Governor, Please Fully Open New Mexico Golf Courses 0

Governor Lujan, this is the UNM Championship Golf Course Hole No 7

Golf is Safe During the Pandemic

Let Us Play the Game We Love

Listen to the science, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. It’s time to open New Mexico’s golf courses.

This fall, only California and New Mexico closed their golf courses, although on Dec. 2, your new red-yellow-green system allowed limited reopening, which is a start.

But it’s not enough.

Health experts agree that golf is relatively safe, with certain precautions,which is why you should let New Mexico’s golf courses fully reopen.

I know you’re a softball player governor, not a golfer. So, let me explain.

First, with the exception of one’s cart mate, golfers in a foursome rarely come within several feet of one another, and most often they are dozens of yards apart during their 4-and-a-half-hour, 18-hole round.

And many courses have taken social distancing to include the golf cart. Some are allowing only one person per cart, which is wiped down with disinfectant before and after each use.

Second, on the practice range, golfers hitting golf balls are more than six feet apart, owing to spacing between hitting stations designed to prevent club-to-head accidents. On the putting green, golfers are dozens of feet apart.

Overall, it’s an outdoor activity on par with walking or biking, governor.

Since the pandemic hit, New Mexico golf courses have developed new practices to promote social distancing. All meet or exceed the Covid best practices of the American Golf Course Superintendents Association.

The University of New Mexico Championship Golf Course, for instance, requires all players to reserve and pay for their rounds over the phone.

Even people using only the range are required to buy their range balls over the phone. No customers actually go into the golf shop.

At Santa Ana Golf Club, players are warned not to arrive more than 20 minutes before their round and to leave immediately afterward.

Even the experience out on the course has changed, governor.

High-touch items have been eliminated. Flagsticks are not to be touched or removed. Rakes have disappeared from bunkers and players sort of rake their footprints smooth with their feet.

Cut-down swimming pool noodles at the bottom on the cup allow players to pluck their balls out of the hole without touching anything else.

Things like ball washers and water jugs either have been covered in plastic wrap or removed.

On Albuquerque’s city courses, although they believe it’s overkill, players (mostly) are  wearing masks on the practice range and putting green, although not so much out on the course when out of view of the clubhouse.

Plus, there’s plenty of data out there showing that golf is among the safest sports and social activities. Here’s an excerpt from an article in Golfworld magazine back in March:

“Fact is, with the right precautions and perhaps a little pre- and post-round modifications, golf might be just the right antidote to the mounting fears of coronavirus.

“According to Dr. Catherine Troisi, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, golf as it’s normally played — outdoors, with natural social-distancing built in — ‘would be fairly safe.'”

And then there’s this, which appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer in September:

“There are several factors for this but I’d say No. 1, it’s certainly a great respite being outdoors so you can properly socially distance,” said Greg McLaughlin, CEO of the World Golf Foundation. “It was one of the few sports that you could do at the height of the pandemic when indoor space was closed. I think the health benefits as well as the mental well-being, that you could spend four hours of quality time with family and friends in a safe manner.”

Governor, Your Capacity Restriction Doesn’t Make Sense

Your requirement, governor, that golf courses in red-coded counties can open to only 25 percent of their capacity is nonsensical in the context of how golf courses operate.
Tee times typically are eight, 10 or 12 minutes apart. That means a group of four teeing off on No. 1 does so eight, 10 or 12 minutes behind the group that went off ahead of them, which puts that group something on the order of 250 to 300 yards away when the group on the tee commences play.
A typical par-72, 7,000-yard golf course can handle up to 144 people at a time, assuming two foursomes are on each each of the 10 par 4s (300-400 yards long); three groups occupy each of the four par 5s (450 to 600 yards long), and one group occupies each of the four par 3s (90-250 yards).
So, governor, what does your 25 percent capacity limit accomplish?
Does limiting a course’s 144-player capacity to 36 players do anything to make anyone safer?
Does adding another thousand yards of social distancing between the group 250 yards ahead and the group 250 yards behind make either any safer?Or, to put it another way, governor, for the sake of argument, take those 144 people and scatter them in socially distanced groups of four over an area of 94 to 150 acres — the acreage of a typical New Mexico golf course.

That’s equal to about 17 football fields occupied by  all of 144 people.

By comparison, 17 football fields occupied by people actually playing, coaching and officiating football games would add up to more than 1,100 people — with none as socially distanced as golfers.

Finally, governor, after several hours of searching the Internet using the terms Covid, golf, tracing, spread, and such — and I have some experience in this area — I could find no reported instances in which Covid was proved to have spread through golf.

(OK, one suspected case. The closest I found was Donald Trump contracting Covid and worries about whether the Cheater-in-Chief infected anyone at his golf club.)

I’m not saying there aren’t golf-related Covid cases out there, I’m saying if it were a significant problem, some news organization somewhere, someplace, would have covered it.

Listen to the science, governor. It’s time to open up New Mexico’s golf courses.

Dan Vukelich, editor of New Mexico Golf News, is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the Golf Travel Writers of America. Reach him at

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Dan Vukelich, former editor of ABQ Free Press and Sun Country Golf magazine, is editor of He's a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the Golf Travel Writers of America. Reach him at

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