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Golf courses to be closed under Gov. Tony Evers' 'safer at home' order
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Golf courses to be closed under Gov. Tony Evers' 'safer at home' order

From the The COVID-19 pandemic hits home: Keep up with the latest local news on the coronavirus outbreak series

Golf courses in the state are to be closed under Gov. Tony Evers’ “safer at home” order Tuesday.

Evers’ order — meant to aid the fight against spreading the COVID-19 coronavirus — did not address golf courses directly, but an Evers spokesperson later clarified that golf courses were included in the closures.

Evers’ order goes into effect at 8 a.m. Wednesday. Courses must remained closed until Evers’ order ends on April 24.

The Wisconsin PGA, as well as the Wisconsin Golf Association, sent Evers’ order to their attorneys and have asked them to help determine where courses would fall.

One reading of the order suggested golf courses are included in the order’s closure of “places of public amusement and activity,” which listed country clubs in its examples. Another reading would suggest courses fall under the “outdoor activity” subset of essential activities individuals are permitted to leave their residence to perform.

The order uses examples of walking, biking, hiking and running in its description of permitted activities, while listing basketball, ultimate Frisbee, soccer and football as examples of banned activities because they do not follow social distancing guidelines.

Golf courses in the Madison area have taken steps to abide by social distancing guidelines on their courses by spreading out tee times, closing practice areas and limiting players to one per cart. They’ve also removed items such as sand rakes and ball washers from courses to eliminate multiple people touching the same object without it being sanitized.

Other states such as California, Kentucky and Nevada with shelter-in-place orders have allowed golf courses to stay open.

Another question raised by Evers’ order was if courses will be allowed to have groundskeepers and course maintenance staff continue working.

The order states “minimum basic operations” are permitted, and those include, “The minimum necessary activities to maintain the value of the business’s inventory, preserve the condition of the business’s physical plant and equipment …”

Joe Stadler, the executive director of the Wisconsin PGA, said he believes golf course maintenance would fall under this category. Since allowing courses to overgrow now would hurt them for the rest of the season, he wants the Wisconsin PGA attorneys and state to confirm.

While March and April are slower months of the golf season in Wisconsin, losses from being closed for a month “will hurt,” Stadler said. He believes that since courses are forced to close, they should be eligible for financial relief from the government like other small businesses.

“I would certainly hope that they would,” Stadler said. “They’re a small business just like any other small business. Some are larger than others — I don’t know that Kohler is a small business — but the vast majority of them are small businesses.

“Any relief they provide for small business absolutely should include golf if it’s closed.”

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Related to this story

After Friday’s announcement that University of Wisconsin facilities — including University Ridge Golf Course where the tournament is held — would be closed until June 30, the tournament confirmed that it and the events would not be held May 30 through June 7 as originally planned.

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