Gov. Tim Walz’s amendments to his extended stay-at-home order allow Minnesota golf course owners to mow their grass and maintenance their courses during a crucial time when their properties are transitioning from winter to golf season.
The changes, announced Wednesday, also keep courses closed until May 4. The stay-at-home order had been set to expire Friday night.
Steve Whillock, Oak Marsh golf course general manager/director of golf, called it answering “at least one of our two question marks” for an industry still hopeful Walz will allow courses to open — while using social distancing and other safety provisions — before his extended order ends May 4.
As of late last week, 44% of the nation’s golf courses were allowing play, according to the National Golf Foundation.
Many Minnesota course owners have sought financial help from the Small Business Administration under the $2 trillion economic package approved by Congress. Only a few courses had opened in March before Walz’s first-stay-home order went in effect on March 28.
Whillock, a sitting member on a committee of local golf organizations lobbying the governor and the legislature, expects most courses to maintain “critical turf” — greens, tee boxes, fairways and other parts of courses. That work is allowed starting after midnight Wednesday with groups of two or three workers.
That’s partly for social-distancing reasons, but also because “we don’t have the money to pay guys,” he said. The Oakdale course’s faithful golfers have volunteered time and work for maintenance, which Whillock said he’ll probably accept for picking up sticks and other labor.
Whillock said Walz’s modification “doesn’t mean business as usual,” but he called it important so he and other golf course managers and owners “don’t lose” all or part of their grassed areas.