Massachusetts golf organizations Requests NEW Amendments & Clarifications
FOR GOLF COURSES
The Alliance of Massachusetts Golf Organizations (AMGO) is publicly releasing its proposed amendments and clarifications for golf courses that would allow the Massachusetts golf industry to be in alignment with surrounding states and gain inclusion into the state’s phased re-opening plan.
Though golf was permitted to resume as a safe recreational activity on May 7, the entire industry in Massachusetts is currently lagging behind other states, and as a result is having negative effects on clubs as summer approaches. All golf guidelines have been limited to the FAQ essential services page on the Mass.Gov website with no timeline or specific plans for relaxing them and getting more staff members back to work.
As a result, AMGO has been petitioning that golf be afforded the same considerations as other industries that have been deemed essential. Such has been done in New York, a close and comparable regional hot spot.
On May 15, a list of clarifications and necessary amendments was sent to Governor Charlie Baker’s Administration. From that list, only the areas related to golf carts and additional staffing were addressed.
Therefore, AMGO is continuing to seek immediate adjustments and clarifications when it comes to allowing access to driving ranges, practice areas, clubhouses, restrooms, shorter tee time intervals, all of which are specifically mentioned in other states’ re-opening plans.
Scroll down to see the proposals, plus quotes from members of the golf community who have experienced the impact of these guidelines first hand.
AMGO is currently seeking immediate clarification on restroom access, as the only current guideline stated is that clubhouses and locker rooms must be closed. The organization has proposed regular sanitation and a one person in, one person out policy.
Example: Rhode Island’s policy is as follows: “Restrooms may be used, but locker rooms, lounge areas, spas, must otherwise be closed. Restrooms must be cleaned frequently throughout the day.”
AMGO is proposing three immediate amendments: Allow courses to reduce the minimum tee time intervals from 15 minutes down to 10 minutes, allow more options for cup/hole modifications, and allow facilities to open practice areas and driving ranges with proper social distancing guidelines in place.
• Tee Times: Ten minutes is currently the interval used in Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island. Social distancing can be easily accomplished under this time interval; golfers are spaced over 300-500 yards per hole.
• Cup Modifications: Currently, the Massachusetts policy requires the flagstick to stay in and that “hole liners must be raised,” whereas other states, like Rhode Island, provide options and specifically state, “Cup should be raised, lined, flipped or otherwise modified to prevent touching by players.” These methods still protect player and staff safety.
• Practice Areas/Driving Ranges: Practice areas/driving ranges can safely re-open, so long as they are monitored by staff and sanitized regularly. The same goes for driving ranges, where golfers can be spread out at least 6-to-8 feet apart, and capacity can be managed.
Jesse Menachem, Executive Director/CEO Mass Golf "While we appreciate the initial attention to opening golf as a safe recreational activity we are now well behind our colleagues and peers regionally and nationally and we believe that he golf industry must be considered essential as we app[roach the busiest time of the season."
Jennifer Webster O’Connor, Owner of Holly Ridge Golf Club & PGA Professional
“The practice range is an integral part of our golf operation with a noticeable economic impact to our business. Opening ranges and practice facilities also opens up an outdoor recreational activity for those who can’t get out onto the golf course (can’t get a tee time, physically challenged, juniors who aren’t course ready yet). It would expand the ability for more people to be outside in a regulated and safe environment. We have addressed the distancing and sanitizing concerns for both staff and customers and are prepared to open safely.”
Dave Frem, General Manager of Cyprian Keyes Golf Club
“We are certainly pleased that golf courses have re-opened, but we are still operating under restrictions and guidelines that are too onerous. Lengthy tee time intervals, no driving ranges, late acknowledgment of the necessity of carts, and other restrictions are overly burdensome to golf courses yet do not provide any additional safety measures. Many of the guidelines and restrictions can be lifted or relaxed without compromising the safety and health of either golfers or golf course staff. Golf is a fun, safe, and healthy outdoor activity for people of all ages and should be considered an essential business with guidelines that makes sense for everyone.”
AMGO has also seeking to have a pair of amendments specifically included in the state’s Four-Phase Approach Reopening Plan. Those amendments are to reintegrate caddies into operation and to allow for food & beverage operations to resume.
• Caddies: Under the current FAQs, caddies are not allowed. AMGO is proposing a plan to allow for non-bag carrying caddies, who never touch equipment and/or allow caddies to drive single-rider carts, but not touch equipment. Forecaddies, who are always 200 yards ahead of the group playing, should also be included.
• Food & Beverage: AMGO is also asking for on-course food & beverage operations, such as halfway shacks and beverage carts be opened for take-out and required to be monitored and sanitized regularly. Currently, “golf courses may offer no-contact take-out of food to be consumed off premises.” AMGO is asking that these operations be treated similarly to restaurant industries.
Colin McGuire, Executive Director of Francis Ouimet Fund
“Incorporating caddie programs in a safe way would help continue a long and valuable tradition in Massachusetts. The opportunity to caddie is one that is important to many, serving as summer employment, forging important relationships with mentors and a value to tens of thousands of golfers who take caddies in the state. The Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund has a particular affinity for caddies as 56% of our financial need-based college scholarship recipients are eligible as caddies.”
Elaine Gebhardt, Executive Director of New England Golf Course Owners Association
“ The golf industry is the victim of many inconsistencies in the Phased Opening here in the Commonwealth. Looking at the Guidelines for Parks, Open Spaces, and Outdoor Educations Programs – we can see how golf instruction would easily match the guidelines for Outdoor Education Programs – but driving ranges need to be opened as the venues for our programs and more. Similarly, beaches have opened in Phase 1 and include access to restroom facilities. Utilizing a restroom can be seen as a human necessity during a 4+ hour round of golf (plus commuting time to/from the golf course). So beachgoers have restroom access but golfers don’t. It doesn’t make sense. These are just two examples of where the administration already has approved language in place for other sectors that can easily be applied to our industry and it is frustrating that it isn’t happening.”
Northeast State by State Comparison of Guidelines Requiring Further Attention
*All data captured from each State’s official Government website citing guidelines related to golf.
More feedback from AMGO & Mass Golf Industry Reps
Mike Higgins, Executive Director of New England PGA
“Golf has proven to be a safe recreational activity not only in Massachusetts but throughout New England. We have seen that golfers can remain socially distanced at facilities with 10 minute starting times and while utilizing practice facilities. think it is time for golf to be deemed an essential business in Massachusetts and the guidelines need to change to reflect that.”
Greg Howell, Manager of Operations for New England Golf Association
“In our communications with our allies in each of the six New England States and across the northeast, we are deeply concerned about the status of golf in Massachusetts. While we continue to see measured, reasonable and safe guidelines implemented across New England and New York, Massachusetts started late and is falling further behind. The golf courses across the Bay State are filled with talented staff members that are more than capable of providing a safe and healthy environment for this recreational activity that so many love. To hamstring these owners/operators is a direct hit to their abilities and their passion for the game and it is a disservice their members, guests, and coworkers.”
Richard Luff, President of Sagamore Golf, Inc.
“The golf season in New England is very short. Arbitrary and inconsistent restrictions placed on operators is unfair and is a major threat to the viability of golf courses throughout the region. If industry-approved, common-sense measures are not allowed to be enacted immediately, many golf courses will not be reopening in 2021. Golf courses provide a fun, safe, and highly regulated ESSENTIAL outdoor activity for all ages.”
The Alliance of Massachusetts Golf Organizations (AMGO) is made up of golf industry representatives from the state of Massachusetts working collectively to advocate for golf course owners/operators and golfers and to illustrate the tremendous importance that the golf industry has to the Commonwealth and its citizens.
The Bay State golf economy stands as an industry leader in generating jobs, driving visitors to our state, keeping manufacturing local, giving back to charitable causes, taking care of our environment and providing a fun and safe active past time for people of all ages and skill levels.
New England Section of the PGA of America
New England Golf Course Owners Association
Golf Course Superintendents Association of New England
Golf Course Superintendents Association of Cape Cod
New England Chapter, Club Management Association of
New England Golf Association
Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund
May 29, 2020