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Golf is no longer essential, New York State says

First, people questioned why golfing was an essential business. Now people are wondering why it's not.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's latest revision of Covid-19-related business rules deems golf a nonessential enterprise. Public and private golf courses were required to close Thursday, per the governor's New York State PAUSE executive order.

Also Thursday, the governor deemed boat launches and marinas for recreational vessels nonessential.

Steven Bartkowski is executive director of the Professional Golfers' Association's Western New York chapter, which has its offices at Glen Oak Golf Club in East Amherst.

"We want to be part of the solution, not the problem, so we respect any ordinance that comes down whether it's state or federal," he said.

Until Thursday, Glen Oak and other golf courses in Western New York had remained open, following social distancing and other protocols outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as ordered by the state.

Under those protocols, golfers were required to stay 6 feet apart, refrain from shaking hands before and after games, leave the flagstick in the hole, not share clubs and have one person per cart.

Pro shops, locker rooms and indoor facilities were closed. Course restaurants and bars were closed except for takeout.

Some golf courses, despite being allowed to remain open, opted to close for employee and golfer safety. Courses that remained open saw renewed interest from people eager to get outdoors.

"I can tell you from a PGA standpoint, it's inspiring to see the demand for golf and how much people love it," Bartkowski said. "Whenever we're all back and healthy and Covid is out of here, I think golf is going to be stronger than ever."

Crews are still permitted to maintain golf courses so that they'll be ready to go once courses are given permission to reopen, Bartkowski said.

An earlier round of guidance did not include specifics about golf courses, leaving golfers confused. That led the governor's office to revise the order with more details allowing golf courses to remain open. Thursday's revision overturned the previous guidance.

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