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By Zach Cavanagh
After pushing to stay open through another full week, Shorecliffs Golf Club in San Clemente finally followed the actions of every other golf course in the area and suspended operations on Wednesday, April 1 until further notice.
“We apologize for any inconvenience. Due to COVID-19 concerns, course is closed until further notice,” a note on the Shorecliffs website said. “We cannot allow any people on the property, as it is a liability to the course. We thank you for your patronage and look forward to seeing you, hopefully soon!”
Despite every other golf course and club in the area having closed by March 22, Shorecliffs had stayed open through last week with a packed parking lot and full slates of booked tee times deep into next week.
During a special meeting of the Orange County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, March 31, Lisa Bartlett, the supervisor of the fifth district (including San Clemente), voiced her concerns about the club staying open during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I understand people want to get exercise; they’re getting stir-crazy,” Bartlett said. “We have a public health crisis we’ve got to lock down. Golf courses are not part of the essential worker, essential business list pursuant to the governor’s executive order. We need cooperation out there.”
Shorecliffs had been citing a letter the club’s legal counsel had obtained from the Department of Health Services of the County of Sacramento—not the state or Orange County offices—that said golf courses could continue to stay open as long as social distancing guidelines were being followed.
“As golf is a natural social distancing sport,” a March 20 Shorecliffs Golf Club Facebook post said, “Shorecliffs and many other courses are staying open to support the mental health of the community. We are monitoring the recommendations of local and state officials and will remain open unless we are advised otherwise.”
Bartlett said even with social distancing, the normal interactions of a golf course increased the opportunity to spread the virus by touch.
“It’s not a matter of letting golfers walk the course, wear a mask and put in place social distancing,” Bartlett said. “There are so many touch points on course. You’ve got the flag pole you’re putting in and out on the greens. You’ve got the public bathrooms, scorecards, turning things in to the staff.”
Bartlett implored any golf courses in the county that remained open to heed the advice of the board and the state to “close today. Protect yourselves, your workers. Protect the public.”
San Clemente Mayor Dan Bane said in a Facebook post on Tuesday, March 31 that Shorecliffs did, indeed, close that day. Shorecliffs posted its notice officially on Wednesday, April 1.
“Earlier today, I was informed that Shorecliffs Golf Club is voluntarily closing until further notice in light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Bane’s post said. “I applaud this move, and it was most certainly the right move in light of the current pandemic. My understanding is that the county will be issuing further guidance tomorrow regarding golf course closures for those courses that have not already voluntarily closed.”
San Clemente residents had contacted the city offices multiple times about Shorecliffs’ decision to remain open, and Bane even fielded some complaints by residents about the course in the comments of a San Clemente Times Facebook post.
The San Clemente Municipal Golf Course was closed with other city-owned or city-operated facilities by the City of San Clemente on March 16, and following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order on March 20, courses and clubs in Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano followed suit. Talega Golf Club, a public course, and Bella Collina San Clemente, a private club, closed on March 22.
Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is a California Journalism Award winner and has covered sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.