SILVER SPRING, Md. — Golf appears to be paving the way towards Maryland's phased reopening, many golfers and course managers believe.
"I think we have a big responsibility," Kieth Miller, the Director of the Montgomery County Revenue Authority, which operates the county's nine public courses, said.
The courses generate $16 million in annual revenue and employ as many as 400 at the peak of the season.
Montgomery County courses began a phased reopening Friday after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan lifted restrictions in time for Mother's Day weekend on outdoor activities he called "low risk."
Hogan said Wednesday he hoped the changes were the first moves toward the implementation of his "phase one" plan for reopening Maryland, which could begin as early as next week if hospitalization rates and ICU admission metrics remain encouraging.
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At the Northwest Golf Course in Montgomery County, Friday's reopening featured a host of new social distancing and hygiene rules.
- Masks for employees are mandatory and optional for players
- Golf carts are sanitized after each use
- Play is by reservation only to eliminate congregating in waiting lines
- Social distancing is required and courtesies and handshakes are off-limits in favor of a "tip of the hat"
"There's definitely a high level of excitement from the golfers coming out," Miller said. "But also people are concerned. They want to make sure they're coming to a safe environment and that's what's critical to us."
Golfer John Woodland chose to wear a mask whenever near other people.
"If you think you're being too cautious, its probably about right," Woodland said.
Most players wore masks to interact with staff, but removed them once on the course. However, some played with coverings on for all 18 holes.
"I think self-governance is key," said player Tim Whitaker.
Hogan emphasized that his orders to maintain social distancing and avoid groups of 10 or more are still in effect for this upcoming Mother's Day weekend.
Restrictions on recreational boating, tennis and visiting Maryland beaches were all lifted Wednesday. Ocean City officials had already decided to open the city's beaches and boardwalk Saturday.
However, only carry out restaurant service is available and all non-essential businesses including lodging for non-essential individuals remains shut down.