus pandemic, golf courses have fallen into a grey area between permitted recreational activities and potentially dangerous places for people to gather.

  • According to a tracker from Golf News Net, most states have not ordered golf courses to shut down as part of coronavirus crackdowns on movement and public activities, with notable exceptions including Washington and New Jersey, two of the worst-hit states. 
  • Even New York, home to the nation’s most confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths, allows courses to remain open if social distancing measures are enforced, along with Florida courses.
  • Golf course proponents argue the sport is like hiking, running and bicycling in that it can largely be performed as a solo recreational activity and therefore safe.
  • In states that have ordered golf facilities closed, some course owners are turning to the courts to keep them open, often invoking the Fifth Amendment, and hoping for fair compensation for property seized by the government.
  • In New Hampshire, golfers have started a petition to ask the governor to amend the state’s stay-at-home order to let them out to the course as the season begins.
  • About 37% of golf courses nationwide have been reportedly closed since the beginning of the pandemic, whether it’s because of orders to close nonessential businesses or at the owner’s own discretion. 

Key background: American golf is big business, with one study finding that golf drove more than $84 billion in economic activity across the United States and supported nearly 2 million jobs in 2016. 

Interesting fact: This week, speculation that President Donald Trump was planning a golf trip was fueled by reports that the Secret Service had signed a contract to rent a fleet of golf carts in Sterling, Virginia, for $45,000. Sterling is home to one of Trump’s golf clubs. The Washington Post reported that the contract resembles past documents that enabled agents to follow Trump on golfing trips to Florida and New Jersey.

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