If you and three of your non-related golfing friends were hoping to find an afternoon with nice weather to play nine or 18 holes to close out the day, you are going to have to leave the city of Seattle to do it.
Gov. Jay Inslee’s recent modifications to his coronavirus reopening plan for Washington courses allow foursomes of non-related players, but courses located in Seattle city limits have yet to be cleared for foursomes.
They are following the plan’s earlier guidelines, which went into effect May 5 and limits playing groups to two non-related golfers, with exceptions for additional golfers if they are related and living in the same house.
The twosome limitation affects the four Seattle courses run by Premier Golf Centers:
- Interbay Golf Center
- Jackson Park Golf Course
- West Seattle Golf Course
- Jefferson Park Golf Course
Requests for comment to the Seattle Parks and Recreation and the office of Mayor Jenny Durkan were handled with an emailed statement from Karen O’Connor, senior public relations specialist for the City of Seattle:
“Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) and Premier Golf Centers, the operator of Seattle’s public courses, are working under Phase 1 of Gov. Inslee’s Stay Home-Stay Healthy Order. SPR is reviewing the new guidelines and will work with Premier to determine how those can best be implemented and outline how to safely move forward in implementing the Phase 2 requirements at our public golf courses. There are additional precautions that need to be in place before moving to Phase 2 to ensure the safety of players and golf course staff. The City’s goal is to implement Phase 2 recommendations in the safest steps possible to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Seattle.”
It does not acknowledge that Phase 1 guidelines for courses have changed. Premier Golf’s courses in Bellevue, Everett, Marysville, Lynnwood and Bellingham are allowing foursomes.
Mike Fosnick, vice president/director of operations for Premier, said the company is in daily contact with SPR and remains patient.
“I think a lot of people that see golf and see everybody out there on the course and they think that they’re not being safe,” he said. “I think (SPR) is probably just probably being a little bit more cautious as far as their approach. I think that it’s ultimately up to Mayor Durkan to make the decision. You know we’ve thrown some ideas and some compromises at them and just haven’t really heard anything yet.”
On Saturday Inslee released modifications to his original golf reopening guidelines for counties in Phase 1, and he outlined changes for counties that had been moved to Phase 2. Immediately golf courses all throughout the Puget Sound sent out notices that foursomes of non-related golfers were now welcome and people were allowed to change tee times. But in Seattle there was no approval.
“We are kind of waiting,” Fosnick said. “We’ve reviewed the issues and brought it to parks and rec, and now we are just waiting to hear back.”
Fosnick hopes for approval in the coming days.
“I think they are just trying to make sure we can really do it safely,” he said. “They are working through the issues of when foursomes do come out, you are basically doubling the amount of people and it gets harder to keep people away from each other.”
The tee-time sheets are filled every day with twosomes, but that limits the number of players per day.
“People really love the pace of play, and the golf courses have been busy with twosomes,” Fosnick said. “We’re doing well with over 200 players a day. Pretty happy group of people right now, actually. But it’s a foursome game, so it’s still not very natural. Maybe there’s a combination of things that we can do — twosomes and foursomes — that might be a nice compromise.”
The return to foursomes hasn’t been simple and has actually bogged down pace of play at many courses. There is still a restriction prohibiting non-related golfers to share a motorized golf cart. With more people on the course, more carts are being rented for one person, which isn’t the intent for carts. So one foursome can take four golf carts, which doesn’t necessarily speed up play. It’s also left some courses without carts on busy days. Carts must be sanitized and cleaned before being used again, and maintenance crews are limited.
“The other day at Cedarcrest (in Marysville) they ran out of golf carts by 11 a.m., and there were some angry people,” Fosnick said. “We don’t have fleets of 150 carts. In Everett on Monday mornings, we have a senior group and we were out of carts at 9 a.m. We may go to two carts per foursome, and they are going to have figure it out with some people walking and some riding. It’s not really fair to some people who come out at 10:30 or 11 — just because you are playing later means you can’t have a cart.
“Going back to foursomes from twosomes with some restrictions in place isn’t an easy puzzle to solve. We want people to be safe and enjoy their round.”