Coronavirus update | Governor's office changes mind: Golf courses ordered to close

Golfers, from left, Earl Hess, Tim Lappin and Dale Hughes golf at Brookhill Golf Course Thursday. The course was open for only one day after the governor’s office first said golf courses in Illinois could be open. But then it rescinded that decision.

RANTOUL — Officials at two Rantoul golf courses that were told by the state they could be reopen in the midst of the COVID-19 scare have now been told they have to shut down again — dampening the mood of area players.

Rantoul’s two golf courses have been doing their best to follow the guidelines they were given.

Willow Pond owner Kevin Applebee said his crew was taking precautions and made changes to their everyday routine when they were open.

“We were just open for walking, and we had a few golfers out, and it made it worth it to be open,” Applebee said. “But about 90 percent of the golfers we have use a cart normally, so we were down a lot.”

Brookhill Golf Course General Manager Jared Busboom said they were doing their best to keep golfers safe as well.

“There is no touching the flag sticks and encouraging everyone to keep their social distancing,” Busboom said before he got the word they had to close. “We are following the governor’s order, and there was no snack bar or club house as well.”

Applebee said at Willow Pond, golfers had to go about their routine differently as well.

“They had to call us to pay, and they could go to the first tee and play, but our club house had to be closed,” Applebee said.

Busboom followed the same protocol but Brookhill was only re-opened for business one day.

“Thursday was the first day we have been open, and we have had a decent turnout,” Busboom said.

Willow Pond did what they could to keep income coming in as long as possible, Applebee said.

“We have had our restaurant open for takeout for about a week, but it was not worth it with the amount of business we were doing and the food spoilage.”

Applebee said they will take the time off to try and improve the course.

“We have our maintenance crew working to get stuff in shape,  including myself,” Applebee said. “This is a critical time for the golf course. We can’t just walk away for two weeks or we would have some problems.”

Busboom said because of the order, Brookhill staff will “do projects that would normally interfere with the public like aerating greens.”

“The business for March and April are normally hit and miss anyway,” he said, “so I guess this year it will be miss.”

Busboom said the order to close could be a blessing “if we have warm weather and we can get all these projects done.”

“The course was pretty good last year, but if we get this stuff done, I think it will be as good as it has ever been.”

Applebee said he hopes there might be relief coming from the government, but he is not banking on it.

“We are on our own at this point. But the federal government has made it seem like they would like to help, but there are so many hoops to jump through, by the time you jump through them all you don’t normally qualify anyway,” Applebee said.

As of right now it appears golf courses in Illinois will be closed until April 7.

An Illinois Municipal League announcement said the governor’s office has changed its position, effective Thursday, on the status of golf courses in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The original determination that golf courses are not to be open is again in force.

“The Illinois Municipal League was directly and clearly informed earlier this week by the governor’s office that the original determination had been modified to allow golf courses to open. We were informed today, due to the heightened request for everyone to observe the stay-at-home aspects of the governor’s executive order, that golf courses are not to be open now,” the IML announcement said.

rbirch@rantoulpress.com