On Monday, golfers throughout New Hampshire finally got out onto the golf courses.
New Hampshire became the last state in the country to allow golf courses to be opened for play. Golf courses in the state had been closed since March 27, although course maintenance crews were still allowed to work — a task that was deemed essential.
Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire were the final three New England states to allow courses to open after weeks of petitioning the governors and pleading the case for why golf should be allowed to be open for play during the COVID-19 concerns.
Monday was the final piece to the puzzle and it was almost like the weather forecast knew just how the recent weeks had transpired in the New England golf community.
For those on the courses in the early afternoon, the rain came down, emblematic of the storm caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The weather did not stop Andrew and AJ Robichaud from playing 18 holes at Hilltop Golf Course in Peterborough. The father-and-son duo played 10 of the holes in the rain and said it was the best day ever, according to Hilltop Golf Course owner Annie Card.
But right around 3:30 p.m. the rain stopped, and the sun finally came out.
“People were just really happy to get out. They’re always happy to get out but I really feel like this is a special day,” Card said. “Not because golf is the most important thing, but it’s important that people get together if we can do it safely.”
While golf is back, the precautions are evident to those out playing on the course. It is not golf as people have been accustomed to over the years.
“The only difference for me is I usually like putting with the flag out,” golfer Andrew McIlvene said as he played Keene’s Bretwood Golf Course Monday afternoon. “But what can you do? I have not played enough holes to say how I can really gauge it. There’s times the putt could go in, but it hits off and is a little too firm and bounces out of it.”
Leaving the flagstick in the hole while putting used to result in a penalty prior to 2019. The United States Golf Association removed that rule last year, giving players the option of leaving the flagstick in or taking it out. For now, there’s no choice of taking it out.
In addition to the cups being raised and flagsticks left in, there were no bunker rakes visible at Bretwood, part of the precautions being taken. There were also no benches, water stations or ball washers that golfers have become accustomed to over the years.
While golfers were being encouraged to walk the course, access to carts was permitted — albeit just for single riders. After each cart was returned, the course had a setup for them to be sanitized right away. The key to the golf cart was already in the key slot, all the golfer had to do was step on the gas pedal and he or she was off.
The clubhouse was open for bathroom access only at Bretwood. There was no gathering around the pro shop like golfers may have been accustomed to in the past.
It is evident that the social aspect of golfing has been limited, at least for now. While true, golf is back and nobody on the course was arguing if that was good or bad.
The National Golf Foundation expects more than 90 percent of courses to be open throughout the country by May 17.
“In order for us to stay open and not risk shutting down, we have to follow the rules,” Card said. “It’s for everybody’s safety. People are showing up with masks on. They don’t need to wear them on the course but they know they have to have them on to come in and use the restrooms. Everybody has been compliant. There haven’t been any issues.”