UPDATED: County OKs Golf Courses to Restart Play, Ranch Plans Limited Reopening

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The Ranch at Laguna Beach is home to Ben Brown’s Gold Course. (File Photo)

The Ranch at Laguna Beach will Ben Brown’s Golf Course on Friday after the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted earlier this week to allow golf courses to resume play.

Ranch managing partner Mark Christy said Thursday that the course would reopen as a walk-only course after being closed for just over a month to help contain the coronavirus. The clubhouse, food and beverage service, and pro shop will remain closed to visitors, according to county guidance provided to golf course operators Tuesday.

“We are going to be maniacal [about disinfecting],” Christy said. “I don’t anyone want to get sick because of us.”

Christy added that the cups on putting greens will be raised to prevent golfers from needing to reach in the hole.

“If you hit the cup, it’s in,” he said.

Christy described the county’s initial guidance as laden with “vague language” that limited golf clubs to provide members, not their guests, with the opportunity to recreate. He received an updated version from Bartlett’s office Tuesday night that provided certainty.

“Ben Brown’s is allowed to open with all appropriate safety protocol,” Christy wrote in an email. “We will meet or exceed all guidelines.”

Other high-touch points like flag sticks and sand bunker rakes will be removed from Orange County golf courses, according to the county document.

Golfers cannot show up more than 10 minutes prior to tee time. Cash will not be accepted for transactions, Christy wrote in an email Thursday

Groups should be limited to no more than four golfers and observe the 6-foot social distancing rule. After completing the round, golfers should immediately get in their car and drive away to avoid congregation in parking lots, according to the county document.

Course operators should also schedule tee times to ensure golfers don’t congregate while waiting to start their round, the county stated.

Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, who represents Laguna Beach, spear-headed the effort to allow golfers to tee off again after spending over 10 hours speaking with golf industry stakeholders this weekend. 

“We have people getting stir crazy at home and want to get out and recreate,” Bartlett said. “I’m sure if we approved this today our residents would appreciate it, as would the golf course managers and owners.”

With a population of about 3.2 million residents to govern through the pandemic, Supervisor Andrew Do said the golf course discussion should have been part of a larger discussion about how and when to reopen all businesses.

“Spending 20 minutes talking about golf courses is probably not what the public wants to hear right now,” Do said.

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