Golfers: Where you play decides whether you play during crisis

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The coronavirus crisis is not affecting all golf courses in the same way. It seems where you play decides whether you can play.

Golf courses sit empty throughout the city of Fresno in the wake of a shelter in place order defining them as non-essential businesses.

The gates are closed, and the color green is almost uninterrupted at Airways in east central Fresno and San Joaquin Country Club in northwest Fresno.

But outside city limits, golfers got a stroke of luck. The county decided to close parks Friday, but not golf courses.

"The golf courses really have a better handle on this social distancing concept," said Fresno County supervisor Nathan Magsig. "They recognize if they violate these rules, then unfortunately, they're going to be forced to close."

Magsig says the county has checked on golf courses and found them doing their best to keep people safe.

He says other counties are letting golf courses stay open too.

At the Dragonfly Golf Course in Madera County, a few golfers dotted the course Monday, but they are sparse.

Golfers spread out on the course, and the business only allowed one person per cart.

At courses in Madera and Fresno County, some golfers have reported crowds coming from Fresno since it ordered closures in mid-March.

"We've asked them to close," said Fresno city council member Miguel Arias. "We've had to warn some of them about their continuous operation."

San Joaquin has rallied some of its members to contact the city and highlight the imbalance.

One letter noted the governor's "stay at home" order doesn't exclude golf on private country clubs and said the city doesn't have the jurisdiction to prohibit members from playing golf.

The city attorney wrote back a single sentence saying the city absolutely has jurisdiction and threatening a fine if the club opened any part of its business.

Fresno County supervisors took the opposite approach.

When the county public health department asked Sunnyside Golf Course to close, the courses' managers say supervisors let them know the county doesn't intend to enforce the request.

"Our sheriff really is not interested in ruling with a hammer, so to speak," said Magsig. "So to the extent that the public abides by these rules, we're really going to get ahead of this virus and slow it down."

San Joaquin's members are still hoping they can convince the city to carve them a new hole in the list of essential businesses.

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