BOSTON, Mass – How do you define progress when it comes to reopening the Massachusetts economy, particularly its devastating financial impact on the $2.7 billion golf industry?
At today’s 58-minute press conference, Governor Baker spoke on the issue of reopening driving ranges and it’s not what golf courses and driving range owners wanted to hear. It’s anything but a progress report, more like a desperate attempt to continue his unprecdented government overreach.
Why does he continue to treat business owners and citizens like we are dumber than “Mickey the Dunce?”
The session began with the Governor, Lt. Gov, and three other state employees lecturing for a total of 35-minutes about what the private sector is required to do to reopen their businesses, since the government shut them down for 70 days and counting.
When it was time for Q-and-A, I fired the opening salvo to His Royal Majesty:
Question: “Why was there no language in Phase 2 or 3 or 4 about opening driving ranges? Massachusetts was the last state to open golf courses (May 7) and now they will be last to open driving ranges. Based on my research, effective June 1, Massachusetts is now the only place in the world where driving ranges are closed, and that includes in Saudi Arabia, Japan, Europe anywhere. What is stopping you from opening driving range’s later today or tomorrow?”
Boom. Silence. Then Baker gave his usual deer-in-headlight stare when the topic of golf is mentioned.
Answer: “Uuh, I think driving ranges are included in Phase 2.” Then, puzzled, he turned to the Lt. Gov. and asked “Uuh, aren’t driving ranges in Phase 2?” To which she nods and he replies “Yes. They are in Phase 2.” Blah…Blah…Blah!
No time to ask follow-up golf questions like: Why wait five more days? Is there scientific data that shows using a driving range can spread the coronavirus? Or, why not open up driving ranges and let golfers decide if it’s a safe activity instead of playing “Golf Traffic Cop?”
Tried hard to get in this question: “Do you think that being the last government in the world to open golf driving ranges raises credibility issues about how trustworthy Massachusetts reopening plan is going?”
“We are very excited to see that driving ranges were included in Phase 2 for Massachusetts and are now open throughout New England,” said New England PGA Executive Director Michael Higgins. “Our New England PGA Professionals have been looking forward to getting back to providing golf instruction and growing the game. I am hopeful that some of the other guidelines, that continue to create challenges for our facilities, will soon follow.”
I wonder if the good Governor has ever heard of Titleist – a worldwide golf brand based in Fairhaven, Massachusetts that manufactures over 40 million golf balls a year in the greater New Bedford area – and why is he preventing them from being being able to test golf balls on a driving range.
Navigating landmines within state government and the quirky, temperamental approach by Mr. Baker during this public health crisis, compounded by the George Floyd murder is challenging. Unless things change, and its possible the time table could be moved up, Phase 2 should allow driving ranges to open Monday June 8. But Baker has reserved the right to change his mind if “the data” changes. He said an announcement will come Saturday June 6.
Here are updated guidelines for the golf industry in Massachusetts for Phase 2:
Golf Facilities Checklist:
• Require at least 12 minutes between group tee times
• Driving Ranges and Practice Areas
• Use of driving range, putting green and other practice facilities must follow social distancing protocols and must require use of masks or face coverings
• Modify driving range hitting areas to ensure a minimum 6-feet of separation between players
• Hole liners must be raised or otherwise adjusted so that players do not reach into the hole to retrieve a ball
• Pro shops: must follow sector-specific standards for retail business
• Restaurants: follow Phase 2
These are critical days for every business. The livelihood of many small and mid-size business owners is at stake in the next few months, if it isn’t too late already. Restaurants face a dilemma even more stringent than the golf industry.The effort to open businesses and relax social distancing standards come as Congress has stalled on proposals that would limit legal liability for business owners and employees.
“Restaurants should be allowed to open,” said David Andelman, an outspoken critic of the Reopening Advisory Committee and owner of the Mendon Twin Drive-In which opened May 27. “Restaurant employees need to eat and pay bills too. Restaurants are safer than big box retailers and much safer than when thousands of unrestricted protestors gather.”
Click the link to watch the 58-miute press conference June 3.
“It’s very hard in many cases, as we make decisions about a lot of things, to predict what’s going to happen,” Gov. Charlie Baker said.
Once again the Governor talks a good game, but his reopening plan borders on disaster, since Massachusetts has a new moniker: The only place in the world where driving ranges are closed due to government overreach! Sad but true!