SCGA's Governmental Affairs Department is responsible for ensuring that golf is represented at all levels of government. SCGA worked tirelessly to position golf alongside parks, beaches, walking/hiking trails, ball fields and playgrounds as an activity particularly amenable to the social distancing and common touch point controls embedded in all versions of state and county health orders. The effort proved fruitful as golf was literally the first activity restored to the lives of Southern Californians. SCGA will continue to remain vigilant as we deal with a pandemic that is not yet over. The latest update is below. An archive of previous updates can be found here.
3:00 PM Tuesday, February 23
COVID & WATER
GOLF’S TWO FAVORITE SUBJECTS
As we reported Monday, the State of California issued a massive overhaul of “Outdoor and Indoor Youth and Adult Recreational Sports” protocols last Friday, effective this Friday (2/26). We noted that with respect to golf in even the “Purple Tier” counties, much of what has been proscribed can now be permitted, particularly with respect to high school competitive golf and certain adult competitive activities.
For the vast majority of the region’s counties (e.g., San Diego) that have jettisoned their county golf specific health orders in favor of hewing to the state rules, what will apply Friday is in these new protocols, which you can read by clicking here. When you do, you’ll discover that golf is among the non-contact, low risk outdoor activities suitable for school intramural play/practice per certain additional restrictions now. You’ll also discover that a whole host of sports not permitted as of the issuance of these new protocols last Friday and intermural golf competition can become eligible for permission in any county in which the adjusted daily case rate has reached 14 or fewer per 100,000 persons.
Well, yesterday the California Department of Public Health announced that Los Angeles, Orange, and San Luis Obispo Counties had dropped below that 14 or fewer threshold required to permit outdoor sports, including intermural golf competition. Given that they were above that threshold last Friday when these new protocols were issued, it is likely that other Southern California counties are going to dip below it if not next Tuesday when the new numbers come out, then the following Tuesday. Such is the velocity of these dropping numbers, not just here in Southern California but in Northern California as well, where many counties are moving from the “Purple Tier” to the “Red Tier.”
Of course, all of this is subject to approval by individual schools, school districts and counties. Some school districts such as Los Angeles Unified have approved “sports conditioning” on campuses beginning next week but won’t permit competitions until classroom instruction is resumed. Some schools have simply determined to wait until next year for certain sports (e.g., football) but permit others on a case-by-case basis. Some are moving full steam ahead.
Which brings us to the behemoth known as Los Angeles County, which affects more golf teams, golf activities, golf clubs and golf courses than any other and which has been the least responsive to the golf community in terms of updating its health protocols to reflect common practice everywhere else. As quoted in today’s Los Angeles Times, here is what LA County Public Health issued in response to the state’s finding yesterday: “The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health uses the available science and current data to guide the reopening of sectors, in consultation with the Board of Supervisors to assess the state recommendations and the timing of adopting changes to the County Health Officer Order that would allow youth sports to resume.”
Apparently, cross-country and girls’ tennis have begun in Los Angeles County, and soccer is slated to resume Saturday. The same goes for Orange County. Why not yet golf? Great question and one that SCGA will pose immediately! We have already posed it in Long Beach and believe that this city may well be in process of following suit. Long Beach and Pasadena are Los Angeles County cities that have their own separate Health Departments and thus the ability to issue their own health directives.
These changes regarding youth and adult recreation are going to require Los Angeles County to reconcile contradictions with that county’s separate Golf Appendix that have been thorns in the golf community’s side for months, “contradictions” that have stilled the schedules of local golf clubs, caused the cancellation of anything resembling a “group” activity no matter how innocuous, including SCGA Team Play, and thus far prevented even the intramural school activities otherwise permitted in “Purple Tier” counties. Without reconciliation, otherwise known as getting rid of golf specific restrictions long ago obviated by the science of the matter, Los Angeles County is not going to be able to accommodate these new state directives, and high school golf is going to be left in the lurch while contact sports like football go forth.
This is neither an acceptable nor a commonsensical outcome. SCGA has made that clear. Los Angeles County Parks & Recreation has made that case in the past, and we trust they’ll get about making it again posthaste. And when they do, a number of the restrictions long ago dropped by the state’s other 57 counties (e.g., all forms of group play, practice putting greens) should fall away in Los Angeles County as well.
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February’s weather, which the U.S. Weather Service assures us is going to be the same well into March, has been great if you play golf or operate a golf course. But consistent with the theme that suffuses so much of what we share in these “Updates,” there is a downside to everything, and the downside of warm dry winters is this.
The State Water Project, which Southern California depends upon for much of its water, has released only 10% of its annual allocation. The U.S. Department of Reclamation has just announced that the state’s Central Valley, which relies on the Central Valley Project for much of its water, is going to receive no more than 5% of its allocation. With warm dry conditions slated to continue into March and the California rainy season pretty much over by April 1, drought is very much back in our picture.
We found ourselves in a similar situation one year ago but got bailed out by some rather late storms in March that produced considerable snow in the Sierras and plenty of rain in Southern California. A March reprieve more than March Miracle, but enough to keep us out of drought. If fortune smiles on us again this year, great. If not, we’ll be looking down the barrel of a 2021-2022 precipitation season that will need to be deep and rich, lest we bounce out of COVID and back into the all too familiar territory of drought and the complications it creates for an industry dependent upon access to affordable water.