In era of social distance, golf continues at MACC

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BENNINGTON — With everything from schools to parks closed during the coronavirus outbreak, people are looking for ways to stay active despite stay-home orders from state and federal officials.

One sport that seems to be safe to play while following social distancing rules, without affecting the game, is golf.

Local courses like Mount Anthony Country Club in Bennington have been able to stay open and operational during the outbreak due to the natural spacial tendency of the game, but that does not mean courses are operating as business as usual, though.

Courses are finding ways to limit the risk and exposure, including limiting the amount of people allowed in the clubhouse at one time to just four at MACC. The course is also offering individual carts for each golfer to limit person-to-person contact while at the course.

Governor Phil Scott issued a "stay-at-home" order on Tuesday for the entire state of Vermont to try and lessen the spread of the virus.

Shortly after the governor's mandate, MACC owner Maru Griffin-Leon emailed Vermont state Senator Brian Campion to understand how it would specifically affect her course and if it would be able to stay open.

"As long as we don't have people gathering here (then we're fine), which we don't," Griffin-Leon said. "Even with the governor's mandate to have zero person-to-person contact, as long as we keep a distance, they sort of cleared it."

Social distancing involves being at least six feet away from people.

Thursday afternoon looked like a typical early spring day on a New England golf course. The temperature was nearly 60 degrees and golfers were out getting an early start to their season.

One of those people, Dwight Mayhew, shared why he decided to come out and play.

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"Just a little cabin fever. Working from home, like everybody else. I spent the morning working, the sun was out, its 50 degrees, so I figured I'd swing a couple clubs and enjoy it," said Mayhew.

Mayhew was joined by his friend Brian Johansen as they walked the course.

"I don't feel like I'm breaking any rules by being out here and walking, basically, by myself," he continued.

The state of Vermont did list exercise as an "essential reason" for leaving the house in an addendum to the executive order placed by Governor Scott.

"The reality is a lot of people need the exercise, the majority of of people are choosing to walk (the course) which is better," said Griffin-Leon

Donna Shepard was another working on her game on Thursday afternoon at MACC, practicing on the putting green.

"I just love it. I love being outside, I love that it's your own game," said Shepard. "Golf's one of those things where you don't touch anybody else's equipment like basketball or baseball. It's really safe, I'm just so happy I have it in my life."

Despite a good showing on Thursday, Griffin-Leon believes there are people who are nervous about going outside.

"I think in the last two weeks we've had days where people could have golfed but I think people are a little afraid to come out," said Griffin-Leon.

Griffin-Leon said they are disinfecting golf carts after each use, encouraging players to not pull the flag out of the cup, and to sign up for a tee-time online through the club's website.

"We're starting to get a lot of phone calls asking if we're open, if they are able to play. People are questioning, is it safe? So I just have to go through all the steps that we're taking in order to make people at ease that it's OK to do it," she said.


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