So Moore, 54, who says he makes certain to follow recommendations by public health specialists of including social distancing, wasn’t expecting the crowd he saw Tuesday night when he arrived at Northwest Golf Course in nearby Silver Spring.
“I can usually tell by the parking lot and parking patterns. There were a lot of people,” he said in telephone interview Wednesday afternoon.
Moore got in a practice round by himself, and indicated he plans to work on his game in the same manner for the foreseeable future so long as area courses remain open.
Demand for tees times has been brisk in Montgomery County, according to Keith Miller, chief executive of the Montgomery Country Revenue Authority, which oversees nine public courses, including Northwest and other popular layouts such as Little Bennett and Falls Road.
Montgomery County’s public courses have taken extra precautions, Miller said, to try to ensure the safest conditions for players and staff, including wiping down counters, door handles and other surfaces patrons frequently touch.
Payment for greens fees is entirely electronic, with credit card machines resting on tables six to eight feet in front of the registers so customers are not in close proximity with pro shop employees.
On the courses, all water stations, rakes and ball washers have been removed. Flagsticks are still in place, but a recent rules update by the U.S. Golf Association mandates players no longer are required to pull them while putting.
Carts are washed and sanitized inside and out following each use, according to Miller, who added the sport meets the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as those of President Trump as far as social distancing and staying clear of large groups.
“It’s a lot of mixed emotions I guess,” Miller said in a telephone interview. “I think it’s important that people have some type of recreational activity to do and some type of sporting activity to do, and in reality golf makes the most sense.
“I think as long as we can do it, and people can get out and recreate and still maintain all the requirements and really helping to prevent the spread of coronavirus, I think it’s really an important thing.”
Chevy Chase and Columbia, two of the most exclusive private clubs in the state located a short distance apart along a mansion-lined stretch of Connecticut Avenue, have closed their golf facilities at least through the end of March.
Bethesda’s Congressional Country Club, site of multiple major championships, is permitting play, with the clubhouse closed. It most recently hosted the 2011 U.S. Open, an event run annually by the USGA.
When reached for comment, the USGA said through a spokesperson “it needs to defer to the direction our health and government officials are giving us, and actively support the effort to protect the well-being of everyone in our communities.”
“In response to Coronavirus (COVID-19), we are encouraging our GolfDC staff and visitors to follow the CDC’s guidance on managing infection diseases, including maintaining social distancing; covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze; and most importantly, staying home if you feel sick or have had contact with someone who is sick.”
The three courses that operate under the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, Algonkian, Brambleton and Pohick Bay, are closed voluntarily through at least March 31.
But other popular courses in Northern Virginia such as Raspberry Falls in Leesburg and Stonewall in Gainesville are open, with each posting a coronavirus update on its website.
Trump National Golf Club D.C. in Sterling also is allowing play and, according to an SBNation report, hosted its annual St. Patrick’s Day “Irish Open” Tuesday with 88 players on the tee sheet.
Trump National Bedminster in New Jersey has closed indefinitely, according to an email to members from General Manager David Schutzenhofer obtained by The Washington Post, amid Gov. Phil Murphy (D) limiting gatherings to no more than 50 people and prohibiting dining room seating at restaurants.
It is unclear when or if golf’s first major of the year will be played.
The indefinite postponement of the Masters came shortly before the PGA Tour announced it would postpone the PGA Championship, another of golf’s four majors, at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco that had been scheduled for May 14 through 17.
But back in Montgomery County on Wednesday morning, the dispiriting news of majors potentially being canceled and the certainty of a significantly truncated PGA Tour schedule didn’t diminish the frivolity shared among seven friends, the youngest 69, playing in two groups during their regular weekly gathering.
“Today’s my third day in a row playing,” said Bob Kirby, 78, wearing a Maryland Terrapins pullover and a Washington Capitals Stanley Cup champion cap. “It’s a whole lot better than just sticking around the house. Out here, I think it’s an open enough environment that I’m not concerned about the proximity of crowds.”