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Red Run, Plum Hollow, other private clubs tell members it's OK to play amid state's golf shutdown

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

The state of Michigan's golf-course shutdown isn't all-encompassing — at least if you ask several private clubs in Metro Detroit.

Officials at Red Run Golf Club at Royal Oak, Plum Hollow Country Club in Southfield and Indianwood Golf & Country Club in Orion Township, among others, have informed their memberships that they are free to play the courses, albeit with restrictions.

Despite the governor's order, some private clubs are allowing members to play golf.

Rick Burkardt, general manager at Plum Hollow, told members in an email Friday that the course would re-open for play starting at noon Saturday.

"There has been a lot of confusion during the last few weeks pertaining to golf," Burkardt wrote to members, in an email obtained by The News. "With these conflicting statements we are focusing on the fact that we are a private club that can allow play without opening any part of our golf operation including the locker room, golf shop or cart operation.

"With the availability of online tee times along with a membership that can adhere to specific rules, we could assure adherence with social distancing rules."

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has issued a series of executive, stay-at-home orders, each more restrictive than the last. The first allowed golf courses to stay open, but subsequent ones have shut them down — affecting an industry that boasts about 650 courses, public and private, and generates billions in annual revenue. The state's golf industry employees about 60,000 workers.

More recently, though, attorney general Dana Nessel, on her website answering frequently asked questions about the executive ordseemed to greenlight members being able to walk private courses, at which they've already paid membership fees.

Plum Hollow laid out a series of guidelines for play, including: walking only, online tee times, no arriving prior to 15 minutes before the tee time, three or fewer players per group, and no push carts and bags can be left on the premises after the road. Players must adhere to social-distancing guidelines, flag sticks must not be removed, and the club's driving range, putting green, locker rooms, clubhouse, golf shop, bathrooms, cart barn and bag room will be closed.

No guests of members are allowed to play the course.

"Our ability to adhere to these (rules) is the key to the health of our community and your access to enjoy your course," Burkardt wrote to members. "For anyone who refuses to abide be these rules, steps will be taken to have their privileges revoked going forward.

"Please enjoy this opportunity for some time outdoors at your club."

Similar measures were outlined in a letter from the Red Run board of directors to its membership.

Red Run will allow twosomes only (again, no guests), and also have a walking-only policy. The greens are without flagsticks, and the bunkers without rakes. Its driving range, putting green locker rooms, clubhouse, halfway shack, golf shop, bathrooms and bag room will remain closed.

Both Plum Hollow and Red Run are keeping their curbside dining operations open, as allowed by the state.

More: State reps urging governor to reconsider shutdown of golf courses

In its letter to members, Red Run's board cited "inconsistencies" in Whitmer's order in allowing play.

"These are unprecedented times and we look forward to enjoying with you all the normal camaraderie and fun we’ve become accustomed to at our Club when safe," Red Run's board wrote in its email. "In the meantime, be well, stay healthy, and stay safe."

Red Run's board also told members that if they choose to play, they run the risk of any potential fines for violating the governor's order. Fines can range between $500 and $1,000.

Plum Hollow, Red Run and Indianwood said in the emails to members that they are not to congregate on the grounds but rather depart immediately after they're finished playing.

Keith Aldridge, vice president and general manager of Indianwood, told members in a letter earlier this week that it was opening the course starting this past Tuesday.

"During these uncertain times, I am excited to report some good news today!" Aldridge wrote.

Indianwood announced to members essentially the same safety precautions as Red Run and Plum Hollow, including twosomes only and no carts (personal push carts are allowed). In opening, the club cited comments made by Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard to Channel 4, when he said he wasn't going to assign any of his deputies to monitor golf courses.

The Oakland County Sheriff's Department issued the following statement when asked about golf:

"There has been conflicting reports on whether or not golf courses may be open. The Governor has stated all golf courses are to remain closed. The Attorney General has ruled while golf course clubhouses must remain closed, those who are members of private courses are allowed to walk the course. Should the Sheriff’s Office be dispatched to a call in reference to a violation of the Governor’s Order based on a golf course operating, Deputies will check to see if the Clubhouse is open and operating. If it is not operating for golf or dining, this will be considered compliance and the course will not be checked for players. We do not have the time nor resources to send Deputies out and look for golfers."

Other private clubs said to be allowing play: Meadowbrook Country Club in Northville, Oak Pointe Country Club in Brighton, Great Oaks Country Club in Rochester Hills and Prestwick Village Golf Club in Highland.

But some private clubs in Metro Detroit don't see the situation the same way. Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Township and Detroit Golf Club remain closed to member play, The News confirmed.

Public courses, on a whole, have remained closed throughout the state, though public courses and private clubs can keep having maintenance staff working, in order to keep the grounds in playable shape for when golf is allowed again.

"It's not fair to public golf-course operators," said Mark Stevenson, PGA pro at Tanglewood Golf Club in South Lyon. "I wish the governor would issue clear orders."

Multiple state lawmakers and the state's association of golf organizations have petitioned the governor to ease the executive-order restrictions as the golf ban has become surprisingly political — even the attorney general took heat on Twitter after referring to golf as a white-person's sport — but Whitmer has declined. She did say this week that May 1 is the target date to start easing some restrictions, though the governor wasn't overly specific.


Twitter: @tonypaul1984