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Golf courses allowed to remain open

Most operators of golf courses around the state breathed a sigh of relief Monday when Gov. Kate Brown exempted them from closures aimed at enhancing social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Golf was not included in Brown’s Stay Home to Stay Healthy Executive Order.

Only one area course — Oak Knoll in Ashland — is temporarily shutting its doors. The nine-hole facility is owned by the city and was included on a Parks and Recreation website list of closures.

“The fact that it’s a municipality has a lot to do with that,” said head professional Patrick Oropallo.

“I don’t have any timeline right now,” he added. “We’re trying to take it one day at a time and make sure our staff is safe and our patrons are safe and that we’re doing everything we can to be as safe as possible for our community members.”

Elsewhere, course professionals who had experienced heavy play due to mild, sometimes summery weather through last week, vowed to enhance social-distancing measures and maintain clean premises.

They were surprised and thankful golf was spared in the directive.

“We are allowed to stay open as long as we have some social guidelines in place and we are enforcing them,” said Brian Sackett, Centennial general manager and director of golf. “I’m surprised. I thought for sure we were going to get shut down. But we’re not, and I’m thankful we’re open.”

Eagle Point director of golf Scott Lusk sent an email that included a note from the governor’s office clarifying the stance on golf:

“Golf is allowed as long as the social distancing measures are in place, country club activities for a gathering would not be allowed. We categorized golf similar to a hike or outdoor activity, rather than through ‘essential travel’ which is meant to stop vacations.”

The note was from Leah Horner, regional solutions director and jobs and economy policy adviser.

Among the steps local courses have taken or will take are allowing one person per cart, unless it is privately owned; recommending the flagstick be left in the hole at all times; removing rakes from bunkers and allowing players to place the ball if it lands in a trouble spot; removing sand-and-seed buckets and scoops, ball washers and water coolers; spreading out tee times, and eliminating some driving-range mats for better spacing.

Stone Ridge has added foam fillers to its cups so players don’t have to reach deep into the hole to retrieve their balls.

“At this point,” said Vince Domenzain, head pro at Stone Ridge, “we’re not real worried about the rules of golf. We just want to make it so they can go out and enjoy the day.”

Rogue Valley Country Club announced to its members on Monday it would raise the cups about an inch so they stick out of the ground. When a ball strikes the cup, it’s considered holed. Richter Park Golf Course in Danbury, Connecticut, made news last week when it instituted the idea.

About 270 RVCC members own carts, and there are another 68 at the club’s disposal. It instituted the one-rider-per-cart rule last week.

Public courses will now do the same, even though they may not have enough carts to accommodate all players. Eighteen-hole facilities Centennial and Eagle Point have 75 carts in each of their fleets; Stone Ridge has 65.

There were about 180 players last Wednesday and Friday at Centennial, said Sackett.

“There’s no way to make the math work,” he said.

Players will get carts on a first-come, first-served basis.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or ttrower@rosebudmedia.com.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneGolfers putt out recently on the ninth green at Stewart Meadows.