When Governor Mike DeWine extended the COVID-19 stay-at-home order on Monday, April 6th, new language was added that specifically prohibited “recreational sports tournaments” and “organized recreational sports leagues” for adults and youths in the state of Ohio until May 1st.

Because golf is considered a sport, that ban prohibited golf tournaments and weekly golf leagues until May 1. It’s not fully clear that golf was ever intended to be covered under the expanded order, but for now the designation remains.

The Governor’s original order, made back in early March, eventually led golf courses to open as “outdoor recreation areas” so long as they enforced a number of social distancing guidelines laid out by the state. (There was a week of conflicting opinion from the Governor and lawyers from the Ohio Department of Health that put golf course openings into limbo, but eventually it was resolved.)

The golf course operators who opened have successfully implemented the requirements in the Governor’s order, to the benefit of many recreational golfers across Ohio. In fact, access to golf has made the lock-down bearable for many, many Ohioans over the last few weeks.

Just before the tournament ban went into effect, The Quarry Golf Club in Canton ran a scramble on a gorgeous Saturday, April 4 that was approved in advance by the Director of Health for the City of Canton.

The event operations went flawlessly because every aspect was fully-organized in advance: players signed up online; they knew what was required of them before they arrived; tee times were spaced to eliminate congregating; solo-rider carts were used while others walked; golfers played their rounds, turned in scores and went home. Final results were posted online, shared after the fact.

On the ground, the day was run like all open play under the Governor’s orders. But in players’ minds, it felt like a tournament.

The Governor has hinted he will begin offering some new plans later this week to slowly re-open some Ohio businesses starting May 1. The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths across Ohio have been but a sliver-fraction of one percent of the state’s population, so this decision is wise when weighed against the calamitous crushing of the economy that these shut-down orders have had on both the state and the nation.

But it’s a complete guess as to exactly what details will be included the new orders, given the many conflicts in logic that a government order of this type always brings. (The Ohio Lottery is essential, for example.)

Here’s what golfers are hoping for from the Governor’s outline later this week:

Golf courses are more than capable of safely operating weekly golf leagues and scheduled golf tournaments following common-sense guidelines starting on May 1. Successful tournament and league operations have already been proven at The Quarry, and at all of the other golf courses that have been open for regular play every day this spring.

To a public golf course, its weekly leagues are the financial life-blood of the business. It is impossible for a public golf course to remain in business and not have a pre-arranged, consistent numbers of a league players show up week-to-week.

The first week in May is the date when most weekly golf leagues get started officially. So opening leagues on that May 1 date is truly important to the business of golf in Ohio.

In the weeks ahead, golf leagues and golf tournaments can be managed in the same way that open play is managed. The state’s guidelines will be followed, just as they have been followed each day thus far. So there is no real-world reason why golf tournaments and golf leagues should be prohibited in Ohio come May 1.

Here’s hoping the Governor will work with all of the state’s various organizing bodies to safely re-open as many outdoor sports as possible on May 1. Social distancing is built in to most outdoor sports. People of all ages need exercise and the mental and physical health benefits that sport brings.

In fact, golf could be a focal point of the Governor’s May 1 re-opening announcement. Golf has already led the way in showing that smart precautions can be undertaken to allow a semblance of normal life to continue on under times of duress.

Opening golf leagues and golf tournaments on May 1 is a natural progression in opening the daily lives of golfers, then of all people. It’s an added mental benefit with a near-zero physical cost.

Dear Governor, on May 1 it is time to get started with these important first steps toward a return to normalcy. Golfers and golf course owners are more than happy to help you lead the way.

Make your thoughts about golf tournaments/leagues know to Gov. Mike DeWine!
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