As some golf courses reopen, greens bring shade of 'normal again' for some

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Donnybrook Country Club had been prepared to start the golf season since early April, but Matt Kelly still was a bit surprised to learn Thursday that golfing could resume immediately.

"I expected Mass. to open soon — I didn't expect today," said Kelly, general manager of the Lanesborough club. "We can open tomorrow, but I figure we will have a regular schedule starting Monday."

After meeting with Mass. Golf and the Alliance of Massachusetts Golf Organizations last weekend, Gov. Charlie Baker and his administration established guidelines for golf to safely resume in the state. The administration updated its COVID-19 essential services webpage Thursday, noting that while golf courses are not considered essential businesses, private operators can allow golfers to use the facilities — as long as there are no gatherings of any kind.

A series of guidelines was released at massgolf.org Thursday morning, allowing local courses to open up as early as Thursday.

"It has been a waiting game," said Mark Chylinski, a member at Berkshire Hills Country Club in Pittsfield. "I've traveled to New York to play a couple times, and their restrictions are roughly the same and seem pretty reasonable."

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All staff must wear face coverings while on the property, and course facilities, including the clubhouse, golf shop, restaurants, bag rooms, locker rooms and driving ranges, must remain closed. Tee times are mandatory, spaced 15 minutes apart, and golfers are asked to remain in their vehicles until 15 minutes before they tee off.

And, of course, social distancing must be practiced.

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"You can maintain that distance out on the golf course," Kelly said. "This is what we were given, and we will work with it. ... Hopefully, things continue to open up in the near future."

In order to maintain social distancing, no caddies or golf carts are allowed. All golfers must bring their own clubs and carry their own bag, or bring a pushcart while remaining 6 feet apart at all times.

"The phone is ringing off the hook,"said Jay Abair, the golf professional at the General Electric Athletic Association golf course in Pittsfield. "We're adjusting to the 15-minute tee times and filling up for tomorrow.

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"Not having the carts out there is our biggest problem. As a nine-hole course, a lot of our players are older, and we aren't sure when [the carts] will be available for them."

Flagsticks must remain in the hole, and hole liners must be raised to keep people from picking their ball out of the hole. Bunker rakes must be removed, and ball washers must be removed or covered.

Once the round is over, players must return immediately to their cars.

"I've been working from home for about a year," said Chylinski, a Berkshire County Allied Association individual champion. "The only thing that was missing was running over to Berkshire Hills to play nine holes after work. Life is going to start feeling normal again."

Jake Mendel can be reached at jmendel@berkshireeagle.com, @Jmendel94 on Twitter and 413-496-6252.


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