October 23, 2021

Courses continue to play waiting game

Local golf

Golf courses across the state are experiencing “an aggravating situation, at best,” said Ernest Dodge, president of the Cortland Country Club.

The state’s Regional Economic Development Council permitted the use of carts on courses starting April 24, “so long as no employees were involved in any transactions or disinfection of the carts and one player and bag per cart was maintained,” Dodge said.

Then Gov. Andrew Cuomo effectively reversed the REDC’s ruling at a news conference three days later.

“The REDC’s response was it was a fluid process,” Dodge said.

Dodge said many golfers prefer to ride rather than walk, and not having golf carts results in lost revenue and membership. Play is only a quarter to a third of what it would be with carts.

“We have no idea when golf carts will be allowed again,” Dodge said. “What is extremely frustrating is grocery carts and baskets are handled dozens of times a day by countless hands while a privately owned or leased cart is touched by one set of hands. How many times in a day is an ATM touch pad used or a gas pump handle? Do you ever see disinfectant supplied at the grocery store self-checkout screens? This ruling is discriminatory towards individual owners and people who need a cart in order to play.”

The Cortland Country Club and other area courses “have numerous unanswered calls and emails into the governor’s office,” Dodge said. “It appears the golf industry has been forgotten and dismissed.”

Deron Snyder of Filmore Golf Club said golf is a great way to practice social distancing and using carts enhances that. They’re 8 feet long, more than the recommended 6-foot social distancing gap.

Golf is “extremely therapeutic during these stressful times,” Dodge said, and Cortland County had “gone 11 straight days without a new positive case of COVID-19.”

But golf is a seasonal game, he said, and “lost revenue cannot be replaced.”

“Every golf course wants to maintain the safety of their employees and customers,” he said. “We all have plans and procedures that meet or exceed the guidelines put forth by the CDC. We should be allowed the use of golf carts.”

Snyder takes solace in the fact updates will not be hard to come by for their players.

“One good thing is that we can communicate with the public better through social media like Facebook, but with information changing by the day, it has made it hard to plan and get things running smoother,” he said.

Snyder expressed guarded optimism.

“It does appear the state is now looking at opening things up at a county level and less affected regions, which is good for us in Central New York, but the outlook is still TBD,” he said. “I have spoken to other owners in the area and across the state. It appears the general consensus is that things need to get back to the ‘old’ normal by May 15, June 1 at the latest or we are going to start seeing more severe consequences, which is not going to be good for the golf industry.”