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Tee times fill up fast, after governor's order opens courses across the state

The reopening comes with many restrictions, including no golf carts.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Anxious golfers returned to the greens Saturday morning. At Indian Trails Golf Course in Grand Rapids, the groundskeeper and general manager said as of 8 a.m., tee times were filling up fast. 

"It was the first morning where it felt like a real morning," said Craig Kooienga, the groundskeeper and general manager. "We came in early, we anticipate golfers this morning. It creates a lot of excitement around here."

This comes after the revised stay at home order issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday, April 24. 

RELATED: Golf courses can reopen, Whitmer says; carts not allowed

However, that excitement comes with some restrictions, and a new temporary way to play the game of golf. The big one is no carts allowed, so bring your walking shoes. 

"It feels good," said Chad Bocian, a golfer. "I get to walk, which is fine. I need the exercise anyway."

Other changes begin with tee times. Golfers can call ahead, and the staff at Indian Trails are working on creating an online system to reserve a time. 

Credit: 13 OYS
Indian Trails golf course opens after shut down.

Only four members are allowed in the club house at a time, and they must wear masks. Prepared food will not be served, they will only offer prepackaged items like chips, candy bars and soda. 

There are a few pull carts available, and they will be sanitized in between use. Rented clubs will also be sanitized. 

"We had our fingers crossed for May 1," said Kooienga, "So, today it’s a real blessing to be open. We did scrambling around yesterday to find people to run the clubhouse, but Bill's there."

Indian Trails had been open a week or two before the executive orders shut down operation. During that time, some maintenance work was allowed to take place. 

Credit: 13 OYS
Golfers must still practice social distancing.

"We’ve been able to mow greens, tees and fairways," said Kooienga, "and do the essential maintenance. So, it’s ready to go."

Golfers said not only is it exciting to golf again, but doing so creates a sense of normalcy. 

"Local businesses are getting crushed right now," said Bocian. "And anything you can do to give back locally, they need all the help they can get."

Here are some of the other guidelines the city put into place: 

  • Only four customers will be allowed in the clubhouse at one time
  • Customers must maintain safe physical distancing while waiting in line
  • All golfers must remain 6 feet apart when playing unless they are from the same household
  • Masks are recommended but not required when entering the clubhouse
  • Customers may only order food and beverages to-go
  • Customers are encouraged to call ahead to book and pay for a tee time to avoid shared contact during transactions
  • All staff will wear masks and gloves
  • Staff will sanitize all common touch points, including counters, restrooms, door handles, push carts, rental club sets, range balls and ball bags 

Read the full executive order here. 

"Please stay safe and do everything you can to protect yourself and others. I know there's been a lot of discussion about these restrictions. I know they haven't been easy and they seemed inconsistent or confusing, but the data shows that what we have done is working," Whitmer said. 

As of Thursday, the state of Michigan reported 35,291 cases of COVID-19 and 2,977 people have died from the virus. 

Friday the stay at home order was extended until May 15, but some of the previous restrictions were eased including lawn care and motor boating. 

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