Early in April, Minnesota golfers weren't sure when or even if they would get to play golf this summer.

Then on Friday, April 17, Gov. Tim Walz issued Emergency Executive Order 20-38 allowing for safe outdoor recreation activities, which included the opening of public and private golf courses and outdoor driving ranges, effective the following day.

"We applaud the Governor’s decision to include golf as an outdoor activity and we are encouraged that it is seen as a means of safe recreation, exercise and a welcome respite for Minnesota’s golfers," the Minnesota Golf Association said in a news release. "However, as we open our golf courses, it is possible that the decision may not be a popular one with everyone. We implore you to follow strict social distancing and golf course safety protocols. You can help by being self-aware of golf course safety guidelines at all times while on the course property including, prior to and after play."

By Saturday, April 18, courses around Minnesota were full of golfers.

"We were ready for it," Mike Malone, owner and general manager of Ridges of Sand Creek golf course just outside of Jordan, said. "The phones just lit up and people just wanted to get out and play."

Since then, area golf courses have seen steady business on the golf course.

"Rounds are up and people are really anxious to get out and play," Malone said.

Head Golf Professional at Chaska Town Course John Kellin echoed that sentiment.

"Business is good," he said. "The course has been completely full."

While the golf side of business has been busy, there is more to just golf to have a successful business season. 

"Things have been very good as people are happy to be able to golf again," Scott Reuter, head PGA golf professional at the Wilds Golf Club in Prior Lake said. "With people not having as many other options things are good, but the business as a whole we are missing out on other parts such as restaurant, golf shop, events, etc."

Just like local restaurants and bars, some golf courses can only offer food and drinks to-go and that's been tough for business, some golf course employees said. 

"The hardest part is telling people not to gather afterwards and that has been hard," Malone said. 

At the Chaska Town Course golfers are able to get drinks during their rounds.

"Golfers may go into the clubhouse and take beverages out or they may purchase off the beverage cart," Kellin said. "All transactions are credit card only and the beverage cart is contact-free. Currently, there is no food service happening."

Guidelines

In order to to play, golfers must abide by social distancing guidelines that the courses have put in.

Those guidelines include paying online, single-person cart riding, leaving the flags in the hole, no rakes for the bunkers and maintaining 6 feet between golfers to name just a few.

"Golfers are following the guidelines very well," Kellin said. "I think everyone is just happy to be out hitting a golf ball."

Reuter agreed, "This is new for everyone so the learning curve for everyone since nobody has ever had these restrictions has been the hardest. For the most part people are respecting the executive orders set in place along with our policies and procedures."

Golf courses are taking sanitizing into their own hands, too. 

"Our outside services workers have been working really hard," Malone said. "Sterilizing and cleaning the carts after every round has kept them really busy."

For that reason, Chaska Town Course didn't offer cart use at first but will slowly phase them in over time. 

"We have a safe and sanitary process in place, but it would require many more bodies brought in and at this time that is not our priority," Kellin said. "I think you will see us phase electric carts back in when customers can start coming in to the golf shop to pay."

When asked what's been the hardest part of opening up and maintaining social distancing guidelines, Kellin offered up a straightforward answer: "The hardest part is not being able to shake our customers hands when we see them."

Sports editor

Todd Abeln has been the Shakopee and Jordan sports editor for more than 10 years. He enjoys highlight big accomplishments and competitive games. Todd also enjoys golf, softball and watching his kids play baseball, soccer, hockey and basketball.

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