Reopening of golf courses encouraging news for San Juan County's golf communities

Matt Hollinshead,
Piedra Vista's Trey Diehl takes in a few practice swings before putting, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018 at the Chuck Soria Invitational golf meet at Riverview Golf Course in Kirtland.

FARMINGTON — San Juan County’s golf community finally received the welcome news they’ve waited more than six weeks for: they can hit the greens again, starting Saturday.

“It’s really exciting. We’ve been pushing to get that done sooner… There’s no physical contact with anybody. It’s good for your mental health, it’s good for your physical health,” said Piedra Vista boys golf coach Tom Yost, who also runs the First Tee of San Juan County. “I think it’s a good start. Hopefully, our numbers continue to go down. Hopefully, we can come out of this together stronger.”

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Wednesday that some San Juan County businesses like golf courses, dog groomers, veterinarians, firearm shops and retailers able to provide curbside service will be allowed to reopen starting Saturday.

Lujan Grisham also further ordered that all New Mexicans must wear some kind of face covering while in public, effective Saturday, except when they're eating, drinking or exercising.

As of Thursday, San Juan County has 1,237 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Even so, Yost said reopening golf courses alone is a huge victory for San Juan County because golf’s a good outdoor activity option for those who may not have otherwise viewed it that way.

“They need to do something more than walk around the neighborhood. Everyone’s excited in the golfing community in San Juan County, I can promise you that,” Yost said.

Where local golf courses stand

Devin Neeley, San Juan County’s Public Relations Manager, said that Riverview Golf Course in Kirtland is planning to reopen Saturday and will go by the state’s guidelines, which include the following:

  • Allowing a maximum of 144 people on the course at one given time.
  • Requiring one rider per golf cart, unless two riders come from the same household.
  • Requiring playing groups be limited to two, three or four people each.

“That’ll be no problem. We’re glad to be able to get people out on the golf course,” Neeley said on Thursday. “At this point, there’s going to be a lot of people looking for something to do. We’re glad to do so in a safe manner... We think that golf is a safe way to recreate.”

Neeley said Riverview's hours of operations will be 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, but will resume regular hours of 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. starting Monday.

Neeley also said Riverview Golf Course will space out tee times by 15 minutes and will only take in tee times via online reservations.

Georgette Allen, the Public Affairs Administrator for the City of Farmington, said via text on Thursday it appears at this time that the city will be able reopen Piñon Hills Golf Course and Civitan Golf Course on Saturday, but also said the city is waiting for the state's latest written order on health guidelines before making an official announcement whether or not those two courses will reopen.

Allen said the city would also follow the state's guidelines.

Governor approves contact-less sports camps

Effective Saturday, in-person programs and sports camps will permissible with certain restrictions.

They’ll be restricted to 5-to-1 child-to-adult ratios for children who live in their local geographical area only, according to Lujan Grisham.

Additionally, children must stay within their camp groups and not mix between groups, and sports programs must be restricted to contact-less sports and non-competitive play only.

The New Mexico Activities Association will meet via teleconference on Friday to discuss the next steps on topics like summer activity regulations and scholastic eligibility for fall sports.

Yost is optimistic about the status of summer golf camps because golf falls into that “contact-less” category.

“Our summer camps are going to be thriving in full, but we’re going to have to abide the guidelines,” Yost said. “Golf is definitely going to be a leader in youth sports options going forward. We can keep the kids separated. I think it’s going to bode well for junior golf.”

Yost said he hopes June 1 will be the target date for summer golf camps to begin, as Northwestern New Mexico is in a preparation phase and not yet in Phase 1 of the state's official reopening plan.

Yost also said he must get final approval from the First Tee’s national headquarters.

“It’s sort of two-prong. We have to follow basically two sets of rules,” Yost said.

Still, Yost is encouraged by Wednesday’s announcement because it marked some semblance of returning to normalcy.

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 and on Twitter at @MattH_717.

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