SAN JOSE, Calif. — Every day, twice a day, I walk my dogs past my local Santa Clara County muni, staring longingly at its green, empty fairways.
The course has been closed since the Bay Area's March 16 shelter-in-place order mandating the closure of all non-essential businesses. These days, I usually see a couple jogging or somebody walking a dog on the grass. On occasion, a golfer or two can't help themselves.
The entire state of California followed the Bay Area's lead March 20 to "flatten the curve." To date, there have been more than 1,500 deaths and 39,000 cases in California, according to the L.A. Times.
While golf wasn't specifically shut down statewide by Governor Gavin Newsom, many local officials at the city and county level required courses to suspend operations. The tide may be turning back in the favor of local golfers like me as long as the courses and their customers follow "social distancing" guidelines.
Three counties surrounding L.A. - Ventura and San Luis Obispo to the north and Orange County to the south - were given the green light to reopen courses earlier this week, while San Bernadino County to the east will reopen courses this weekend. The April 21 reversal in Riverside County has the potential to unlock the gates of at least 100 more golf courses in the Coachella Valley before the peak desert heat arrives. Riverside's "social distancing" mandate for golfers is unique, requiring all players wear masks.
"The trend is clear," the Southern California Golf Association noted on its blog. "Golf’s strategy in positioning itself to be among the early reintroductions post flattening of the pandemic curve turned out to be a wise one. Patience paid. Now, it’s important that wisdom prevail. If golf can execute the social distancing mandates we trumpeted, if our social distancing game is as good as our social distancing talk, we can earn the trust of a watching public and not suffer a second disruption when the inevitable second wave of the Novel Coronavirus strikes later this fall."
Around the state update
The Golden State has always been fragmented, and that's reflected in when and how courses are opening back up. GolfNow data shows that 77 percent of the state's courses were closed as of April 23. Much of the Bay Area remained on lockdown until Napa County announced that courses could open April 23.
Kern County, the location of Bakersfield in the Central Valley, started the trend April 6. Sacramento County, anchored by the state capital of Sacramento, followed the next day with nearby Placer County joining April 16. Stanislaus County gave the a-okay to courses April 22, according to the Modesto Bee. That's 10 of California's 58 counties open for golf. It's not much, but at least it's a start.
Monterey County could lift some of its "shelter in place" restrictions when its order expires May 4, which would benefit popular public golf facilities such as Pacific Grove and Bayonet & Black Horse.
Finding an open course these days is no easy trick, but Table Mountain has managed to remain so and seems to be thriving in it. They have the “social distancing “ routine well-managed: individual carts, raised hole-cups, missing bunker rakes, etc. Watching the carts being cleaned/disinfected prior to our use was a comforting sight as well.
Whether courses open is on a case by case basis. In San Luis Obispo, for example, two county munies - Morro Bay and Chalk Mountain - are open but not a third, Dairy Creek, since the El Chorro Regional Park is "to help provide shelter to our homeless population" according to the course website. "Closing the golf course was necessary to best control/limit the traffic into the park."
California golf resort updates
California's fairways aren't ready for out-of-state visitors yet. Many of California's top resort hotels are closed, as are their courses. Scheduled reopening dates from their websites are listed in parentheses. Those opening in May include:
- The Lodge at Edgewood on Lake Tahoe near the California/Nevada state line (May 1)
- Silverado Resort in Napa (May 4)
- Omni La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad (May 15)
- Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, Golf Club & Spa (May 16)
- Quail Lodge & Golf Club in Carmel Valley (May 31)
Notable California golf resorts scheduled to open in June are:
- Fairmont Grand Del Mar (June 1)
- Pebble Beach Resorts on the Monterey Peninsula (June 1)
- Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa (June 1)
- Ojai Valley Inn & Spa north of L.A. (June 8)
The Barona Resort & Casino announced that it furloughed all staff April 20 with no firm reopening date. The Rosewood CordeValle south of San Jose, Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula and the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines have yet to commit, at least publicly, to any reopening dates as well.
SoCal standouts like The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach, Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point and the Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, along with the desert trio of La Quinta Resort & Club, the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage and the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa in Palm Desert, are open with restrictions such as carry-out only restaurants and no spa or fitness services.
The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay and the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa on Del Monte Golf Course are the only major golf resort hotels currently open in NoCal.