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Local golfers say their sport is perfect for social distancing

How To Reduce Your Risk

Local health officials urge practicing good hygiene to reduce the risk of becoming infected with a respiratory virus, such as the flu or coronavirus. This includes:

• Washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

• Avoid touching your eyes and face

• Cough or sneeze into your sleeved elbow

• Stay home when ill

• Get a flu shot, and it's not too late this season

Source: Sonoma County Department of Health Services

For more information, go to sonomacounty.ca.gov/Health/Information-About-Coronavirus.

Questions or concerns can be directed to the county's 24-hour information hotline at 211 or 800-325-9604. You can also text "COVID19" to 211211 for coronavirus information.

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

In a world without sports, golf may be the one shining light to keep homebound folks from going berserk.

The sport - which is socially distant almost by definition - may not qualify as “essential business” by coronavirus health department guidelines, but one could argue it’s no different than hiking or walking in a park, which are allowed while Sonoma County residents are under shelter-in-place orders.

Some local golf courses are banking on that.

As of Wednesday, Windsor Golf Club and Northwood in West County were still open and booking tee times. Bennett Valley, run by the city of Santa Rosa, had golfers out on the links Wednesday but said they’d gotten word from the city they needed to shut down.

“A walk on a golf course is something a lot of people could use right now,” said Guido Riccardi, manning the Northwood pro shop Wednesday.

As the fast-spreading coronavirus shakes up life as we know it - with residents ordered to stay at home whenever possible and keep at least six feet from others when in public for the next three weeks - folks are already looking for some semblance of normalcy.

And since professional sports have all but vanished from the television, and college and high school athletics are paused for now as well, golf might just be one public outing that’s allowed.

“The golf course is one of very few places where you’re almost always self-quarantining, by default,” said Demian Reddy, marketing and sales manager at Windsor Golf Club. “Most times the people in the cart, you already know them. Other than that possibility, the golf course is a great opportunity for people to come out and do what they love to do, given what’s going on.”

Windsor and Northwood managers said they will argue golf is safe even while on semi-home arrest, especially since tee times can be booked online and you use your own equipment.

They said they are seeking guidance from county supervisors on whether they qualify as allowed, similar to walking in a park.

Other courses have already closed.

At Bennett Valley, course manager Bob Borowicz said they’d had a few cancellations early in the week, but that was partially related to the wet, chilly weather. Hoping to remain open, course officials began upping their disinfection game on the carts and door handles.

He suggested golfing was even better than going to the park in terms of keeping one’s distance.

“In a park setting, you’re close, having a picnic with other people nearby,” he said. “In golf, you pick who you want to be around in your foursome or twosome.”

Jason Schmuhl, the pro at Windsor, was hopeful the club could offer a respite for folks cooped up at home.

“We can operate with no human interaction. You can pay online, walk up to a tee. We just have no golf carts. It should be just like going to the park,” he said. “But it’s whatever they want us to do.

“A lot of people are hoping golf courses are not shut down. People are going to go crazy if they have no other outlet. We hope they’ll see that side of the argument.”

Mendocino County issued a shelter-in-place order Wednesday night, prompting Ukiah Valley Golf Course to close until further notice.

Little River Inn Golf Course, about 10 miles south of Fort Bragg, was operating on a ?day-to-day schedule, making the same case as the Sonoma County courses.

Golfers were advised to call ahead before venturing out to the links.

How To Reduce Your Risk

Local health officials urge practicing good hygiene to reduce the risk of becoming infected with a respiratory virus, such as the flu or coronavirus. This includes:

• Washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

• Avoid touching your eyes and face

• Cough or sneeze into your sleeved elbow

• Stay home when ill

• Get a flu shot, and it's not too late this season

Source: Sonoma County Department of Health Services

For more information, go to sonomacounty.ca.gov/Health/Information-About-Coronavirus.

Questions or concerns can be directed to the county's 24-hour information hotline at 211 or 800-325-9604. You can also text "COVID19" to 211211 for coronavirus information.

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

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