Coronavirus: Ohio golf courses not exempt from stay-at-home order, must close

The tall grass makes it hard for a grounds keeper to pick up the balls on the driving range at Locust Hills Golf Course Thursday. Bill Lackey/Staff
The tall grass makes it hard for a grounds keeper to pick up the balls on the driving range at Locust Hills Golf Course Thursday. Bill Lackey/Staff

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

While Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has encouraged citizens to remain physically active despite the state being under a statewide stay-at-home order, one popular pastime appears to be out for now.

On Wednesday, the Clark County Combined Health District determined golf courses are non-essential businesses, meaning they must close through April 6.

On Thursday, the Ohio Department of Health agreed.

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“The first question we ask when we are considering these decisions is, ‘Is this business essential to Clark County, Ohio, or the United States to continue operating and providing necessary resources for people?’” Emma Smales, public information officer for the CCCHD, said in an email.

“There will be a few exceptions, but golf courses are not one of them,” she continued. “The spirit of the order is to stay home. We are enforcing the order with that in mind.”

According to a release from the CCCHD, Ohio Department of Health chief of staff Lance Himes  verified on a statewide conference call with local health departments golf courses are non-essential businesses, are not exempt and are to remain closed.

In response to an attempt to confirm that position, ODH public information specialist Rachel Feeley wrote in an email, “We cannot directly interpret the order for others,” and cited a passage from the act signed by ODH director Amy Acton: “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.”

Prior to Thursday, multiple courses in Clark County remained open, including Windy Knoll on Roscommon Drive, Locust Hills and Reid Park on South Bird Road in Springfield.

In an update posted Thursday morning, the Windy Knoll website cited the Clark County health department’s decision in closing and added, “We have also spoken with Governor DeWine’s office about this, and they confirmed we are to follow local jurisdiction.”

In Champaign County, the website for the Urbana Country Club’s website said its course remained open for members but not guests.

Pam Wells, golf director at Lakeland Golf Course in St. Paris, said that course is open seasonally and was following local guidelines.

Some courses in Greater Dayton were closed while others remained open as well.

The confusion over golf stemmed mostly from a passage allowing outdoor activity in public parks and open outdoor recreation areas provided individuals adhere to social distancing requirements, though it did not specifically identify golf.

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