After an overall mild winter and what has been early-than-expected cooperative spring weather conditions, Maine golf courses, especially in the southern portion of the state and at least one in the Midcoast, had opened for the season.

That made those who love to tee it up — and ready to get out of the house and outdoors — excited to play.

However, golfers will have to put their clubs and shoes back in the automobile trunk and wait a bit longer to get out on the course.

That is because Governor Janet Mills announced on Tuesday, March 31 a new executive order that added golf courses to the “non-essential” lists of businesses that must close due to the on-going global COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

State courses previously had petitioned for, and received, "essential business status" under the previous order. However, the new order supersedes previous designations.

That means courses that had opened must close until Friday, May 1 and those that had not opened for the season must stay closed until that time.

The Rockland Golf Club had been one Midcoast course that opened in recent days and saw play, but now must close, like all Maine courses.

The RGC website had the following information for the short time the course was able to be open, stating that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rules applied to customers. "Most important is social distancing and no gathering of people in the parking lot, putting green or first tee. Buildings are locked and closed. No rest rooms available so come prepared."

Payments were being taken by phone and there was no human interaction except by golfers who were instructed to practice social distancing as they played hole to hole

On the golf course, there were no typical holes cut in the greens and flag sticks were not suppose to be touched or taken out by golfers. Balls chipped or putted on a green hit a hole barrier, were deemed having been "holed," and then were picked up by the player.

In an email to members, guests and greens fee players, RGC board members provided the following information on Wednesday, April 1:

"Well, we tried to open three weeks before we normally do due to the good weather we had in March. We did this with good intentions as we applied for an essential service request designation and we were approved at the time to operate as a nonessential business as long as we abided by the CDC rules.

"Now all that has changed as the governor, Janet Mills, announced a new executive order that added golf courses to the non-essential lists of businesses. She has shut all non-essential businesses down. The new order supersedes all previous designations and with the new order we are required to shut down until May 1. The state is trying to be very aggressive in slowing down this worldwide pandemic."

The statement added: "We know a lot of people say, well the golf course is the safest place to be, when actually some, not all experts, say it might not be. We are not experts in handling a worldwide pandemic so we are going by the rules set forth by the federal government, CDC, [Word Health Organization] and the state."

Club officials had communicated with government officials the past two weeks and the club heard directly from the governor's office and the department of economic and community development and they have mandated, by executive order, for all golf courses to be closed as of 12:01 a.m. on Thursday April 2. If non-essential businesses do not pay attention to this it is punishable up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine and will be enforced."

The statement added, "Rockland Golf Club is doing what is in the best interest of all of our members and the general public. Safety to the members, public and employees is our first and foremost concern. We are not allowing anyone on the property even for walking so as we don't have the whole city walking and walking there dog as a park or dog park. We are waiting to hear back from the state to see if they allow the golf course to be maintained so as of right now this is in question and can change at any minute.

"The golf course, clubhouse and parking lot are closed until new notice is given. We encourage all to respect the order and stay home to prevent further spread. By taking these steps now we hope it will allow us to reopen sooner and will provide a significant benefit [to] those who are the most susceptible to the virus."

From the National Golf Foundation, via the Maine State Golf Association website: "In light of the developing coronavirus situation, the National Golf Foundation has turned its attention as an organization to studying the human and business impacts of this pandemic on golf."

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