The Carlisle Barracks Golf Course remains one of the few sports facilities still open in Pennsylvania following Gov. Tom Wolf’s mandate to close all non-life-sustaining businesses for two weeks.
But use of the course is restricted to eligible MWR patrons, barracks leadership decided Thursday. That includes members of the military, National Guard and reserve, their families, military retirees and Department of Defense civilian employees. The general public is temporarily restricted from the golf course as the barracks takes steps to help prevent further spread of the coronavirus.
During a virtual town hall posted on the barrack’s Facebook page Wednesday morning, U.S. Army War College Commandant Maj. Gen. John Kem said leadership at the barracks determined the golf course can remain open.
That could change at any time, Kem said during the town hall, but he said he feels golfing is still as safe as walking, running and hiking, physical activities that are not discouraged by medical professionals as long as participants maintain safe social distancing.
“We review every day whether the golf course should remain open or closed,” Kem said.
“What’s my reasoning when many places across the state are? Well, I think part of it ties into looking at the orders on what are allowable activities across the state. And in some cases, those things say you can still engage in outdoor activities such as walking, hiking or running if they maintain social distancing. So again, the question is can people do something like golf, or do something like tennis, and maintain social distancing?”
The barracks and Kem have concluded, as of Thursday, people still can. He did say later “if we get to a severe, widespread community transmission” of COVID-19, they may close the golf course.
The Carlisle Barracks is allowed to keep the course open despite Wolf’s mandate — recreational sports facilities, including golf courses, are not considered life-sustaining and must be closed — because military installations don’t fall under the purview of the state government, Garrison Public Relations Officer Curt Keester told The Sentinel.
The barracks is taking extra measures, on top of restricting public access, to prevent the spread of the virus at the golf course, Keester said. That includes:
- “Enhanced cleaning and social distancing guidelines”
- Requiring all patrons to call ahead to schedule tee times
- Staggering tee times by nine minutes
- Making sure all golf carts are “thoroughly cleansed and sanitized” between uses
- And removing bunker rakes and modifying flags so they don’t have to be removed
Alan Karper, a @FamilyMWR Recreation Assistant at the @USAGCBPA Golf Course, does his part to #KILLtheVirus by cleaning and sanitizing each returned cart before returning it to use on the fairways and greens. pic.twitter.com/jzlYihU8Uh— U.S. Army Garrison Carlisle Barracks (@USAGCBPA) March 23, 2020
The decision to keep the golf course open or closed it is up to Garrison Commander Lt. Col. Courtney Short, Keester said.
At this time, the barrack’s gym is also open but with modified hours. The gym is restricting the number of people who can be in it during any one time and increasing cleaning efforts.
“We’ve adjusted hours to give us two hours worth of cleaning time when no patrons are in there, and then to close early, as well, in order to allow our employees time to go ahead and clean,” Short said during the town hall.
Wednesday afternoon, all Army installations went under Health Protection Condition Charlie, which means personnel should only conduct mission-essential activities and take “immediate, aggressive actions to prevent person-to-person transmission of COVID-19,” according to a war college daily update online.
Barracks leadership believes access to fitness facilities, like the golf course and gym, is important.
“Fitness is important to the health and readiness of our military community,” Short said in an email. “We continue to evaluate the current day-to-day environment to ensure the safety of our entire community.”
<&rdpEm>A previous version of this story cited a Facebook post from Carlisle Barracks Golf Course that has since been taken down. The barracks clarified that MWR-eligible patrons are currently able to use the golf course.</&rdpEm>
<&rdpEm>Email Jake Adams at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @jakeadams520</&rdpEm>