Golf courses across the region are closed amid the coronavirus outbreak, but thousands of local golfers are rising up and signing a petition to get New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu to reopen courses across the Granite State.
The petition on Change.org, called "Let New Hampshire Golf," argues it "does not make sense" for courses to be closed when public parks are open.
"Golf by the nature of the game and with limited modifications can comply completely with the intent of the 'Stay at Home' designation," reads the petition, which has more than eight thousand signatures.
At Sagamore Golf in North Hampton, the clubhouse was closed Thursday, carts were off limits and tee times were staggered. Social distancing was being taken seriously.
“Essentially, the golfers were out there with the green grass and that’s about it,” Sagamore Golf Vice President Ty Sanborn said.
But still, courses across the state shut down right away when the governor ordered all non-essential businesses to close.
“Our customers, they’re upset, but they understand as well,” Sanborn said.
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One customer was so upset he took matters into his own hands.
“So I started the petition on Saturday,” explained North Hampton resident Peter Luff.
The petition suggests that if courses reopen, they should encourage people to walk the course or require a single-rider policy for carts. Some other requirements would be tee-time intervals of no less than 12 minutes between groups and no congregating on the putting green or driving range.
Supporters say golf is one of very few activities that can still be done safely even in the age of social distancing.
“I think that allowing for safer activities, like golf, is one of the ways in which we can make this period tolerable for people,” Luff told NBC10 Boston Thursday.
But health officials have repeatedly stressed the need to practice social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and lessen the burden on the health care system. And a lot of people opposed the idea on social media.
One person wrote simply, “Stay home.” Another said, “Seriously, golf is not essential.”
“We understand that, and we respect that,” Sanborn responded.
But, what does Sununu think? Last month, he issued a stay-at-home order mandating that businesses and other organizations that do not provide essential services close their physical workplaces.
He now says he’ll consider reopening courses only if the rest of New England follows suit.
“Because if Massachusetts, and Vermont, and Maine don’t take the same approach, everyone from those states, sometimes with higher incidence of COVID, are going to be rushing into New Hampshire,” Sununu explained.
So, if there’s a way to ensure everyone’s safety, the governor says golfers could be back in action soon.
“It’s important in a difficult time like this to give people something positive to connect with,” Sanborn said. “And that’s the importance of golf.”
Another important aspect of this is the impact to golf course employees.
Sagamore has about 160 staff members across three courses who are hoping to get back to work and back to a paycheck as soon as possible.
On Thursday, the state 479 cases of COVID-19, including five deaths.