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Lincoln golf courses to remain open, for now, as coronavirus outbreak continues
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Lincoln golf courses to remain open, for now, as coronavirus outbreak continues

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The email had to feel like a warm ray of sunshine when it landed at about 9:30 Thursday morning in the inboxes of golfers around Lincoln.

It'll be a little different, but golf will go on in the capital city.

The Lincoln Parks and Recreation Department announced Thursday that the city's five municipal courses — 18-hole Pioneers, Holmes, Mahoney and Highlands, as well as nine-holer Jim Ager Golf Course — will stay open for business as long as it is deemed safe during the coronavirus outbreak.

"It's a great social activity, and a way for people to kind of maintain as much normalcy in their lives as possible," said Lynn Johnson, Lincoln Parks and Rec director.

Normalcy is a relative term right now, of course, but anything resembling normal is going to look better and better as the days and weeks drag on.

Each of the courses is taking measures to keep things as safe as possible. Johnson termed it "no-touch" golf.

There will be no rakes in sand traps. No ball washers next to tee boxes or on golf carts. On-course restrooms are locked. Flags will stay in the cups, which will have a piece of foam in the bottom so that a made putt will rest slightly above the putting surface and allow people to pick up their ball without touching anything else.

Carts will still be available for rental, Johnson said, and will be wiped down after each use to keep them as sanitary as possible.

And inside the clubhouses, food and beverage service will be allowed, though no table and chairs will be available. No more than 10 golfers will be allowed in a clubhouse at once.

The courses are even taking the step of taping down squares 6 feet apart on the floor to help people remember to keep their social distance.

"Really the more we talked, once people are outside on the course, there's good social distancing and they're using their own equipment," Johnson said. "So really, it seems like the risk of exposure is very minor once people get out on the golf courses."

Johnson also recommended calling ahead and paying over the phone if a golfer wanted to avoid the clubhouse altogether.

It was not immediately clear whether Omaha's municipal courses were staying open. A Twitter account representing Omaha's courses tweeted, then shortly after that deleted, an announcement saying the city's public courses would be closed.

NGA in wait-and-see mode

As for the months ahead, the Nebraska Golf Association is in a wait-and-see mode when it comes to its spring and summer events, executive director Craig Ames said.

The NGA's first event of the season, the Nebraska four-ball championship, isn't until April 25-26 at The Players Club in Omaha. The next NGA event after that, the Nebraska women's amateur, doesn't begin until June 1. Ames said a decision on the four-ball championship would come in mid-April.

"For us, it's basically wait and see what goes on. And I know across the country, with other state associations, they've canceled events through the end of March or the first part of April," Ames said. "But we're a little insulated in that our season starts later."

So far the only major golf event to be wiped from Nebraska's calendar is a local qualifier for the U.S. Open. That tournament was scheduled for May 4 at Beatrice Country Club, but it, and every other local qualifier across the country, was postponed by the United States Golf Association.

Ames, who also runs an NCAA regional tournament and assists with the NCAA championships the following week, suddenly found a couple of open dates on his calendar when the NCAA canceled all spring sports competitions.

But other than that, he and his crew are like everyone else — wait, and hope things can get back to normal soon.

"This is all new territory. It's a little scary for us because we don't know what's going to happen with the golf environment, and our membership is built on handicaps and golfers that have handicaps through clubs," Ames said. "So obviously a large concern of ours is our member clubs and how they do business, and that will affect how we do business."

Contact the writer at cbasnett@journalstar.com or 402-473-7436. On Twitter @HuskerExtraCB.

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Husker men's basketball/baseball reporter

A Ravenna native, Chris covers the University of Nebraska men's basketball team and assists with football coverage. He spent nearly 10 years covering sports at the Kearney Hub and nearly four years at the Springfield News-Leader in Springfield, Mo.

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