Republicans advocate for NJ golf clubs hit by governor’s shutdown
Two Republican legislators are teaming up to get golf courses reopened in New Jersey.
Gov. Phil Murphy closed all golf courses on March 21 as part of his "stay at home" executive order to encourage social distancing to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The governor also closed all state and county parks in a separate order and has refused to reconsider.
During his daily briefing on Monday, the governor said he has had some "incredibly constructive" debate about reopening parks and golf courses but ultimately was unmoved because it cannot yet be done "responsibly."
"As I've said, reminding folks, it's not a life sentence. We'll get there, and I hope sooner than later," Murphy said.
State Sen. Steve Oroho and Assemblyman Hal Wirths along with the New Jersey Golf Association are asking Gov. Phil Murphy to reopen the state’s 300 golf courses for both health and economic reasons.
"I can't figure out the logic of why they're closed when there's many guidelines they can operate safely and also take in much needed revenue," Wirths told New Jersey 101.5.
Wirths said golf courses have reopened in New York and Connecticut, noting the alliance that Murphy entered with those states to duplicate what is open and closed. Pennsylvania, which also part of the alliance, has also kept its golf courses closed.
The closure has been "devastating" to many of the clubs and opening can be the difference between the life and death of their business.
"They have zero income coming in. Their restaurant facilities are closed and of course their bars are closed. They've had to cancel many different events like weddings and golf outings. But the one thing they feel they can do is operate safely with social distancing and obeying all the guidelines," Wirths said.
"We'll accept any of the governor's restrictions if he would just let these folks open up and try to save jobs and businesses here," Wirths said
Wirths, who said he has not golfed in years, said there is a health benefit of being outdoors after being "cooped up."
"There's tremendous medical evidence that says the sun, Vitamin D, are one of the most important things mentally and physically. We need to open up as much as possible for the residents who have been quarantined since the middle of March," Wirths said.
"I've applauded the mayors who have had the courage and did the right thing by keeping their municipal parks open. It doesn't seem like he wants to open them and I'm a little baffled by it."
Wirths said the No. 1 concern of any elected official is the well being of their constituents and he would not push for the reopening if he thought it was not safe.
"The governor does seem very stubborn on these issues We all make mistakes and I just think he governor has it wrong on the parks and he has it wrong on the golf courses. I think both of them can be done safely without putting people at risk even if they had to wear masks," Wirths said.
Oroho said that golf is a no-contact sport that can be played with appropriate social distancing practices in place.
"Plus, it is a healthy activity that can help restore some sense of normalcy for many golf enthusiasts in our state while positively contributing to the economy,” Oroho said.