Georgia remains one of the most open states when it comes to availability during the current health crisis.
Many of the state’s top clubs are closed, including the Atlanta Athletic Club, and the City of Atlanta closed its courses until a further time. But only one of the state-operated state parks courses are closed and many are doing a booming business.
“People didn’t have anything to do and they wanted to get outside and play golf,” said Uel Kemp, the PGA professional at Lake Arrowhead. “We’re making an effort to make it as normal as possible.”
Many facilities – among them each of the Georgia Parks courses – are open for golf only. Safety restrictions have required the clubhouses, dining facilities and bars to be closed, although many permit food and drinks to be ordered and delivered outside.
But for most courses, the tee is open. And busy.
“People have been cooped up and they don’t like it,” said Karl Gross, the PGA professional at Hard Labor. “They want to get out and once they’re on the golf course and out playing, it feels good.”
All the facilities are taking precautions to prevent the possible spread of the virus. Players often don’t even enter the pro shop, having paid for their round online or with a credit card. Staff members are diligently cleaning counter tops and doorknobs, baskets and scoops for range balls.
Golf associates earnestly sanitize each cart that goes out and comes back. Many facilities are requiring one rider per cart to assist with the social distancing component. There are wipes and hand sanitizer are omnipresent — except the heavy rough.
And, as long as there is an option to play, golfers keep taking advantage of it.
“It’s really good to see,” said Chris Asbell, PGA professional and co-owner of the Georgia Golf Center. “It seems more like May than it does March. Our lessons and club fittings haven’t slowed down at all. We’re getting 30-40 calls a day asking if we’re open. They show up and tell us it’s letting them keep their sanity.”
Golf could come a grinding halt, too, if Gov. Brian Kemp decides to impose a statewide quarantine. Georgia’s allied golf associations – the Georgia Section of the PGA of America, the Georgia State Golf Association, the Georgia Chapter of Golf Course Superintendents Association of America and the Georgia Chapter of Club Management Association of America – have made a unified appeal to keep courses open and exempt from any shutdown.
The governor’s executive order mandates no gathering of 10 or more people. But golf courses may remain open, since the participants are spread out over hundreds of acres and social distancing is not a problem. Tournaments are out – the Georgia State Golf Association has postponed all competitions through May 15 – but so far it’s OK for individuals to tee it up.