Golf courses are open during Florida stay-at-home order

Coronavirus

DADE CITY, Fla. (WFLA) – When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued his executive order Wednesday directing Floridians to stay at home as much as possible, many in the Sunshine State were hoping golf courses would be allowed to remain open.

Matt Sommers is one of them.

As one of the golf professionals at Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club, Sommers says business recently has been higher than he expected.

“It’s something you can still do and maintain social distancing,” said Sommers. “We only allow one golfer per cart, we’ve got noodles in the holes so your ball doesn’t go all the way in, we have hand sanitizers on every tee box, limit of four people in the pro shop at all times. We’re doing everything we can to keep people safe.”

Under DeSantis’ executive order, “all persons in Florida shall limit their movements and personal interactions outside their home to only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services or conduct essential activities.”

The next section refers to lists of exempted businesses and workers providing “essential services” in various sources, including Department of Homeland Security guidance on critical workforce, a previous DeSantis executive order, and a Miami-Dade Emergency Order.

Golf courses aren’t listed among those businesses.

However, the following section of the executive order exempts essential activities including “recreational activities (consistent with social distancing guidelines) such as walking, biking, hiking, fishing, hunting, running, or swimming.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Executive Order 20-91 exempts Essential Activities including recreational activities and attending religious services, despite a pastor being arrested for holding a packed worship at a Tampa church on Sunday.

Golfing isn’t listed there either.

But Sommers, like many golf course owners across Florida and the country, is hoping social distancing will help them squeeze into an exception: a non-essential service providing essential recreational activity.

After the governor’s press conference, North Florida PGA Executive Director Steve McMillen emailed a letter to members and posted on its website that “Per confirmation through the Governor’s Office, Golf is considered an essential activity.”

North Florida PGA’s website section about COVID-19 (nfpga.com)

Other courses around Tampa Bay and the country seem to be following suit.

Dr. Jay Wolfson, Associate Vice President of USF Health and a professor of public health, medicine and pharmacy said it’s hard to consider golf an essential activity.

“When we cough or sneeze or even talk, we’re projecting droplet nuclei into the air,” said Dr. Wolfson. “So it’s best to avoid any circumstance where you’re in a situation where you’re proximate to somebody that you don’t have to be, and to avoid confined quarters.”

But for those golfers who just can’t quit the habit, Dr. Wolfson said there’s a way to stay safe and still play.

“If you’re all by yourself, that’s fine,” Dr. Wolfson said. “If you’re meeting friends, maintain your social distance. Don’t slap each other on the back or use each other’s clubs or share drinks–because you don’t know.”

“Regardless of how well I know someone, I don’t know if they are asymptomatic. A significant percentage of our population have the disease and don’t know it–and they can pass it along from a distance even further than 6 feet, especially if the wind is blowing,” Dr. Wolfson said.

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