By Bruce Meadows


April 2020


“Essential or not ???

Like many of you, I have found myself with a lot of time on my hands recently.

As a result, I have tried to catch up with things around the house and yard.  OK, the kitchen painting project is still in the planning stages, but I have prepared my garden for its annual veggie planting, which includes small starters from nurseries as well as veggies started from seed, and have trimmed a lot of trees and bushes and pulled a lot of weeds.

I have also spent some time writing, and I was thankful and appreciative that a number of GOLF 707 readers took the time to respond to my question about whether golf – and golf courses and related businesses should be considered “essential” or “non-essential.”


I wanted to share some of those responses with you, and because longtime Bennett Valley golf director Bob Borowicz took the time to convey some thoughtful comments and because I have know him for a long time, I felt I should start with him.

  “I enjoyed (your last column) quite a bit.  Brought back some old memories.  Yeah it does seem like one day runs into the other.  I have to really think as to what day of the week it is.  Guess this is getting me prepared for retirement.  My current agreement ends in the middle of 2022.  Hopefully, I can make it till then.

“I’m not certain that golf should be defined an “essential community activity”.  I’ll leave that up to the experts.  The Sacramento County Health Officer believes so. However, I do believe that people need to get out and enjoy some fresh air, get some exercise, and socialize (within the restrictions currently in place of course).

“I think that each facility could be treated on an individual basis as to whether or not they follow the appropriate guidelines that have been established by the officials.

“I’m not going to say that 100% of the golfers who would come out are going to follow the rules once they get on the course.  I will say that we will do our best to ensure the safety of our employees and our guests through the implementation of the following rules (although not limited to those listed) . . . we can take payment over the phone, we have “pop-up” window next to the first tee, we are in the process of installing 4’x4′ “sneeze shields” in front of our two work stations (which are 6 feet apart), golfers will only be allowed to enter through the front door and exit on the other side near the first tee, 6′ spacing will be marked on the floor as we see in most stores we go in now, golf cars could be limited to single riders only and will be sanitized after each use, rakes and ball washers will be removed from the course, flag stick must remain in the hole, we can close every other stall on the range, etc., we will post that if golfers do not follow the appropriate “social distancing” guidelines they will be asked to leave.

“These are but a few of the things we can do to help make it as safe as possible.   Again, I am not an expert, but I don’t think that we’ll ever be able to ensure that golf courses will be a 100% safe haven.  People are not meant to be isolated like this. It could be that the cure may be worse than the disease.

“We’ve been shut down by the City since March 18 @ 9 AM.  Best of luck and keep up the good work.”

   One golfer sent this response regarding golf course closures . . .


Here some of the other comments I received . . . and I thank you for writing to me and encourage you to write again, and for those of you who have not done so, please consider it.



CHARLIE GIBSON, former Windsor pro who operates several courses around the state:

“Bruce, I respect you and your opinion I just don’t agree. Somebody has to breathe outside and this is one of the safest places in the country. Great to chat with you. Glad you’re still at it, golf that is. I still remember my picture in the forks of that tree at Santa Rosa golf and country club! And I still haven’t forgiven you, but definitely like you a lot. Hope to see you soon.
“I think all of the information we get there’s a little bit confusing. From what I can assess each county is in charge of their social distancing policies. Placer County, which is where Morgan Creek, is open to some golf courses. San Luis Obispo County, which is where Cypress Ridge is, has open golf courses. We are doing many crazy things to maintain social distance. Many staff members are on board cleaning and disinfecting and making sure people keep their distance. Thanks Bruce.”


JIM STRONG, owner of Strong’s Golf in Santa Rosa:

“The only thing I can say about what is going on is it’s overboard for local golf.  To give you an idea, all the golf course all the city owned golf courses in the  Sacramento area including Haggin Oaks are open (that changed shortly after I got this note from Jim)

“I spoke to Charlie Gibson and his course Morgan Creek in Roseville is open as is his other course Cypress Ridge in San Luis Obispo is open.  I spoke to one of my old golf team/roomates that lives in Mesa, Arizona yesterday and he said all the golf courses in Arizona are open. But the ones in Sonoma County are closed.

“I don’t get it . . . they let people walk into Safeway, Target, Costco, etc.  touch everything, breathe on everything, exchange money, and that is safe, but being out on a golf course isn’t.  Sounds stupid to me.  The safest place to be is out in the fresh air.  Anyway, that’s my 2 bits worth. So instead of golf I walk the dogs.”


GARY POFFENHOLZ , Santa Rosa golfer:

“I feel that we should be able to go golfing and have some restrictions on contact with each other, but if you’re in the high-risk group, one might consider a different option . . . when we are able to get out, I am sure things will be different, in the way we carry out our daily lives”


ERIC THOMPSON, GM at Callippe Preserve, Pleasanton:

“On the subject of opening up golf courses I am a bit conflicted.  I am not a doctor and therefore don’t know the risks that could be felt by the public.  If done right I think we can have a safe experience for our guests.

“I have heard that many of the issues are the golfers that are hanging out in the parking lots after their round is over to have beers and congregate. The courses in Sacramento that are open are having issues with this. Additionally I don’t think it’s a good idea to use carts, if it were up to me I would have the following:


  • On-line tee time booking only
  • Starter utilizing a microphone from the golf shop
  • No one allowed in the golf shop
  • 15 minute tee times intervals
  • To-go food only – called in from the 9thtee to alleviate backups on the 10th tee
  • No congregating in the parking lot”


RICK BELFIORE, Sonoma County golfer”

“I wish they were open. Must golfers would follow any necessary rules. It’s easy to maintain social distancing on a course. Would be more apart than at Costco or Walmart.”


AMY HAGEN, Santa Rosa golfer:

“Thanks, Bruce, for your interesting and fun article. I haven’t been playing much lately after slogging around for six holes at the end of January when things were really wet!

“February I was sick for a whole month with some mysterious unidentified ailment that included backaches, fever, no energy, no appetite, but no digestive or respiratory involvement. Feeling well now and grateful I got to celebrate my 85th birthday by eating out before all this came about. I like the idea of constructing my own golf course in the yard. And I’m doing some work in my raised bed gardens to get ready for planting.


KEN OLDS, Colorado doctor (and my son-in-law’s dad):

“It’s a non-contact, outdoor sport and the only exercise that some people get!  Essential!”


GARY McCLERNAN, Sonoma County golfer:

“I see that you are well and doing good things during the lockdown. Normally, I’d be out at the Fairgrounds playing golf at this time.  Instead, I’m staring at my computer.  I enjoyed your article and loved the story about the persimmon woods.  I can’t wait to get back to normal.  Thanks!”


Click here to find out more about our great courses!



“Golf is the most socially distancing sport there is . At the tee box you always stand away from the person teeing off. You can walk on opposite sides of the fairway to your ball or you can ride singly in a cart.


“On the green, mark the ball and stand off the green until it’s your turn to putt. At the end of the round, you can wave at your playing partners, get in your car and drive home. The courses can put foam cups in the holes on the green and you don’t have to touch the flag stick and players can wear two gloves so there is no contact.”


TOBY VAUGHN, Sonoma County golfer:

“I feel most golfers either play with family or their best friends. These are people they are close to anyway. There are only four of you. If you walk usually they are six feet apart.  If you have to ride, go solo. Golf is good for the soul let us play.”


GLORIA MURRAY, Sonoma County golfer:

“I wish that golf courses would be allowed to stay open. I think it is a sport that social distancing can be observed. It would be good to get out and enjoy fresh air and get some exercise.

“Even having the driving range open would be nice so anyone who wants to practice can do so without getting too close to another person.

“When we are required to shelter in place, after a period of time, it can get depressing. Getting out to golf can be good for us both mentally and physically. Thanks for listening and you stay safe as well.”


THOMAS BARNETT, Sonoma County Golfer:

“Thanks for your blog on golf during these unusual times. I truly appreciate your perspectives and insights based on your playing experiences and having chronicled the sport at the amateur/professional levels as a Bay Area journalist. I have also thoroughly enjoyed the golf stories and jokes you’ve kindly shared with me and others before and after our rounds at the Fairgrounds.

“For me, golf is an enjoyable means of mild exercise, friendly competition, and socializing. During this time of “sheltering in place”, I absolutely miss the activity and opportunity to get together with others. Golf is the most challenging, frustrating, and occasionally rewarding game I’ve ever played.

“As a kid and young man, I played football, baseball and basketball. For all of these sports, I spent much more time practicing or training than I ever did playing the game itself. In football, we’d practice 12+ hours a week for a 60-minute game on Friday or Saturday. In baseball, I’d spend hours fielding balls and hitting pitches in batting cages before taking the field for a real game. Basketball required lots of running, tons of drills, and endless scrimmaging before a scoreboard came into play.

“For most amateur golfers, getting ready for a round of golf generally means scheduling a tee time, getting clubs, making sure you have enough balls and tees, and hoping for good weather.

“So, perhaps while we are quarantined, golfers can make this our Spring Training for golf. I’ve been chipping and putting in my backyard and my dog has become pretty good at shagging balls — though some of my old Titleists are a little worse for wear (I have a very friendly 85-lb. pit bull).

“We have plenty of time to search the Internet/YouTube for golf videos and drills that don’t require a full driving range or a putting green. And maybe we can just try to get in better shape generally. I’m walking more, riding my bike around the neighborhood and I’ve even dusted off the weights/exercise equipment that have gone unused in my garage for longer than I’d care to admit. Maybe (just maybe) we can use this solitary time to work on our games and our bodies. There’s no doubt that we’ll truly appreciate golfing more when courses are open again. Perhaps we can enjoy it more (and score better) with a little more preparation, training and practice than we usually devote to the game?

“I know my buddies will be falling off of their couches to hear ME talk about practice. I have traditionally been the quintessential just-in-time golfer (slamming my trunk 10 minutes before our tee time and rushing to the first tee with untied golf shoes). As a senior golfer (55+), I have generally viewed practice like former NBA all-star Allen Iverson (just Google his name and “practice” for a giggle). Anyway, this old dog is going to try to take advantage of this challenging period to learn a new trick…


Stay safe and healthy


These are a few of the responses I received after my last column, and as I said earlier, I really appreciate people taking time to write, and I would love to see more responses from golfers, pro and amateur.


By the time this column is posted, some things may have changed, but hopefully there is no rush to do so.

This virus is a lot more serious and life-threatening than too many people have failed to grasp.

Whether to play golf or not is a very small piece of this pandemic puzzle, one that will take time, patience and good decisions to figure out.

Hope to hear from you.



Let’s hear from you . . .

Thanks for your comments, questions and suggestions. I appreciate getting them and would like to get as many as possible. If you have information about anything golf-related, including upcoming clinics, activities, tournaments or sales, let me know. And if you have questions, complaints or compliments about golf in our area, I want to hear them.

If you have a golfer – pro or amateur — you know who you think would make an interesting story, tell me about it and I will take it from there. Having trouble with your game? Let me know what it is and I’ll try to get an answer for you from a local pro.

We would be proud to include you as one of our sponsors – thanks to Bill Carson at Wine Country Golf for his continued support – so if you care to get some details about being a sponsor of GOLF 707, email me at