Two North Jersey lawmakers are asking Gov. Phil Murphy to reopen golf courses in New Jersey during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a joint statement issued April 20, State Senator Steve Oroho and Assemblyman Hal Wirths said they believe golfing can safely resume as long as social distancing measures are taken.
As part of a statewide effort to curb the spread of coronavirus, public and private golf courses were among the non-essential businesses mandated to close by Gov. Phil Murphy. New Jersey, now in its second month of a near-lockdown state, is battling one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the country, with more than 85,300 cases and 4,200 deaths.
After pointing out that New York and Connecticut recently decided to keep golf courses open—as long as certain rules are followed, such as golfers carrying their own bags—the senators said they’d like to see similar in New Jersey.
Oroho said, “We need to start to plan for our economic recovery from this pandemic. Essential businesses have proven that it is possible to operate with some common-sense limits to protect the health and safety of workers and patrons.”
“We must start looking at other industries where we can safely open with appropriate safeguards, like golfing, or we put the long-term viability of these businesses in jeopardy,” the state senator stated.
Wirths said golfing gives people an opportunity to participate in a responsible exercise that can be done while abiding by CDC guidelines.
“Golf is a safe sport that gives people the opportunity to play outside in the fresh air and maintain social distancing,” said Wirths. “People can pay golf fees online, tee times can be staggered, and reasonable restrictions could allow the industry to start earning some money again while giving people a chance to play a sport they love.
Reopen May 1?
The New Jersey Golf Course Owners Association asked Murphy to reconsider and reopen the courses by May 1.
The group recently sent the governor a letter outlining guidelines that the state’s 300 golf courses would follow if they were allowed to reopen. Some of those measures include requiring golfers to walk, maintaining social distancing on the course, modifying driving rangers to ensure separation and having staff wear gloves and masks.
Governor Defends Closures
Over the past few weeks, Murphy has been urged by some lawmakers to reopen New Jersey’s parks, golf courses and ease some of his stay-at-home executive orders.
Oroho and Wirths, along with Assemblyman Parker Space, were among those who called for Murphy to rescind his order closing all county and state parks during the outbreak.
During a recent daily COVID-19 media briefing, Murphy said he’s had many “constructive and polite back-and-forths” about the fate of parks and golf courses recently, but that he believes the closures will “keep people safe, keep them out of the hospitals and ultimately, keep them alive.”