Golf is included under county’s expanded ban on gatherings

The Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club

On April 8, San Diego County expanded its public order to ban all gatherings of people unless they live in the same household. Previously, gatherings of 10 or less had been permitted.

“We decided to extend the gathering restrictions because people were getting together in parks, beaches and other open spaces,” said Wilma Wooten, county public health officer. “People should stay at home and only go in public when doing essential activities, such as grocery shopping or going to the pharmacy.”

On April 13, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department issued guidance on golf course operations after receiving several questions regarding allowing golf courses to operate.

The county’s public health order states that all public golf courses must close their parking lots and not allow active sport activities, such as playing golf. The April 8 order prohibits any gathering of two or more people in any private or public space. It defines a gathering as, “...any event or convening that brings together more than one person in a single room or single indoor or outdoor space at the same time, including people in multiple vehicles in one location.”

With the example of golf courses, as long as members of one family or household do not actually play golf and do not gather with any other persons, the course management may permit them to walk, hike, ride a horse or bicycle on the property. Furthermore, the golf course must be within walking distance of the family’s home.

“While playing golf or engaging in similar activities may seem to some to be a permissible exception to the rule, the fact is the orders exist to protect public health. The more we stay at home, limit contact with others and practice good hygiene, the shorter and less severe this crisis will be,” said Lt. Ricardo Lopez, media relations officer for the sheriff’s department. “We realize it is a disappointment not be able to engage in recreational activities. We also realize the real and significant hardships business owners are suffering right now. While we are sympathetic to these issues, these orders must be followed to keep everyone safe. They are not suggestions to be followed only when convenient.”

Per their websites, private golf clubs such as The Crosby Club, Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club, Fairbanks Ranch Country Club, Del Mar Country Club, Lomas Santa Fe Country Club, The Farms Golf Club and The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe have all temporarily closed.

In a message sent out to members on April 7, Morgan Run Golf Club said they were following a “very strict protocol” to allow members to access a safe outdoor environment. Measures included removing all the touch points on the course such as flagsticks and rakes and permitting golfers to walk only or use private golf carts with only a single passenger. Members are required to maintain social distancing of six feet when on the course and if they do not, they will be asked to leave the property.