Golfers travel to find open Virginia courses during coronavirus crisis

Golf has always been a one-person game, with social distancing built into the 18-hole tour, around approximately 7,000 yards of grass, sand, water and trees — but COVID-19 has players traveling miles to find places to play.

When Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam ordered the closure of nonessential businesses and public schools on March 23, he specified indoor recreation facilities, gymnasiums and fitness centers — but there was no mention of golf courses.

Fairfax and Loudoun counties made the decision to close their public courses, in an attempt to curtail the spread of COVID-19.

carts stonewall golf course
Golf carts parked 6 feet apart, at Stonewall Golf Club, in Gainesville, Virginia, during the coronavirus crisis. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

While some courses in Prince William County are closed, others have decided to stay open, taking extra steps to provide a safe environment for customers and employees.

“We’re from New Jersey, and had to come to Virginia to play golf,” said one man, as he and a friend wheeled their clubs from the parking lot toward the clubhouse. “We played yesterday with two guys, and I wasn’t within six feet of them all day.”

Early morning golfers at Stonewall Golf Club at Lake Manassas were on practice tees and greens Friday, grateful for the chance to enjoy the game while maintaining safe social distancing.

On its website, the club listed sanitizing measures — on clubhouse door handles, golf shop counter areas, and golf cart steering wheels.

One player, whose son brought an iPad to occupy his time, loaded his clubs in the back of a cart, and produced his own disinfectant wipes to wipe-down the cart’s handles, and dashboard.

Signs at both clubhouse entry points promote a “no handshake” zone at Stonewall.

Another local player said playing golf provided a sense of connection and normalcy, during the coronavirus situation.

“There’s plenty of separation. It’s outside. It’s not like you’re on top of each other, and usually your balls don’t end up that close together,” he said.

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein reported from Gainesville, Virginia.

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