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Golf courses in Massachusetts can open, effective immediately

The announcement comes days after two golf courses in central Massachusetts announced plans to defy Baker's stay-at-home order and open for play.

A worker at The Golf Club at Turner Hill
A worker on The Golf Club at Turner Hill in Ipswich on Wednesday. Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Golf courses in Massachusetts are permitted to open, effective immediately, according to an announcement from Mass Golf.

“During extraordinary times, such as the current global pandemic, we all will be guided in decision making with the information provided by public health and government authorities,” read the statement.

According to the announcement, golf courses are not essential businesses and cannot have employees working on-site, but groundskeeping and security is permitted.

“Private operators of 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. Municipalities may decide to open municipal courses under these guidelines if they so choose.”

Staff must wear face coverings, and no caddies, carts, or rental clubs will be permitted, according to safety guidelines published by Mass Golf. Practice areas and indoor facilities, including restaurants and clubhouses, must remain closed, and facilities must have “readily accessible” hand sanitizer.

The announcement comes days after two golf courses in central Massachusetts announced plans to defy Baker’s stay-at-home order and open for play. Cara Cullen, who owns Kettle Brook Golf Club in Paxton and Wachusett Country Club in Boylston, told Fox News on Monday that her courses would open.

An email from Kettle Brook Golf Club sent Wednesday night announced that the course would reopen Friday and outlined its “COVID 19 course procedures.”

Among other guidelines, only the golf course will be open, players will wait in their cars until 15 minutes before their tee time, carts will only be available to single riders, and golf course set up “will be minimal.” Any player who does not follow proper social distancing guidelines will be asked to leave.

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As of Thursday morning, both courses had tee times available starting Friday, despite a notice on their websites that “out of an abundance of caution for our patrons and in line with governor Charlie Baker […] we are suspending business at this time.”

Massachusetts was the last state in the country to announce an end date to its ban on golf. Vermont and Maryland announced Wednesday that golf courses could reopen Thursday, and New Hampshire courses are set to open May 11.

Cullen, who owns the courses alongside her brothers, was not the only one urging Baker to allow golf. Franklin resident Joe Marin started a petition asking Baker to reopen the state’s courses that gathered more than 42,000 signatures as of Thursday morning.

The Alliance of Massachusetts Golf Organizations has been working since March for golf to be deemed essential, and on May 3 released a statement following a meeting with the state’s reopening advisory board, saying they “hope to hear soon that golf can resume in the Commonwealth under the established guidelines presented.”

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