A Positive Sign: The Nation’s Golf Courses Are Reopening

Here’s another bright spot for tourism – golf courses are reopening, allowing for fresh air and exercise, albeit with some restrictions.

As of the week ending May 24, 97 percent of U.S. golf courses were open for play, up from 44 percent in early April, according to the National Golf Foundation.

Many of Puerto Rico’s 18 golf courses have reopened, as have numerous others on the mainland, including a posh property in the Virginia mountains, and a new Tiger Woods-designed course in entertainment mecca Branson, Mo.

Puerto Rico, an American territory, has a 7 p.m.-to-5 a.m. curfew in effect until June 15, and all people are required to wear a mask when outside or inside a business due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the golf course reopenings, happening gradually since May 26, is “encouraging news,” said Leah Chandler, CMO of Discover Puerto Rico, the island’s destination marketing organization. “People wishing to visit the Island can soon embrace all that is waiting for them when the time is right to travel.”

Some Puerto Rico courses are open to everyone, including Royal Isabela, Club Deportivo del Oeste, and more. Other island courses are open to members only currently – TPC Dorado Beach, Palmas Athletic Club, and Wyndham Grand Rio Mar, for example – with the public expected to be welcomed back imminently. For instance, Rio Mar will allow public play beginning on June 2.

Royal Isabela has installed an array of safeguards, including staff using personal protective gear, sanitizing and cleaning golf carts and the pro shop common areas throughout the day, and more. Royal Isabela also requires that tee times be booked at least 48 hours in advance with all due information; no use of the driving range, practice greens, or club rentals; one player allowed per golf cart; no post round gathering or socializing; and more.

In the mountains of Virginia, the luxurious resort Primland reopened on May 21, including its 18-hole course carved from the natural landscape of the mountains. (Note to professional travel advisors: Primland is paying 20 percent commission on rack rates booked online through August.)

The property has instituted numerous safety practices throughout the resort, including social-distancing guidelines, masks and gloves on employees, sanitizing stations and procedures, and more.

On the Highland Course, golfers can request to ride carts alone and are asked to handle their own bags and clubs. Water coolers have been removed and golfers can request bottles of water throughout their round.

On the green, the cups have been inverted to eliminate need to remove or touch flagsticks. Sand bottles, rakes and flagsticks have been removed.

The new Tiger Woods-designed course in Branson’s Big Cedar Lodge is open to the public for “preview play.” Payne’s Valley Golf Course is an 18-hole championship course paying homage to Payne Stewart, the legendary former PGA Tour player who grew up in nearby Springfield, Mo.

Among the restrictions in place – one person to a cart unless from same household, cart towels and sand bottles have been removed from the carts, guests are asked to not touch the flagsticks, cups have been modified with PVC inserts so golfers don’t have to put their hands in the cup to retrieve golf balls, and sand rakes and ball washers have been removed.

Located 20 minutes from the Arkansas border in southwest Missouri, Branson has added several new golf courses in the recent past, including three in the past three years. There are now 10 diverse yet complementary courses that are open to the public and close to one another.

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