Arts, Dining & Entertainment

Golf courses open

Outdoor recreation and gatherings of 10 or fewer now permitted

Staff report

On Wednesday, May 6, Governor Phil Scott announced that outdoor recreation and limited social interactions may resume under strict health and safety precautions, as state modeling continues to indicate a slow in the spread of Covid-19.

The state also paved the way for the reopening of low-contact outdoor recreation including ballfields, skate parks, trail networks, golf courses and tennis courts.

On May 7, Rutland Country Club, Neshobe Golf Club, Proctor-Pittsford Country Club, Bomoseen Golf Club and others opened for the golf season, albeit with limitations. Green Mountain National opened for the season on Monday, May 11; White River Golf Course opened May 12 and Woodstock Country Club will be opening Saturday, May 16 (weather permitting).

Courses, however, must follow strict guidelines outlined by the state, including:

Only people currently residing in Vermont can play (out-of-state residents are considered to be “residing” after they meet the 14 day quarantine mandated.)

Clubhouse and pro shop remain closed for in-person shopping/dining (some restrooms are open, but not all.)

Walking is encouraged. Golf cart occupancy is limited to one person or two people in a family (many courses are not renting them at this time due to strict protocols.)

All tee times must be reserved over the phone or online.

No gathering before or after play is permitted.

No sharing of clubs is allowed. No rental clubs are allowed.

Golfers must always maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from other golfers and staff.

Only credit or debit cards can be used for purchases. No cash sales.

Some courses will limit the number of holes open, putting greens and driving ranges to comply with social distancing mandates.

Addendum 13 also authorizes businesses, non-profit and government entities that support or offer outdoor recreation and outdoor fitness activities with low or no direct physical contact to begin operations on May 7. These include but are not limited to state and municipal parks, recreation associations, trail networks, golf courses, big game check stations and guided expeditions. Campgrounds, marinas and beaches are not permitted to open at this time.

While the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order remains in effect, if able to comply with outlined safety measures, the governor’s latest order allows the following social activities to resume:

Gatherings of 10 or fewer. Vermonters may now leave home for outdoor recreation and fitness activities with low or no direct physical contact and to resume limited social interactions and gatherings of 10 or fewer, preferably in outdoor settings that allow for greater physical distancing protocols.

Inter-household socializing. Members of one household may gather – and allow children to play – with members of another trusted household, provided health and safety precautions are followed as much as possible.

“These small gatherings will give Vermonters a chance to reunite and enjoy each other’s company. But we must do so carefully,” said Governor Scott. “There is no specific set of rules, or enforcement measures that we can put in place here. We need Vermonters to be smart and thoughtful during these visits. If we do, it means kids can play together and friends can resume some of the in-person conversations they have missed during nearly two months of social distancing,” he said.

“We have to remain vigilant, so we don’t lose ground as we continue, slowly and safely, reopening Vermont in a way that puts public health first,” Scott added.

Guidelines to prevent the spread of Covid-19 through outdoor recreation and outdoor fitness, including “arrive, play and leave” requirements, signage and registration to limit facility use to Vermonters and those who have met the 14-day quarantine requirement, elimination of non-essential touching and/or staff-customer interactions, reduction of high contact surfaces and common areas and limiting rental equipment and restroom facilities to those which can be thoroughly disinfected, are included in the order and in additional guidance from the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.

The governor’s order also includes additional health and safety guidelines for these interactions, including following safety and hygiene protocols, limiting non-essential travel, and protecting those in at-risk categories, who should continue to stay home. It also directs the commissioner of health to provide additional recommendations.

“As we continue to take modest steps to reopen our economy, there are also equally important steps related to how we spend our down time – our play time,” said Julie Moore, secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources. “As Vermont’s winter transforms to a bright and green spring, many of us are itching to get outside and go a bit further afield and no longer are Vermonters being asked to limit outings to within 10 miles of their homes. Now, more than ever, we need to rekindle this relationship with the outdoors, but we must do so in a way that respects physical distancing and helps keep all of us healthy.”

But Moore also asked Vermonters to steer clear of the most popular outdoor sites and to explore areas that they haven’t hiked, biked or foraged in before.

“We can’t all go to the same place at the same time,” said Moore, suggesting that people avoid crowded trailheads and try instead to visit new places that see fewer visitors.

Vermont has 750,000 acres of public land with 55 state parks and 5,000 miles of trails, she said.

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