MERIDEN — Hunter Memorial Golf Course is scheduled to reopen Tuesday one month after the city closed the municipal course because some visitors weren’t complying with social distancing guidelines.
Players will be able to golf in groups of up to four at the course, which will be enforcing social distancing requirements and requiring that players call ahead for a tee time.
The reopening, happening amid stay-at-home messaging from local and state government, is allowed by an executive order issued by Gov. Ned Lamont deeming golf courses as essential businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.
While Lamont’s order opens the door for courses to operate during the pandemic, it’s up to individual courses to remain open or not. Some courses around the state, particularly those in Fairfield County, are closed while others have remained open throughout the pandemic.
Meriden closed Hunter at the end of last month because some players were gathering in the parking lot after golfing before deciding to reopen this week.
“This wasn’t necessarily our decision to open (the golf course) before we open other businesses,” Mayor Kevin Scarpati said in an interview. “It’s something that is allowed to be open per the governor's executive order, and there are many other courses across the state that have remained open throughout this entire time.”
Whether the state determines golf courses are essential isn’t up to the city, Scarpati said.
“Whether or not I agree that it should be essential, similar to package stores being essential, some of this stuff is just out of our control,” Scarpati said.
States have adopted different policies on golf courses during the pandemic, leading golfers in some cases to cross state lines to try to fit in 18 holes.
When Meriden’s course ran into issues with players not socially distancing last month, Scarpati said the course wasn’t equipped yet with enough staff to fully monitor and enforce the guidelines.
As part of its plan to reopen, the course will have additional staff on hand to monitor the course and parking lot, Scarpati said. The course will also be requiring players to book a tee time in advance and those tee times will be spread out about 16 minutes apart, double the standard eight-minute gap, to promote distancing among groups.
“Like our parks, there’s enough space, and the limited number of people that are allowed to play at a time lends itself to social distancing,” Scarpati said.
Foursomes don’t violate the state’s social distancing requirements, which prohibit gatherings of more than five people, Scarpati noted. Players within each group will be encouraged to keep their distance from one another, just as visitors at the city’s parks have been in past weeks.
“You’re not allowed to be in groups of four and hold hands as you walk down the fairway,” Scarpati said.
In a Facebook post announcing the reopening, the course laid out several preventative measures that will be in place to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Those include keeping the course’s locker rooms, clubhouse, and pro shops closed, and manipulating putting green cups “in a way that the ball will be easily retrieved.”
The course will not be allowing carts initially and is recommending “a face covering be worn while in the parking lot, pro shop or practice green area.”