While golf courses in Iowa remain open, starting Monday they will have some new operating procedures.
In an effort to make sure that golfers are not skirting “shelter-in-place” mandates from surrounding states, Iowa state officials have announced that golf courses in Iowa will be open only for Iowa residents.
That will be huge for golfers and golf courses in the Quad-Cities as many Illinois residents have been driving across the Mississippi River to satiate their golfing desires. It also places another burden on Iowa course personnel who have already adapted to a number of changes in the early season amid the COVID-19 pandemic that is sweeping the world.
“It' a very strange time for sure,” said Ron Thrapp, long-time golf professional at Davenport's Emeis Golf Course.
Illinois governor JB Pritzker has issued “shelter-in-place” requirements for all Illinois residents, hoping to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Initially, that mandate did not shut down Illinois golf courses. However, that decision was quickly reversed, forcing all courses in Illinois to shut down.
With Iowa one of a few states not requiring residents to shelter-in-place, golf courses on that side of the river have remained open while operating on skeleton crews and following a number of suggested guidelines to increase safety to patrons and course personnel.
Being open during this time has been a boon for business.
Thrapp reported that around 185 golfers were on the course Saturday and that the number was expected to be even higher on Sunday, possibly topping out at over 200. He hated to guess the split, but admitted “there are a number of Illinois residents playing, for sure.”
Other Iowa-side course such as Glynns Creek Golf Course in Scott County Park and Bettendorf's Palmer Hills Golf Course also have been busy.
John Valliere, Glynns Creek head professional, reported the course has been packed since Wednesday with “about 50% of the plates in the parking lot from Illinois.”
The Scott County Conservation Board, which oversees Scott County Park, has already made a number of changes concerning the Iowa-only use of the park in Long Grove.
A board posting regarding the golf course said “Customers will be required to provide identification proving their residency.” Valliere added that will require a photo ID.
On Saturday, Thrapp said he was in a holding pattern regarding how to enforce the “Iowa only” play.
“We are waiting for a directive from city officials and/or state officials,” Thrapp said. “When they give it to us. … If they tell us that players have to be an Iowa resident, then obviously we'll have to check drivers licenses when they get here.”
Most Iowa golf courses have cut amenities at their courses — some even locking the clubhouses and gone to credit card-only payment methods. Some courses have kept their restaurants/food service open, but for carryout orders only. If a clubhouse is open, the number of people allowed inside at one time is being restricted.
On the course, most facilities have implemented raised cups to keep players from touching the flagstick or reaching into the cup to retrieve made putts. Bunker rakes and ball washers have been removed, and single-cart riders are being allowed. Of course, it is recommended that the six-foot social-distancing requests be recognized.
“It's basically trying to reduce touch-points for people out on the golf course,” Valliere said. “That's where it's the toughest part because we're not out there monitoring. In the clubhouse, we're wiping down and wiping down because we see where everybody goes and know what they touch; we can see that.
"Once they are on the course … We have 200 acres out there, so it should be enough for everyone to keep their distance.”
In addition to washing carts after each use, Glynns Creek employees spray each cart with disinfectant, adding health measures, but also increased expenses.
“That goes a long way and it works,” said Valliere of the disinfectant. “I'm confident in it, otherwise we would probably be walking only. I'm confident in the practices we are doing. I don't want to get my staff sick and I don't want to get the next guy sick.”