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If there’s any outdoor space where social distancing was already a thing, it’s golf courses. They’re made of wide open areas of greenery, and crowding next to other players goes against all accepted etiquette, coronavirus or not.

Those factors surely played into decisions by Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf and Philly Mayor Jim Kenney to lift restrictions on golf courses as of May 1 — which means you can head out right now for a round on the links.

For regular golfers, this is sure to be thrilling news. Even better? Greens and fairways in Philadelphia are basically perfect right now.

“I’ve been here 35 years, and it’s the best it’s ever been,” said Bob Wheeler, general manager and executive director of Juniata Golf Club in Feltonville. “Nobody’s been on it, and [the shutdown] gave us the time to go out and aerate and take care of it.”

Juniata is one of five city-run courses that are currently booking tee times. Unlike private clubs, you don’t need to be a member to play. Fees start as low as $25 per person, and top out at $40. There’s also one driving range accepting customers, with another opening next week.

Staff who answered the phone at other clubs offered similar raves about their condition. “The course is in unbelievable shape,” said pro shop employee at Cobbs Creek Golf Course.

At all the facilities, special procedures are in place to limit potential spread.

Reservations have to be made online in advance; players must wear masks when checking in and keep their distance otherwise; and equipment rentals are not available, among other COVID-related guidelines (find details below).

The lack of rentals makes it tough for people who don’t already own a set of clubs to take advantage of this potential quarantine-busting activity.

However, the best part of golfing isn’t necessarily hitting the little ball around. Tip from a former casual golfer: you could always book a tee time just for the chance to walk through the grounds of what’s basically a beautiful, well-maintained park.

Just make sure you plan in advance: “It’s actually really crowded right now, in a socially distant way,” said a staffer at Walnut Lane Golf Club in Roxborough.

You could even plan a picnic outing, as long as you eat on the go and maintain pace of play. Several clubs in Philly are selling snacks and beer on site, and a handful will have relaxed policies and will let you bring your own.

“We’re selling beer, but we’re not real strict [about BYOB],” said Wheeler, the retired police officer who runs Juniata. He clarified it has to be cans, not bottles, if you bring your own.

Here’s everything you need to know about golfing in Philadelphia during the pandemic.

Golf courses and driving ranges

Cobbs Creek and Karakung Golf Courses

215-877-8707, 7400 Lansdowne Ave. (Cobbs Creek/Highland Park)

Food: Walking only
Drinks: Beer for sale; no outside alcohol
Food: Candy and snacks for sale; outside food allowed
Food: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily
Fee: $30 to $40 per person

Walnut Lane Golf Club

215-482-3370, 800 Walnut Ln. (Roxborough)

Food: Walking only
Drinks: Beer for sale; usually no outside alcohol allowed but not being strict about it
Food: Candy and snacks for sale; outside food allowed
Food: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily
Fee: $25 to $35 per person

John F. Byrne Golf Club

215-632-8666, 9550 Leon St. (Torresdale)

Food: Walking only
Drinks: Beer for sale; usually no outside alcohol allowed but restrictions currently relaxed
Food: Candy and snacks for sale; outside food allowed
Food: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily
Fee: $25 to $35 per person

Juniata Golf Club

215-743-4060, 1391 E Cayuga St. (Feltonville/Juniata Park)

Food: Walking or carts (two people max, one must walk while the other drives unless it’s family)
Drinks: Beer for sale; outside alcohol allowed
Food: Candy and snacks for sale; outside food allowed
Food: 8 a.m. to sunset, daily
Fee: $25 to $40 per person

Burholme Golf (driving range)

215-742-2380, 401 Cottman Ave. (Burholme Park)

Drinks: No
Food: No
Food: 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily
Fee: $25 to $40 per person

Strawberry Green Driving Range

215-235-9436, 1500 N. 33rd St. (East Fairmount Park)

Opening Friday, May 8.

Coronavirus prevention rules and regulations

To make sure golfing doesn’t cause coronavirus spread, there are a handful of restrictions put in place by the city. These include:

  • All players must practice social distancing and maintain a minimum distance of six feet from each other as well as employees at all times.
  • No clubhouse or restroom access
  • All rakes and ball washers have been removed (smooth over sand trap marks with your foot instead)
  • No player should touch the flagsticks — all holes have been raised for easy retrieval
  • Carts, when available, must be sanitized after each use
  • Masks are required when interacting with staff, and suggested when near others
  • Employees will maintain six feet of distance from customers and colleagues, and will wear masks
  • Hand sanitizer will be provided to employees and customers as available.

Check the website of each golf course or range for additional rules, some of which include:

  • Restricting visitors until 10 minutes before a booked tee time
  • Requiring customers to wear disposable gloves when entering the facility
  • Requiring customers to provide detailed contact information so it can be used for future contact tracing if needed
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Danya Henninger

Danya Henninger is director of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation — including the...