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SCGA - Article - Are Golf Courses Open?
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JohnnyGK
SCGA - Article - Are Golf Courses Open?

JohnnyGK

GK Event: Played in a GK Event

Member Since:
    December 30, 2002


Favorite Golfer:
    GK'ers
Favorite Golf Course:
    Pebble Beach Golf Links


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Monday March 23, 2020 2:26 PM
A fellow GKers passed this on to me. It was written by Craig Kessler, the Director of Governmental Affairs at the SCGA and a friend of mine. Craig and the SCGA are champions of golf in Southern California and appreciated.


THE DAY AFTER THE DAY AFTER

Or more accurately, two days after the day after.

When we last updated you early Friday evening, we reported that after watching various press conferences late Thursday afternoon, including one by Governor Newsom, we had concluded that golf was on its way toward being shuttered throughout California.

We also reported that a funny thing happened as the evening hours wore on. We began hearing that the very cities and counties that had issued the directives we found so conclusive were concluding otherwise by determining to keep the golf courses they own open Friday and by implication beyond – “beyond” in the context of a universe susceptible to an abrupt change of course at any moment, that is. We also began to scrutinize the language of the Executive Order that Governor Newsom promulgated only to discover that what had seemed so definitive when he described it at his news conference was anything but. In fact, it was being characterized far and wide as a nullity. It engendered incendiary headlines in America’s newspapers, but it didn’t add anything of additional substance, heft or enforcement to the various city/county directives already in place. Governor Newsom had in fact if not necessarily in word kept to his pledge that unless and until the situation merits a draconian state response (e.g., martial law), the state would set minimum standards and allow each locality to add thereto based upon local need, want and circumstance.

And then those very localities, counties and cities, that had indeed issued much stronger sets of standards interpreted those standards to allow for golf on the courses they owned under certain strict guidelines and restrictions capable of guaranteeing the “social distancing.” We suggested that while no one could definitively construe the language of the various directives and orders as a way of providing definitive guidance as to what the language actually enabled or proscribed, golf course operators could reasonably assume that for the purposes of golf, they could rely on the actions of the authors of those directives to provide guidance as to what the authors thought the language meant. A convoluted way to say that if the county or city issuing the strict directive opened their own golf courses to play on a certain basis, one could assume that such “basis” complies with the terms thereof. Monkey see; monkey do; monkey compliant.

Given that a number of cities, most prominently Los Angeles and San Diego, and the County of Los Angeles, the largest municipal operator in the nation, opened for business Friday, a number of daily fee and private clubs followed suit. Not all certainly; there is much more than legal permissibility that goes into a decision like this in a time like this.

In the spirit of the caveat we issued Friday night about living in a “universe subject to an abrupt change of course at any moment,” let us inform you that the universe we described that evening has indeed experienced an abrupt change of course. Municipal systems in the City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, San Diego and myriad smaller jurisdictions have now closed their doors to all forms of golf. Indeed, the County of Los Angeles has issued a directive that closes their parks to anything other than solitary walking, running or biking – no congregating or sitting of any kind even in groups of less than 10 separated by 6 feet. Similarly, the Governor, who most acknowledge as having issued a virtual nullity Thursday evening, has strengthened the vague standards contained therein by specifically defining what an “essential service” is and what it is not, and regarding what it is not, he hewed very much to the very strict recreational standard just issued by the County of Los Angeles. One can walk, walk the dog, hike, bike or run – but only on a solitary basis with strict separation enforceable by public safety authorities.

In short, the Southern California golf universe is now on hiatus. Not all courses are closed; it will take a bit of time for that to happen. But it would appear that what we initially concluded Thursday evening will soon be a reality.

But what we also reported Friday night about ample provision for protecting and maintaining golf courses during the tenure of the hiatus still appears in the directives issued by we believe all Southern California counties, but not necessarily certain Northern California counties, which is a distinction that makes a difference ONLY if what the Governor just issued regarding specific definitions of “essential services” is not preemptive. If it is, then the following language from the Southern California directives that we found comforting may now be meaningless:
Plumbers, electricians, exterminators, custodial/janitorial workers, handyman services, funeral home workers and morticians, moving services, HVAC installers, carpenters, landscapers, gardeners, property managers, private security personnel and other service providers who provide services to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation to properties and other essential activities discussed in this subsection. [Section 5, VII, i.]
If golf courses and clubs cannot guard shuttered facilities from trespass, encampment, vandalism and theft and perform the maintenance functions necessary to keep the courses from falling into complete disrepair, then the California golf industry is in real trouble. Given that the social distancing involved in maintaining an empty golf course is infinitely more “distant” than most if not all of the “essential service” functions outlined in the Governor’s Order, to the degree to which this fear is founded, the allied golf industry (CAG) should be able to secure language to enable it. It’s not as if this Executive Order hasn’t been amended and “clarified” multiple times in its 72-hour life. And it’s not as if an idle golf course cannot be maintained by less than a full crew.

# # # # # # # # # # # #

While we never expected the Friday/Saturday situation to hold, there was value in the 48-hours that many facilities remained open, particularly those in the municipal sector. In doing so municipal systems such as Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, Pasadena, Ventura, and San Diego (partial list) made a powerful statement about golf being a recreational asset to communities as opposed to a simple business activity separate and apart from the remainder of their park/recreation services – a conflation golf will need more than ever post pandemic and one that we should never have allowed prosperity to cause us to lose sight of. Golf is paying a huge price for that oversight, and while the following language from last night’s LA County press release is hardly music to our ears, the fact that golf is not singled out, but rather part of these onerous restrictions, is evidence that recent efforts to restore the conflation has had an effect, as well as a solid sign that as the pandemic curve recedes, golf will be among the activities first restored:

All sports and recreation areas closed until further notice. This includes but is not limited to playgrounds, fitness equipment areas, basketball courts, skate parks, baseball/soccer/multi-use fields, tennis courts/pickleball, volleyball, and lawn bowling.

LA County golf courses are closed until further notice.

Parks locations remain open as outdoor-only facilities. Park staff hours 9:30 AM - 6:00 PM.

Limited restroom availability from 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM

No group congregations at outdoor-only facilities. Social distancing is required.

Botanic gardens (except Descanso Gardens), natural areas, regional parks and lakes remain open as outdoor-only facilities during regular hours.
Park buildings & indoor facilities are closed to the public including indoor gymnasiums, computer labs, multi-purpose rooms, classrooms, aquatics centers/pools, indoor golf facilities & nature centers.

Free snack programs will continue at locations where it is currently offered with social distancing implemented during distribution.
Senior Centers are closed. The senior lunch program and activities have been suspended.

For the Senior Lunch Program, the Los Angeles County Department of Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services (WDACS) is distributing packaged and frozen meals. For locations and information, please call 1-800-510-2020 and visit https://wdacs.lacounty.gov/covid-19.

All programming is temporarily suspended, including recreational activities, indoor/outdoor sports leagues, aquatics classes, instructional courses, and group sessions.

All events and rentals are canceled. New reservations are suspended.

For the many that come from the private club and daily fee sectors, please know that this conflation matters to you too. For more than 100 years the public sector has been the great introducer, incubator, and sustainer of the game – the ongoing supplier of the generations who take up the game at tender ages when resources are meager and age into private club memberships and golf vacations – a virtuous circle of replenishment.

One in a series of continuing reports on the pandemic’s impact upon the Southern California golf community.
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