On a day Illinois Governor JB Pritzker extended the state’s stay-at-home order through May, golfers got the green light to return to the greens.
“We were pleased,” said Robert Markionni, executive director of Chicago District Golf Association. “Taking golf courses from a non-essential business to what would be considered open recreational areas and putting it in same class as state parks we think is a good positive first step in reopening the game of golf.”
Starting May 1st, golfers can practice putts while still practicing social distancing and adhering to the Illinois Department of commerce and economic opportunity’s strict safety guidelines.
“No touching of the flag sticks, removal of rakes, limiting the number of people per hour that can play – there will probably be a list of items like that,” Markionni said. “I think the most important thing is getting the golf courses reopened. It’s a good first step in the process and it will be steps. I think we’d all like to throw the proverbial switch and say, ‘let’s just go back and do it.’ But given the way everything is in the world right now, we see this as a first step and hopefully golfers, golf courses, everybody will comply with the regulations and we will be able to ease some of the regulations as time goes forward.”
The full slate of rules and regulations have not been released, yet. Markionni believes most course employees will return in a staggered fashion, with restrictions at clubhouses, pro shops and restaurants on site. The state could also issue a guideline restricting golfers to play in pairs or as singles, with foursomes not allowed.
With courses open in Indiana and scheduled to tee off Friday in Wisconsin, pressure mounted for Springfield to do the same. A change.org petition titled “Let Illinois Golf” has more than 16,000 signatures.
“When you do look at the game of golf, it’s played outdoors, there’s some social distancing that just happens with the game. I believe the governor mentioned the other day, when you get into May and you see the warmer weather, I think it’s a logical conclusion to look at golf being considered an open recreation area. We are pleased they looked at everything and came to that conclusion.”
So while Illinois residents hunker down for another month, golfers can at least resume doing what they love.
Careful, of course, to still avoid those bunkers.