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No clubhouses and upside down cups? Golf courses in DeKalb County await approval to re-open

Local golf course operators talk plan of action if Gov. Pritzker gives the OK to re-open

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As it stands now, golf courses in the state are closed as a way to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 per the orders of Gov. JB Pritzker.

Kishwaukee Country Club head golf professional David Paeglow said it's hard to look across the border at a state like Iowa and see the golf courses are open. In Wisconsin, golf courses will be allowed to reopen beginning April 24, with restrictions and new guidelines.

"It's just really frustrating when a state right next to us is operating a golf course and we're shut down," Paeglow said. "It's tough."

There's no word on if the governor will ease restrictions on Illinois golf anytime soon, Paeglow, DeKalb Park District Superintendent of Golf Steven Moore and Sycamore Park District Golf Superintendent Kirk Lundbeck all said they have plans in place to operate within social distancing guidelines should the order be relaxed on golf courses.

Paeglow said the country club is operating as if golf will be an industry re-opened by the governor on May 1, even though there's been no indication one way or the other. Lundbeck said there was no hard date Sycamore is planning for, but it wouldn't take the course long to get up and running.

"I think with the limitations we can implement once the governor gives us the OK, we'll be ready to go within a day," Lundbeck said. "We've got a plan to be open within a day or two once we get the OK."

Lundbeck said there were many steps the course would take to follow social distancing guidelines.

There would be no access to the pro shop or clubhouse. Payments and tee times would all be made online. Ball washers would be removed, as would trap breaks. Cups would be turned upside down, with flag pins left in, so golfers wouldn't have to have contact with the bottom of the cup. Portable washrooms would be set up with foot-controlled sanitizing stations outside them. Only one person would be allowed per cart if carts will even be allowed. And the carts would be sanitized after each use.

Illinoisans have apparently started to demand for golf courses to be reopened - there's a petition with nearly 10,000 signatures asking Pritzker to reopen golf courses.

"People want to play golf and we want them to play golf," Lundbeck said. "It's not just from the revenue standpoint. We want people on the golf course, we want people outside. That's one of our goals at Sycamore Park District, to get people recreating and to stay healthy rather than we all become couch potatoes."

Moore said the same things would be in place for both River Heights and Buena Vista if and when the order comes down. The DeKalb golf course are coming off a tumultuous 2019, after revenue operations put the golf courses in the red for the park district budget. Moore was hired as a result of efforts by the district to keep the courses open after public outcry.

Paeglow painted a similar picture for what golf at the country club would look like. He said while the clubhouse would be closed, the pro shop and bathrooms would be open. But golfers at the private club don't have to pay or reserve tee times. He said that should remain manageable.

"We're not that busy of a country club," Paeglow said. "In the middle of the summer on a crazy day we'll get maybe two, three groups waiting to go ready to play. It never gets to that point where we got 40 guys all showing up at once. I don't think that will be a problem and I'll be here to facilitate that, too."

Paeglow said that food would be available for golfers. There's a sliding window from the clubhouse to the station where golfers could pick up food they ordered ahead of time, then take onto the golf course.

Instead of raising the cup, Paeglow said they've cut pool noodles to be about an inch below the hole so when the ball goes in, golfers can reach in and get the ball without touching the flag or the bottom of the hole.

He said they've also removed benches and ball traps.

"There's a lot of things we've done to eliminate anybody getting close to each other or touching anything unnecessary," Paeglow said. "We're hoping that's going to convince the governor to reconsider."

Moore said he's chomping at the bit to reopen, just as the golfers are to play again. But he said it is up to him or even the governor to make that decision.

"I think everyone wants the golf courses to open, but I don't think it's up to us," Moore said. "It's the coronavirus dictating what we can or can't do. Like any business we want to get back into doing what we do. We want everyone to start playing again but unfortunately it's not up to us."

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