Minnesota joins Wisconsin in opening golf courses

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers revise safer-at-home orders to allow some outdoors activities with limitations

Sand traps surround a green on the Lake Nine at the Lester Park Golf Course in Duluth. (file / News Tribune)
Sand traps surround a green on the Lake Nine at the Lester Park Golf Course in Duluth. (file / News Tribune)

Minnesota and Wisconsin golfers will soon be teeing off at their favorite courses after governors of the two states revised stay-at-home orders.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced Thursday that golf courses in the state could open with restrictions, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz followed suit Friday.

Minnesota courses can open at 5 a.m. today, while Wisconsin courses can open Friday, April 24.

Wisconsin courses are one exception to Evers’ extension of safer-at-home policies to May 26.

"It's important for us to stay active and enjoy the outdoors while preventing the spread of COVID-19," Walz said in a statement. "This measure will allow Minnesotans to take advantage of more opportunities to get outside, while still doing their part to keep their neighbors healthy."


Specifics on operations at Duluth's city courses will be announced Monday, according to a City of Duluth release Friday afternoon.

According to the city's statement, Mayor Emily Larson's 1 p.m. news conference Monday will address several city programs and projects, including street construction, libraries, parks and golf courses.

Under Walz' revised order, Minnesota golfers must adhere to social distancing guidelines and pay fees online or by phone. Golfers can walk or use single-rider carts and they are advised to handle their own bags and equipment, avoid touching flagsticks, cups, bunker rakes and ball washers.

Wisconsin golfers must walk their courses, with no golf cart use allowed. Rental push carts and rental clubs will not be available. Restrooms will be closed and there will be no ball washers, benches or bunker rakes on courses. Social distancing requirements must be observed unless players reside in the same home.

Clubhouses and pro shops will remain closed in Wisconsin, but any restaurant and bar facilities can be open under restrictions already in place.

All tee times and payments must be made in advance online or by phone and tee times will be spaced out to prevent individual golfers or groups from clustering at any place on the course.

Driving ranges and miniature golf courses must remain closed.

Darrin Bell, manager of Northland Country Club in Duluth, said crews returned to the course a couple days ago and work on the course is in the early stages, but it will be ready for play.


“We came out of winter very well,” Bell said. “We’re picking up sticks and cleaning up and we’ll roll the greens and pull pins. We’re in good shape.”

Bill Manahan, pro and manager at Cloquet Country Club, said green covers were recently pulled and the course is in good shape. The course is about 30% snow-covered, but mostly in tree lines.

The Saturday start will be about on par with previous years’ openings during the third week of April, he said.

“It’s the typical spring look,” Manahan said. “It will improve quickly when we get warm weather, sun and warm rains.”

Nemadji Golf Course in Superior is slated to open Friday, April 24, with the first tee time open at 8:10 a.m., and then every 15 minutes after, said course general manager and pro Tom Beaudry.

The course wintered “really well” and crews recently were allowed to begin maintenance work, he said.

Norwood Golf Course in Lake Nebagamon has cleanup to do, “but we’re ready to open,” owner Jim Nicholas said.

Norwood will have cut-up swimming noodles ready to put in the cups on greens, allowing the ball to drop in about an inch and golfers can retrieve their balls with a putter, Nicholas said, adding that he’s heard some courses may not use flagsticks and leave cups above the ground. Putts that hit the cup would be considered in.


Some courses that do not have the ability to take online payments may have to get creative.

“If I can’t open the clubhouse, I might have to go on the honor system for most of the people,” Nicholas said.

The Norwood course will eventually sell food to go, and Nicholas said he’s unsure why clubhouses must remain closed but food service is allowed.

“I see absolutely no difference between collecting green fees or buying to-go food the way restaurants are doing it,” Nicholas said. “When people go to a restaurant they’re going into the building, up to the counter and giving them money.”

Beaudry said he’s pleased courses can open and that operations will adjust as the season progresses.

“What we’re seeing across the nation is that once courses are open and things are going well, in a week or two it will evolve again,” Beaudry said.

-- Ken Olson of the Superior Telegram contributed to this report

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