With Maine golf courses set to open Friday, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts are the three New England states with courses still closed and no set date to resume play.
While it’s true the return of golf in New Hampshire may be around the corner, with limitations, there is still no set date for that return.
Gov. Chris Sununu said in an interview with N.H. Public Radio that the state will be taking a phased-in business approach. In Maine, opening golf courses was part of phase one in reopening its businesses and, according to Bretwood Golf Course Manager Chuck Shortsleeve, he is anticipating that to be the same case in the Granite State.
A state task force is expected to be making recommendations on the first steps to bring the economy back to life this week, Sununu said in a news conference Monday. Shortsleeve believes the stay-at-home order may be extended past May 4, the current date. Maine’s stay-at-home order, recently extended to May 31, did not impact the reopening of golf courses, providing hope for New Hampshire courses even if Gov. Sununu extends the stay-at-home order date.
The big deterrent to opening the courses has not been New Hampshire itself. On Tuesday, Massachusetts reported single-day totals of 1,840 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 150 deaths caused by the disease. To put those numbers into perspective, New Hampshire has had in total 2,010 confirmed cases and 60 deaths related to COVID-19 according to the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services.
“Based on everything I’ve heard from people in the know, he’s very concerned about Massachusetts not opening and everybody from Mass. coming up here with people that potentially have coronavirus,” Shortsleeve said. “If Mass. opened today, [Gov. Sununu] would probably open this afternoon.”
The N.H. Golf Association, N.H. Golf Course Superintendent Association, National Golf Course Owners Association, Professional Golfers Association of America, Professional Golfers Association New England Section and Professional Golfers Association New England Section New Hampshire Chapter have all collaborated together during this time to determine the best way to move forward with the golfing season.
In a PDF on the N.H. Golf Association website, it states that golf is “good for people, good for the Granite State.” The association points to golf burning calories, preventing chronic illnesses, stimulating the economy, giving back to the community, providing developmental programs for the youth, providing jobs, boosting tourism and being accessible and inclusive to the public as reasons to why golf should be allowed during this time period.
The PDF also dives deep into the proposed phase approach to the reopening, found at the N.H. Golf Association website. Some expected limitations will include people having to call in and pay for whatever they want ahead of time, including food and drinks. There also is not expected to be alcohol served during the early phase of reopening the courses, according to Shortsleeve. Bretwood is planning to offer takeout service and will also allow bathroom access in a limited capacity.
Shortsleeve said the goal is to have golfers park, play their round of golf and then head back home.
It is not a question of whether the courses are ready.
“I have been here pretty regularly; we are maintaining the golf course daily. It is probably the best it has been in a while because nobody has been using it. All the grass is cut, and all the greens are ready. We are ready for folks to come in. We are just going to have to do some social distancing. That is going to require some work on our part, but we are willing to do it. We want to get open.”