Golfers love golf, and they’re even more appreciative than normal these days.

“A lot of people have been coming in and saying, ‘Thank God you’re open,’” said John Rainone, the head pro at North Kingstown Golf Course. “People are cooped up and they’re very grateful that they can still get out and play.”

In the midst of social distancing and closures due to coronavirus, golf is one of the few recreational activities to be largely unaffected. The wide expanses of a course, groups limited to four people and outside air make the sport a natural fit in these times, and golf courses in Rhode Island have gotten the go-ahead to remain open, with a few adjustments.

“So far, so good,” Rainone said.

At the North Kingstown course, staff has moved the credit card machine far from the register to limit interaction and only one group at a time is allowed in the pro shop. Golf carts are sanitized after each round. Rakes have been removed from bunkers and golfers are asked not to remove pins. Styrofoam inserts let balls stay high in the cup, allowing for easier removal.

The Rhode Island Golf Association has provided guidance to local courses and clubs, including cleaning recommendations, directives on the sale of food and beverages and tee time scheduling. For Golfers, RIGA is recommending maintaining six feet between others at all times, avoiding contact with others and touching only their own clubs.

South County clubs that remain open include North Kingstown, Kings Crossing, Laurel Lane, Exeter, Meadowbrook, Richmond and Wood River. RIGA urges golfers to check with individual courses in case of changes.

In North Kingstown, traffic has been steady on nice days, though Rainone said it’s been a little tough to guage thanks to a winter season that was already unusual.

“If this was a typical year with a bunch of snow and we were just getting open, I think we’d be going like gangbusters,” Rainone said. “We were open pretty much the whole winter, so a lot of people have been out a few times already. We’re already way ahead of we’re we usually are in March, at least for the last four or five years.”

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