Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced on Sunday a stay-at-home order to combat the spread of coronavirus. The order goes into effect at midnight this Tuesday, March 24 and will remain in effect until Monday, April 6, when DeWine will re-assess. The text of that order is here [PDF].
As it applies golf courses, the order is unclear and even contradictory.
In Section 3: Prohibited Activities, the order states, “All places of public amusement, whether indoors or outdoors…shall be closed.” This paragraph specifically mentions country clubs, but many of the other referenced facilities are indoor or constrained gathering spaces, which could imply clubhouses:
All places of public amusement, whether indoors or outdoors, including, but not limited to, locations with amusement rides, carnivals, amusement parks, water parks, aquariums, zoos, museums, arcades, fairs, children’s play centers, playgrounds, funplexes, theme parks, bowling alleys, movie and other theaters, concert and music halls, and country clubs or social clubs shall be closed.
Then just five paragraphs later in Section 5c: Leaving the Home for Essential Activities is Permitted, the order then states that one category of PERMITTED Essential Activity is “outdoor exercise” in “open outdoor recreation areas”:
5c. For outdoor activity. To engage in outdoor activity, provided the individuals comply with Social Distancing Requirements, as defined below, such as, by way of example and without limitation, walking, hiking, running, or biking. Individuals may go to public parks and open outdoor recreation areas.
Northeast Ohio Golf has attempted to contact the Governor’s office by phone, email and social media, as well as the media director for the Governor by email. We have also contacted Ohio Congressional representatives in an effort to ask them to obtain clarification from the Governor’s office on our behalf.
If clarification is provided, we will immediately pass on that information.
But there is a chance that no clarification will be made.
In reading the FAQs Page regarding the order, it is clear that indoor facilities where people might gather in groups larger than 10 are closed. But the language covering operations on the golf course itself can easily be interpreted as a permitted outdoor recreation area.
Further, there is pervasive language that no enforcement mechanism is in place for any part of the order. It uses the word mandatory and calls on everyone to do his or her part to maintain social distancing, but states that law enforcement will simply ask groups to return home if found, and the National Guard will not be involved.
One FAQ even discusses further the outdoor exercise clause, again without any clarity for golf courses:
Can I leave home to exercise?
Yes. Outdoor exercise like running or taking a walk is perfectly acceptable; however, exercise gyms, fitness centers and associated facilities are closed to reduce the spread of coronavirus. While exercising outside, you should still practice social distancing by running or walking at least six feet away from other people.
The order takes effect on Tuesday at midnight. Golf courses have taken many precautions and made many preparations to be ready to help the public through this situation. If the Governor makes no clarification regarding golf courses before that order takes effect, it will be up to each owner/operator to make a decision…
UPDATE: Monday, March 23, 9a: This morning I sent emails to a dozen Gov. Mike DeWine staff members asking for clarity on golf courses re Sunday’s shutdown order. If no direct response is received before the press conference later today, I will attempt to get the question asked then.
Michigan’s governor made nearly the same order last week, and also did not address golf courses. Two days later, she clarified and permitted golf courses to remain open.