New changes coming to golf courses amid pandemic; governors give green light to golf

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The governors of Minnesota and Wisconsin have both eased restrictions on golf course openings due to COVID-19 concerns, but the game is making new safety changes.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz will allow courses in the state to open early Saturday morning, but Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers will wait until next Friday.

"It was kind of a little shocking, we weren't quite expecting to go this early, it moved quickly to excitement," said Ken Bramhall, PGA Professional at Clifton Highlands Golf Course in Prescott, Wis.

The phones have been ringing off the hook, Bramhall said, with golfers wanting to know details about their opening date and changes to the course.

"The conversations have been a little longer than normal, people are looking to get educated,” Bramhall said. “Kind of realizing that golf can be done in a nice, socially distancing atmosphere.”

Gov. Walz announces golf courses to reopen and expansion of outdoor recreation amid COVID-19 pandemic

Golf courses are removing “touch-points” that you normally find on the course due to COVID-19.

In the past, golfers always pulled the flagstick from the hole when on the green to putt but that will change at some courses.

The flagsticks will remain in a new raised cup on the green that the ball must strike, eliminating the need for golfers to touch anything.

"The ball never actually falls in the cup, you get this nice satisfying click when it hits the cup,” said Mike Hau, a safety consultant with “The ball bounces away from the cup, and you go and scoop it up with the putter and go to the next tee."

Hau was brought in to help at Clifton Highlands and others in western Wisconsin and Minnesota courses to help adapt to new state guidelines.

"We're taking away the benches, the ball-washers, all those other touchpoints of contact,” Hau said. “To make sure we are part of the solution and not the problem.”

Wisconsin COVID-19 Golf Rules:

  • Motorized golf carts can’t be used.
  • Only online or phone booking for tee times and paying greens fees.
  • Pro Shops and Clubhouses must remain closed to limit any person–to-person contact.
  • Social distancing on the course is suggested by the Governor’s order unless the players live in the same home.
  • Course restaurants can open if they provide take-out and not sit-down service.
  • Driving ranges must remain closed.

"Just excited to have golf back here soon and really appreciative of the governor's efforts," said Rob Jansen, Executive Director of Wisconsin State Golf Association. "It's a seasonal business, dependant on the weather and we finally had a spring with some really nice days, unfortunately the courses couldn't open and that was a challenge for them."