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Some private golf courses remain open after governor’s order

Updated April 9, 2020 - 7:33 pm

Some private golf courses in Southern Nevada remained open Thursday amid the coronavirus pandemic, one day after Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered the closure of golf courses, churches and other public sporting venues.

Members were allowed to golf at Anthem Country Club, Southern Highlands Country Club and Canyon Gate Country Club.

Henderson Code Enforcement closed Anthem at roughly 12:15 p.m., but the other clubs were open as of Thursday afternoon. General managers at all three courses did not return phone calls seeking comment.

An attendant at Las Vegas Country Club said the club was closed, and phone calls to the private Shadow Creek Golf Course, SouthShore Golf Course and TP Summerlin were not answered. An attendant at the private Summit Club said course employees communicated with Sisolak’s office, which emphasized that private clubs are required to close.

The Review-Journal obtained a copy of an email Anthem sent to its members in which the club justified its decision to remain open, noting Sisolak’s directive did not apply to their course.

“You may have seen the Governor’s latest directives as it pertains to public recreational facilities,” the email said. “It was with intent that the word ‘private’ was not used. That being said, Anthem Country Club will remain open …”

Red Rock Country Club general manager Thom Blinkinsop sent a similar email to the club’s members. The Review-Journal obtained a copy of the message, which noted that “as a non-publicly accessible Club, golf, tennis, and curbside to-go food orders will continue to be offered as an amenity at Red Rock Country Club.”

The Review-Journal also obtained a copy Thursday of an email TPC Summerlin sent to its members that said the club will be closed until April 30.

“As tempting as it may be to walk out on the course and play golf, this will be strictly prohibited,” TPC Summerlin’s email said. “Should code enforcement officers find golfers on the course, this could result in our business license getting suspended or revoked.”

The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

More than 20 local golf courses closed, including the Summit Club, by March 22 — well before Sisolak issued his directive. More than 30 remained open, though, generating confusion among locals who didn’t understand why they could operate despite being nonessential businesses.

DragonRidge head instructor Mike Davis said he expected Sisolak’s announcement and understands its merit, but added that he hates “to have the government tell us what we can or can’t do.”

Sixteen states have barred golf during the coronavirus crisis, according to Golf Digest.

“Golfers were taking a lot of safe measures the last month or six weeks. I think they could have (remained open),” said Davis, a veteran instructor who has taught more than 110 players who competed in college.

“But it’s more if he didn’t do it and something happened, he has a little liability. People can criticize him for not taking action. I see why he did it,” Davis added. “I don’t think it was necessary.”

Golf course architect Forrest Richardson shared his displeasure with states’ decisions to shut down golf courses — explaining that the game inherently lends itself to social distancing requirements and can provide positivity during an arduous time.

“I believe a lot of this pushback is coming from policymakers who are not aware how golf is played,” said Richardson, the vice president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects. “They should listen to the golf course owners and the various owners and bodies of golf … and they should weigh the benefits against anything that could be negative.’

Keith Flatt and his company, Elite Golf, manage a handful of golf courses in the Las Vegas Valley.

He said he understands the intent of Sisolak’s directive.

“We were very thrilled that the governor allowed us to stay open for the three weeks when he did the shutdown,” he said. “Obviously, we didn’t want to close our properties, but we completely understand where the governor is coming from. … The big picture is to make Las Vegas and Nevada safe.”

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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