Local golf courses trying to stay open

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Following incidents in Naugatuck and Fairfield last week, local golf courses have been finding ways to give their golfers safe and fun experiences when they hit the links.

Late last week, a video posted on Facebook showed golfers and other residents at Hop Brook Golf Course in Naugatuck forming in large groups in the parking lot.  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has urged everyone to practice social-distancing as an essential action in slowing the spread of COVID-19.  Just hours after the video was posted, Mayor Pete Hess ordered the course to be shut down.

Nick Paradis, the director of golf at Hawks Landing Country Club in Southington, said he was aware of the incident at Hop Brook and measures were taken to make sure a similar incident did not happen on their watch.

In a press release titled “social distancing is essential” Hawks Landing set up certain rules, including five tee times per hour to limit the amount of groups at a tee box at once.  They also encouraged golfers to show up 15 minutes before tee time to prevent a group forming in the parking lot.

Each individual golfer receives their own cart, and the golf shop is closed until further notice.  Tee times and payments for rounds can be made using the EZPZ Local application on their iPhone or Android devices.  Hawks Landing has also removed scorecards, pencils, rakes, ball washers, and other items to keep golfers safe.

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According to guidelines set by the Connecticut State Golf Association, golfers are encouraged to smooth areas of bunkers with their feet or clubs.  It also states that “disturbed areas in bunkers may be treated as ground under repair. This would allow a player free relief from such areas, but would require such relief to be taken elsewhere within the bunker.  An additional available option is to take relief outside the bunker for one penalty stroke.”  The CGSA also encouraged golfers to download the GHIN mobile application if they wish to record their scores.

Paradis also said that Styrofoam has been used in the cup on each hole to help raise the cup so that golfers do not have to reach in the cup to retrieve their ball.  He also said there will be a worker patrolling the parking lot in an effort to stop groups from forming.  Paradis encouraged all golfers to get in their car and leave once their round is over.

At Chippanee Country Club in Bristol, golf professional Gary Sassu said that similar regulations have been put in place.  Sassu said that all tables and chairs have been removed to discourage crowds from forming.  Sassu said that the driving range is closed down as well.

Sassu said that golf carts have not been issued yet this season, but when they do, their guidelines will state one golfer per cart.  Sassu said that club-cleaning services will also be unavailable to its members at this time.

“We have gone over and above the guidelines that the state of Connecticut sent us to ensure the safety of our members and our staff,” Sassu said.

While there was no official word as of Monday of this week, Sassu and Paradis said they both expected the state of Connecticut to send an order once again to shut down all golf courses.  Paradis said he has received calls and letters with displeasures about the golf courses remaining open.  Paradis said he would like for the courses to stay open, but he understands the frustration.

“We are coming to expect to be closed at this point,” Paradis said.  “Some golfers, as well as other residents, are being irresponsible during this pandemic.  Some people are angry and I get it.  We want to get this over with.”