Read the new coronavirus rules for golf courses in Massachusetts

"Flag sticks must remain in the hole."

Chestnut Hill, MA - 4/09/2020 - Spectators take in the view from Quincy, MA Granite Links Golf Course during the Massachusetts National Guard 104th Fighter Wing Flyover Boston in show of support during COVID-19 pandemic.  -  (Barry Chin/Globe Staff), Section:  Metro, Reporter:  Globe Staff, LOID:  5eb2d88828b7a241a4f0fff4.
Spectators take in the view from the Granite Links Golf Course in Quincy during the Massachusetts National Guard flyover Wednesday. –Barry Chin / The Boston Globe

Golf is back in Massachusetts, but only under strict conditions.

Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration updated its emergency rules Thursday to allow golfers to return to the links during the coronavirus outbreak, as the state begins easing certain nonessential services.

The experience won’t be like the typical 18 holes.

According to the state’s website, golf courses are still prohibited from having any employees present, besides staff for security purposes. Payments must be taken online or over the phone. And club facilities, from pro shops to restaurants, are required to remain closed. Tee times will also have to be spaced out by 15 minutes, and groups will be limited to four players, among other social distancing measures on the course — which the security personnel will enforce.

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While staff are required to wear a face covering, the rules do not mention masks for players. However, Baker’s statewide order requiring people to wear face coverings in public whenever they can’t maintain six feet of distance from others took effect Wednesday.

The new guidelines come after Massachusetts became the only state in the country on Wednesday that hadn’t moved to allow golf courses to reopen — and some local course owners were beginning to get restless. Baker noted Thursday that Massachusetts has been working to coordinate its general reopening plans with other northeastern states.

“We basically took a model that was being used in several of the states around us … and applied it,” he said.

Read the updated guidelines, which took effect immediately, below:

Are golf courses considered essential? NO

  • Golf courses are not essential businesses and cannot have employees working on-premise. Notwithstanding this restriction, essential services, such as groundskeeping to avoid hazardous conditions and security, provided by employees, contractors, or vendors are permitted.
  • Private operators of golf courses may permit individuals access to the property so long as there are no gatherings of any kind, appropriate social distancing of six feet between individuals is strictly followed, and the business operator and golfers abide by the specific guidelines for golf courses outlined below.
  • Municipalities may decide to open municipal courses under these guidelines, if they so choose.
  • The specific guidelines for golf courses are:
    • Security personnel can be delineated by each club (ex. a pro and the head starter) and will be present to enforce social distancing. There can be no other employees working at the recreational component of the golf operation.
    • All staff must wear face coverings while on the property
    • Club facilities including but not limited to the club house, pro shop, restaurant, bag room and locker room must remain closed
    • No caddies allowed
    • No golf carts allowed
    • Push carts may be used. Players must either carry their own bag or use a push cart
    • All golfers must maintain proper social distancing of at least 6 feet at all times
    • Groups of players are restricted to no more than 4 players at one time.
    • Members-only clubs can allow guests as determined by the security personnel on the golf course
    • Private clubs that allow non-members to make reservations can do so at their discretion
    • Maintenance personnel are permitted to work on the golf course
    • Tee Time Policy must be 15 minutes between groups
    • Golfers must stay in their car until 15 minutes before their tee time and must return to their car immediately following play
    • Online and remote payment options must be utilized
    • All golfers must use their own golf clubs. Sharing golf clubs or rental golf clubs is not allowed.
    • Flag sticks must remain in the hole. Hole liners must be raised so picking a ball out of the hole doesn’t occur
    • Bunker rakes must be removed, and ball washers must be removed or covered.
    • Practice putting green, driving range, and chipping areas must be closed.
    • Facilities must have readily accessible hand sanitizer
For more information, the United States Golf Association has issued guidance on how these sort of restrictions may affect playing rules and scoring.

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