Illinois golf courses are allowed to open — but with restrictions

To play golf, or not to play golf — that’s been a hot topic around lots of states during this coronavirus pandemic. In Illinois – especially since the recent snowfall has melted and temperatures have climbed over 60 degrees — it’s created confusion that was somewhat cleared up with a statement by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity that was made available to some media members on Wednesday.

Yes, courses are allowed to remain open, according to the amended statement issued on Tuesday night. Prior to that a Governor’s Executive Order ruled that the courses should be closed until April 7. Not all courses abided by that ruling, however, and many across the state accepted players. Private clubs and public venues in Central Illinois were particularly defiant of the original Governor’s Executive Order.

As of Wednesday courses could legally open, subject to the following conditions:

The clubhouse must remain closed and only online or telephone scheduling and payment of tee times is allowed.

Food and beverage service, including food or beverage cart service, cannot be provided. The use of carts by golfers won’t be allowed, either. Rounds will be walking-only.

Driving ranges will be closed due to concerns about social distancing and use of shared equipment. Golfers and course staff must also observe social distancing guidelines.

Those regulations were passed on to Illinois golf industry leaders on Tuesday night via a Coronavirus Update put out by the Allied Golf Association. That group encompasses the Illinois Section of the Professional Golfers Association of America, the Chicago District Golf Association, the Midwest Association of Golf Course Superintendents and the Greater Chicago Chapter of the Club Management Association of America.

Until that statement was issued all the states bordering Illinois were allowing courses to open. In a strange twist on Wednesday, once the Illinois courses were allowed to open course operators in Wisconsin were informed that the state’s governor, Tony Evers, had ordered all the courses in that state to close.

With temperatures hitting 60 degrees, Wisconsin’s golf professionals weren’t happy about that. One reported he had “a full tee sheet from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m…..What am I going to do? Call them all and tell them not to come?’’

Some Chicago area courses haven’t opened at all yet, and the status of each course is different. Players are advised to call ahead to make sure a course is open or a tee time is available.

“Everybody has a different operation,’’ said Bob Malpede, general manager at White Deer Run in Vernon Hills. “Because we’re also a restaurant we do have curbside (food service).’’

Nearby Pine Meadow, in Mundelein, began an aerification project on its greens after the initial Governor’s Executive Order, which didn’t allow the courses to be open. Now that play is allowed, Pine Meadows’ greens will be closed and pins with be placed in the fairways. Green fees will be dropped to $15 until the greens are put back in play again. In addition to the driving range being closed the only restrooms available will be in the clubhouse, with one person using them at a time.

Players should also anticipate courses in need of more maintenance work. The only maintenance in progress is considered “Minimum Basic Operations.’’

Many of the courses will use versions of elevated cups in their hole placements to keep players from putting their hands into the holes.

The biggest public facility in the Chicago area, 72-hole Cog Hill in Lemont, will have its Nos. 1 and 3 courses open. Mistwood, home of the Illinois Women’s Open in Romeoville, is considering opening later in the week as are Naperville courses Naperbrook and Springbrook. Village Greens, of Woodridge, could open as early as this weekend.

The change in the Governor’s Executive Order was a surprise, and other courses are debating when to allow play. Poplar Creek, in Hoffman Estates, plans to open on Sunday (MARCH 29) and it’ll be a day later for Prairie Landing, in West Chicago.

Cantigny, in Wheaton, won’t open until April 6. So will another Wheaton facility, Arrowhead. Schaumburg Golf Club expects to open on or shortly after April 6.