Can we play golf or not?
For those in the New York Metropolitan area, the answer to that question is rather ambiguous in the wake of the ever-changing policies resulting from the coronavirus crisis, because there is no uniform conclusion as to what’s permitted by the orders of the states’ governors.
In interviews conducted by The Post with personnel from both public and private golf courses as well as the sport’s governing bodies in the area, the common denominator is confusion.
Some courses are open and thriving with business and others are closed, either by their own choice or by what they believe is order by local government.
As of Wednesday, New Jersey golf courses — both public and private — were closed, as they have been since Sunday after Gov. Phil Murphy issued the executive order for all non-essential businesses in the state to shut down.
In New York, however, a number of golf courses are not only open for business, but they’re busier than they normally would be at this time of year.
The New York State park system courses are open, which in the Met area means Bethpage Black, Montauk Downs, Sag Harbor and Sunken Meadow — all on Long Island. The Westchester County Courses also are open for play.
In Connecticut, most courses are closed, though Richter Park in Danbury and Sterling Farms in Stamford remain open.
Chris Schiavone — who owns Forsgate Country Club in Monroe Township, N.J., and Shackamaxon in Scotch Plains, N.J. — said golfers were playing Forsgate on Sunday and local police showed up and “politely” told them they had to leave based on the governor’s executive order.
Schiavone is among the confused.
“New York is allowing golf courses to stay open as are Connecticut and Pennsylvania and Delaware, so in New Jersey we’re surrounded by these states but we can’t play golf,” Schiavone said. “I really think the governor is doing a disservice. Hopefully, he’ll reverse his position.”
In New Jersey, there is a movement to get Murphy to do just that, with an internet petition circulating urging him to allow courses in the state to open.
More specifically, Chris Bauer, the executive director of the New Jersey Section PGA of America, is working jointly with the N.J. State Golf Association, the N.J. Golf Course Owners Association, the N.J. Club Manager’s Association, the N.J. Golf Course Superintendents Association with a letter of recommendation to Murphy that he allow courses to reopen.
Bauer said he hopes to have the letter in Murphy’s hands by Thursday afternoon.
“We feel like all of us are representing the entire game of golf, trying to highlight the exercise and well-being aspect of the sport,” Bauer said. “It’s natural to be social distancing on the golf course. The etiquette and rules of the game promote that.”
Bauer noted that Connecticut golf courses on Wednesday were given the option to operate as long as they followed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s practices of social distancing.
“We understand that the clubhouses and restaurants need to be closed,” he said. “We’re emphasizing the field of play.”
The internet petition, which is separate from what Bauer and the other organizations are submitting to the governor’s office Thursday, reads, in part:
“The signers of this petition believe that the indefinite closure of all New Jersey golf courses will have a profoundly negative impact on the community’s health, both physically and mentally. We also feel that this is a measure that will make our lives feel as if it has come to a complete standstill.
“The signers of this petition feel that if residents of the state are allowed out for a walk or run, participating in golf should also be allowed. … We ask the Governor to reconsider his position on the closure of golf courses in New Jersey and allow them to remain open with extensive and proper precautions. We are hopeful for his consideration.”
Brian Mahoney, the executive director of the Metropolitan Golf Association, said that as of now, “the only courses that have the authority and the support to stay open are the parks, the New York parks. Otherwise, public and private course in New Jersey and Connecticut and the vast majority of courses in New York are all standing down.
“From a consumer perspective, hopefully everyone appreciates the severity of what this is. This is so much bigger than golf right now. My view as a consumer is let’s be compliant and hope that the crisis passes quickly and people can remain healthy and we get back out there as soon as possible.”