ST. PAUL — Golf courses around the state got some good news Wednesday, though they still remain closed.
As part of the executive order Gov. Tim Walz will sign to extend the stay-at-home order in Minnesota to May 4, golf course grounds crew workers now will be able to maintain their courses. Previously, individual government entities had to declare golf course employees essential, as Ramsey County had done.
Now, all courses can be properly maintained even while they remain closed. Golfers and courses around the state continue to hope Walz eventually will include golf on the list of approved outdoor activities, as is the case for many states, but that has yet to happen. That’s not to say it won’t. Walz said there is a mechanism in this executive order that allows him to be strategic in determining what can open and when over the next month.
Last week, Mark McCabe, the director of Ramsey County’s Parks and Recreation department, said the county and other golf operators continue to have communication with the governor’s office. McCabe said his department was “putting together a modified service delivery plan” that potentially could alleviate those areas of congestion. That plan could include keeping clubhouses closed, collecting payments in advance via pre-reservations, reducing the number of people out at a given tee time, spacing out tee times and even limiting each cart to one person.
Walz continues to listen and evaluate.
“This hasn’t been done before, so we’re learning, listening and being smart about it,” Walz said.
“I’m being very cognizant about hearing people when they’re asking and saying, ‘This activity should work.’ Please keep working with us on this.”
Walz said he has been approached by people who want boat storage facilities to be able to open for a day so people can go in and, one by one, get their boats out.
“That makes great sense. That’s what we should be doing — smartly, make sure there’s protocols, how do we do it,” he said. “Same thing with the golf. I know people are saying, ‘Wow, what an elitist thing to worry about’ or whatever. Well, people, if it’s their activity, there’s an economic activity associated with it, and there’s also mental health associated with it. We’re trying to look across the whole spectrum. It’s not going to be a typical summer, but I’m envisioning, if we get this right, where we’re not driving people all over, we’re being somewhat courteous of one another … we’re going to have to think about it and we’re going to have to keep working together.”
Letting course employees do course maintenance means courses can be ready for play as soon as they’re allowed to open. Greens and fairways need to be kept to a certain length so they don’t turn into fields, and courses need to be watched to avoid overgrowing and, as the season progresses, disease.
“We do think that there are many (businesses) out there — mowing of the golf courses being one of those — that fit social distancing,” Walz said. “That make sense to get things going.”