SCGA Governmental Affairs


Thursday, March 18, 2021

Los Angeles County Public Health (DPH) has updated its “Golf Appendix” to align the play and practice of golf with the rhythms of life in the “Red Tier” now that all Southern California counties save Kern have moved into that Tier and COVID caseloads are plummeting so fast that public health officials have begun to speculate that life in the “Orange Tier” is just around the corner – 1st half of April to be more specific.

Click here to read the “Appendix” as it now governs golf in Los Angeles County.

More accurately, click above to read the minimum standards that each city within LA County save the two with their own health departments (Long Beach and Pasadena) must follow. Los Angeles County’s other 86 cities, including the City of Los Angeles, are free to govern golf more strictly than these minimum standards. On at least two occasions we can recall the City of Los Angeles has done just that. Although we don’t anticipate Los Angeles doing that this time, we do need to remind LA City golfers and golf clubs that there is likely to be a lag between today’s order and implementation of that order in the county’s largest city. You’ve waited this long; waiting 48 more hours should be a snap.

Because DPH approached the revision of the golf specific “Appendix” as an exercise in aligning its protocols with the protocols in the “Youth/Adult Sports Leagues” order, the language is not the language golf would have used to identify the changes envisaged thereby. Nonetheless, it is language easily discernible in terms of what it means in practical terms for golf facilities, golf clubs, high schools, junior programs, competitions, group play, and practice putting/short game facilities.

Here is our snapshot summary of what it means:

  • The language that prohibited “group” and “tournament” play has been removed and been replaced by the following: “Golf competitions organized by youth or adult recreational sports leagues, club sports, travel sports, and private and public schools serving students in TK-12 schools may resume and must adhere to this protocol and the LACDPH Protocol for Youth and Adult Recreational Sports Leagues.” Translation: Because the prohibition on “shotgun” starts has been retained, this means that straight time start competitions conducted by organizations such as traditional men’s/women’s/senior golf clubs at public facilities, private golf clubs at their own sites, golf associations, and schools are now permitted. [Note: Colleges and pro sports are covered under separate protocols, and municipalities are likely to interpret the “organized” qualifier as limiting these competitions to the clubs/organizations that have long track records in conducting competitions at their facilities.]
  • Reservations are now highly encouraged but no longer mandatory; walk-up play is thus permitted but not to be encouraged.
  • Credit and debit/gift card payment is now highly encouraged but no longer mandatory; cash can be accepted as legal tender.
  • Practice putting and chipping/pitching greens are now open per the following restrictions: “Practice putting green cups are installed in a ‘touchless’ manner. Foam or another material may be inserted. At no time is the entire ball resting below the putting surface. No pins. No more than 2 golf balls may be used per player. Cups shall be installed no closer than 18 ft. from each other. Practice pitching green cups are installed in a ‘touchless’ manner. Foam or another material may be inserted. At no time is the entire ball resting below the putting surface.” [Note: Apologies for the use of “pins” instead of flagsticks; the protocol wasn’t written by a USGA Committeeman.]
  • Double occupancy golf cars are now permitted, restricted only by the following language: “Golf carts can have individuals from different households provided that all riders wear a face mask at all times. Otherwise, golf carts must be single rider only or used by members of the same household only.”
  • Water Fountains – the blanket prohibition on their availability has been replaced by the following language: “Encourage participants to bring their own pre-filled reusable or purchased water bottles. Water fountains are available to fill water bottles only. Participants should not drink from the same beverage container or share beverages.”

Those elements of the previous order that remain in place include the minimum 10-minute tee interval, groups of no more than 4, and the proscriptions against common touch points – e.g., flagsticks, bunker rakes, and standard hole. Also in the order is a requirement to follow the state standard regarding face coverings when unable to guarantee 6 feet of distance from another person and to follow some specific additional requirements in certain otherwise open-air situations such as the one above regarding double occupancy golf cars.

With respect to tending/pulling flagsticks and raking bunkers, there’s always the Orange Tier to look forward to in Los Angeles County. Other counties have reintroduced them in their respective Red Tiers, but to the degree to which patience is among the standard virtues, let’s practice standard virtue, count today’s blessings, and move on.

Given just how packed Los Angeles County’s municipal golf courses in particular are at the moment, it is going to be a challenge to accommodate high school teams and local golf clubs. But given the municipal golf sector’s longstanding mission to serve youth in general and schools in specific, we’re confident that mission will meet moment and schools will be able to conduct their competitive schedules this spring. The same goes for the 1-year interruption in local golf club activity; facilities and clubs will find a way to get back to some semblance of normality in short order.

Again, click here to read and/or download the updated Los Angeles County “Golf Appendix.” The updated “Youth/Adult Sports Leagues” order that is incorporated by reference therein is linked to the updated “Appendix.”

As frustrating as our experience with Los Angeles County DPH has been, we would be remiss if we did not point out that Los Angeles County Supervisors Janice Hahn (4th District) and Kathryn Barger (5th District) as well as Los Angeles County Parks & Recreation have been strong supporters of golf’s cause throughout the pandemic. We thank them for their support and understanding.

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